NDP candidate Celia Ross raised alarm bells Saturday about the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) “Modernization” scheme which could spell the loss of hundreds of jobs in Sault Ste. Marie.
The Liberals are not being honest with the people of Sault Ste. Marie. The ‘modernization’ program at OLG is a thinly veiled move toward privatization that will mean the loss of public assets and even worse, the loss of local jobs.
Ontario Auditor General, Bonnie Lysyk, released a special report in April that highlighted the corporation’s lack of transparency about job losses. The report notes “OLG was not transparent about which of its offices would experience the bulk of an estimated 795 job losses. Most of the positions to be lost are expected in OLG’s Sault Ste. Marie office and the Toronto office at Leslie Street and York Mills Road.” While OLG maintains the estimates are based on old projections given they did not take into account Toronto’s rejection of a downtown casino. The move by Toronto City Council, however, is likely to drive overall job loss projections upwards, not down.
Kathleen Wynne refused to rule out job losses at the OLG offices in Sault Ste. Marie when she visited earlier in the campaign. Meanwhile, continued outsourcing called for by the OLG modernization scheme will put the jobs of public sector employees at risk, and drive more work out of the community.
OLG’s modernization initiative ostensibly seeks to tap into new markets that have opened with advances in technology and adapt to changes in demographics and shopping patterns. The Auditor General, however, flagged the plan for modernization as containing overly optimistic financial projections based on a groundless assumption that the private sector would deliver OLG’s gaming and lottery network operations more efficiently, more effectively, and at less cost.
“We know that these privatization schemes don’t work,” said Ross. “We’re told that outsourcing to the private sector will result in savings and higher profit because costs – which is to say wages and benefits – will go down. But that doesn’t take into account that a private sector operator is going to take a large share of the profits for themselves, instead of that money going back into the public good.”
“OLG is one of the few non-tax based revenue generating tools our government has. Selling it off just doesn’t make sense.”
“The only way to keep OLG jobs in Sault Ste. Marie is by maintaining public ownership. We can have innovation with a publicly owned corporation. The Atlantic Lotteries have proven this,” said Ross, citing the Atlantic Lottery jointly owned by the governments of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI, and Newfoundland and Labrador, which has successfully integrated new technologies into its gaming practices.
“The only way to protect a public OLG is with an New Democrat representative at Queen’s Park,” said Ross.