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Ontario Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy provides detail on big changes coming to government

In the lead-up to the much-anticipated Fall Economic Statement President of the Treasury Board Peter Bethlenfalvy provided further detail of his government’s vision for modernizing government services and restoring trust in the province’s finances.

The government has continued to stress the “moral imperative” to return the province to a balanced budget, and today’s speech was no exception. Quoting Audrey Hepburn at the start of his remarks, Bethlenfalvy stressed that “nothing is impossible,” and that the government will be looking at all options and opportunities to embrace efficiencies and champion innovation on behalf of Ontario taxpayers.

As a follow-up to the government’s Planning for Prosperity Survey, Bethlenfalvy announced the launch of a Planning for Prosperity Advisory Group whose mandate is to provide advice on how to transform and modernize the way government works.

Bethlenfalvy confirmed that we can expect the province’s broader structural challenges, many of which were highlighted in the line-by-line review, will be addressed in Minister Fedeli’s Fall Economic Statement on November 15th. Areas for improvement in spending management, such as capturing robust metrics of program efficiency and performance, were also highlighted. These recommendations will help inform the government’s and individual ministries’ approach to budget planning and key priorities moving forward.

EY Canada’s report also stressed the necessity of addressing the province’s transfer payments, which have ballooned by $46.3 billion over the past 15 years. This could ultimately require government determining how to address a reduction of the administrative burden carried by service providers. It could also mean a high level of scrutiny to all large transfer payment recipients.

Minister Bethlenfalvy also highlighted two tangible reforms that have occurred within government of late: Treasury Board announcing their intention to go largely paperless, and the Ministry of Finance scrapping landlines last month. While these steps may seem relatively minor in the face of a $15B deficit, this sends a clear message that the government itself is leading by example. It also works to increase the government’s credibility (and reputation) on fiscal issues – a government that manages small spending can be trusted to manage large spending priorities as well.

As the government continues to take steps to “think differently,” there will be underlying expectation of government that stakeholders do the same – and proactively look for opportunities to create efficiencies.

A strict commitment to campaign priorities, competing interests, and limited financial resources all complicate the potential to introduce externally-generated policy ideas to Queen’s Park’s agenda. As a result, organizations must proactively drive change or risk having change thrust upon them. Any ask must be clear, well-deliberated in advance, and align the organization’s goals with the values and priorities of the provincial government.

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