Ontario names employment services managers in new pilot, including for-profit firm

By Sabrina Nanji and and Allison Smith February 18, 2020

The Ford government has picked the managers for employment and social assistance services in three regions as part of a new pilot program, which for the first time includes a for-profit firm — prompting concerns from experts and advocates. 
The three-year pilot will see the for-profit APM Group manage employment services in Peel, while a consortium led by New York-based non-profit Fedcap runs services in Hamilton-Niagara and Fleming College handles Muskoka and the Kawarthas. 
APM is based in Australia, where it is the country’s largest provider of disability employment services. The firm, which operates in Canada under its subsidiary WCG Services, also has contracts with the province of B.C. and the City of Calgary. 
The for-profit experiment has been tried in Australia and the U.K., with poor results, according to the Maytree Foundation’s Garima Talwar Kapoor. Kapoor told the Catholic Register that, in those cases, contractors were being rewarded for quickly moving clients away from social assistance to a job, whether they were ready or not.  
In a press release, Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said the new “locally-focused model” will streamline employment services that had previously been delivered separately through Ontario Works, the Ontario Disability Support Program and Employment Ontario.
However, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario says the prototype plan will take away authority from nine municipal governments that currently administer employment services under Ontario Works. 
AMO says it is “disappointed” no municipalities were selected through the government’s competitive bidding process and that the nine affected towns and cities will be in limbo until they know whether the selected service managers decide to partner with them and continue to fund municipal-led job hunting programs. 
The new service-delivery model goes online in October 2020. McNaughton says he hopes for a full provincial rollout by 2022.