Residents of the northern towns of Ignace and Atikokanare jubilant today with the news that the government has nixed plans to cut service at their respective ServiceOntario centres.
“This is a truly great day, not just for the people of Ignace and Atikokan, but for every northern resident,” said Carl Thibodeau, Region 7 Regional Vice-President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which represents workers at the centres. “The government is finally getting the message that northerners need, deserve, and have a right to the same public services as any other resident in this province.”
Late in 2016, the government announced that business hours at both ServiceOntario centres would be slashed. In Atikokan, the hours were halved to just 20 weekly, while Ignace residents were told to get by on 14 hours weekly.
Thibodeau heaped praise on OPSEU Local 726 president John Coady for his successful efforts in getting Ignace council and the town’s business association onboard. “John convincingly brought forward the many negative impacts the cuts would have on employees, residents, and businesses, particularly those that rely on tourism.”
Thibodeau also acclaimed Local 725 president Twila Smitsnuk for her tireless work in getting the cuts to Atikokan’s ServiceOntario rescinded, particularly through her convincing presentation to council. Smitsnuk brought home how vital it was for the life and economy of the town to have a ServiceOntario Centre open five days a week.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU, warmly congratulated organizers of the campaigns to keep the centres open and applauded everyone who participated, whether by signing a petition, sending in a postcard, writing their MPP, or joining a rally.
“What we are witnessing is the incredible power that ordinary people can wield,” he observed. “We are far stronger than we imagine. All it takes to harness that power is to come together in a common cause. When the people present a united front, there’s no limit to what can be achieved.
“That’s why I’m convinced of the need for unions,” Thomas continued. “That’s why I’m convinced of the need for the We Own It campaign, which did so much to realize this wonderful victory. That’s why I’m convinced we’ll succeed in putting the delivery of public services back into public hands.”