Ontario budget proposes spreading public service workforce out across province

·2 min read

TORONTO — Ontario's Progressive Conservatives want to spread the public service workforce across the province in a bid to stimulate local economies and save money.

The government is also looking at hybrid work environments for public service employees in some communities, with the possibility of expanding that model in the future.

Outlines of those plans were included in the government's 2022 budget tabled Thursday ahead of an election campaign expected to begin next week.

The Tories say employment growth and opportunities have been too concentrated in the province’s largest metropolitan areas and they are looking for ways to change that.

"Every small city and town, every community is rich in talent and opportunity … and they all deserve to succeed," Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said in a prepared budget speech.

"Working with our provincial agency partners, we will ensure communities across the province benefit from good jobs working in government and for provincial agencies."

A recent announcement on plans to move the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board’s headquarters from Toronto to London, Ont., was highlighted in the budget as part of a community jobs plan.

The government says the current office in Toronto costs more than $30 million per year, and the Tories say they are exploring ways to relocate other offices.

Examples weren’t given for which other agencies the government is looking at relocating. But the budget document says newly created agencies that don’t have head offices yet may be based outside Toronto from the start, including Supply Ontario, Invest Ontario and Intellectual Property Ontario.

Invest Ontario, established in 2020, is an agency meant to focus on attracting business to the province.

The budget document says the Ontario Public Service is also looking into designing hybrid work environments for employees to reduce congestion – another major campaign theme for the Progressive Conservatives who are also proposing several highway projects to tackle the issue.

Coworking spaces are being designed for workers in north Toronto, Hamilton, London, Sudbury, Ont., and Ottawa, according to the budget, and the government says it may expand the concept to other locations.

Also included in the budget document is a planned extension of a 20 per cent tax credit for businesses in regions with slower employment growth.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 28, 2022.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

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