2. Skills transfer and the establishment of agencies
An agency is established when the government delegates the delivery of public services to an independent agency while maintaining a certain control over its activities. This delegation is sometimes made through legislation or regulations. In this context, we can refer to the case of Tarion (formerly known under the name of Ontario’s New Home Warranty Program). In fact, it was created by the government of Ontario to supervise the implementation of the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act. Its primary mandate is to regulate the new housing-construction industry through protection for buyers by ensuring that builders respect provincial legislation. It is governed by a sixteen-member board of directors, five of whom are appointed by the government. It is not subject to the French Language Services Act because that would require that the majority of the members of its board of directors be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council.
However, legislation governing new administrative authorities passed in the last several years have included provision for French language services (the Condominium Act, Condominium Management Services Act, New Home Construction Licensing Act and Protection for Owners and Purchasers of New Homes Act).
For each administrative authority, customer service is a priority. If a request is made to improve the quality of services provided, including providing information or services in French, each administrative authority will do its best to accommodate the request.
The administrative authority, Tarion, provides an example of this alternative structure for providing French language services. The authority is a private, self-financing, not-for-profit corporation that is responsible for providing services to the public.
Tarion provides some services in several different languages, including French, on its website. If any individual needs additional assistance, they can request it – whether in person or by phone.
Another example is the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority. It is not subject to the French Language Services Act either. It is governed by a board of directors composed of nine members, four of whom are appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. Added to this group are the various professional orders established by the government to administer and regulate the members of a particular profession. These different structures, whether they are regulating agencies or professional orders, offer services or carry out government mandates.
Previously, when raising concerns with the delegated administrative authority model, the Commissioner has acknowledged the RHA as an improvement to this model by including French Language provisions directly in the Act, rather than through the MOU as has been the practice with the other Administrative Authorities that have been created.
However, even though their service-offer provision come with clear obligations to offer services in French, the implementation of these obligations seems to be inadequate. In recent years, the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner received a significant number of complaints regarding these types of agencies and regulatory structures. If it is true that some are not subject to the French Language Services Act, the monopoly of their activities should prompt the government to establish a derogation framework so that it can apply.
Transfer of jurisdiction
Transfer of jurisdiction refers to a transfer of the responsibility for providing service to transfer-payment agencies, municipalities or to colleges, universities or school boards. Through Regulation 284/11, Provision of French Language Services on behalf of Government Agencies, the government provides a certain framework for the service offer and for respecting their commitments related to the offer of service in French for transfer-payment agencies.
With respect to transferring responsibilities or services to municipalities, it is more complex. Recently, the government proceeded with transfers of responsibility for early years child and family programs. These transfers, which fall under the dynamic of reorganization of local services, are intended to fundamentally redesign the roles and responsibilities of the province and the municipalities. However, the municipalities’ responsibility with regard to services in French for transferred programs is inadequately explained in some cases. In the absence of clarification, any services devolved to the municipalities will be the subject of complaints with the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner. It is necessary to clarify the new structures’ obligations with respect to their commitment to services in French. And it is essential to ensure that the Government of Ontario’s legal obligations are respected by the new service providers, who are then acting on its behalf.
The merger of public services is the grouping of several agencies with more or less identical mandates in order to provide the public service at reduced costs. The health sector has witnessed a significant number of mergers in recent years. This means of strengthening the system’s efficiency is not new; even in the 1990s there were several mergers in Ontario in the health sector. However, according to the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation, these mergers tend to be less sensitive to patients, disadvantaging those with low income. Knowing that revenue and language are determinants of health, Francophones are affected by this. However, the merger of health facilities do not only causes problems. According to certain studies, there would be some advantages, especially in terms of the expansion of medical care programs, the standardization of services, updated equipment, increased revenues and the strengthening of organizational structures.136
An example of a hospital merger in Ontario is that of Hôtel Dieu Hospital and the Kingston General Hospital, both identified to offer services in French. These two hospitals joined to form the Kingston Health Sciences Centre, identified by the South East LHIN to offer services in French. However, by-laws pertaining to the provision of services in French which were in place at the Hôtel Dieu were not adopted by the new corporation.
Another example is the merger between the Birchmount and General sites of the Scarborough Hospital and the Centenary site of Rouge Valley Health System, which became a new hospital corporation on December 1, 2016. In the latter case, the three sites were not identified as providers of services in French. The hospital that resulted from the merger is also not identified.
Apart from hospitals, there have been other mergers in the health sector. Of the 42 Community Care Access Centres (CCACs) in 1994, there were 14 in 2006. From 16 regional health districts, we went to 14 LHINs in 2007. Recently, with the Patients First Act, we witnessed the integration of the 14 CCACs with the 14 LHINs. The impact of these various mergers on vulnerable populations and Francophones has not yet been assessed. However, complaints received from the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner this year show that this transformation affects Francophones in particular with respect to home services. It is therefore fundamental during these mergers to apply a Francophone perspective to take into account the legal French-language service obligations of the agencies that are merged.
- Magel J.S, “Consolidation of the Health Care Sector”, Journal of Health Care Finance, 25 (3), 1999, p. 22-28; Lee, S.-Y D; Alexander, J.A., “Consequences of Organizational Change in U.S. Hospitals”, Medical Care Research and Review, vol. 56, no. 3, 1999, p. 227- 276.