Lisa Gervais: Use it or lose it
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | February 23, 2017|
On Friday, I went to ServiceOntario in Minden.
I’ve lived in the county since August but hadn’t gotten around to changing my address on my paperwork.
I could have done it online but decided not to, since online access is the rationale for shutting down services in our area and putting people out of work.
Even having the online option means I’m one of the lucky ones. I get Bell Internet at home. It’s usually high-speed, as promised.
Some people in the county aren’t so lucky. I ran into a couple at the Dysart branch of the public library last week who have to do their heavy Internet lifting there because the home dial-up just doesn’t cut it. We keep hearing that improvement is on the way, but for some people on rural roads it’s never coming because there’s no money in it for Internet service providers.
So, the decision last week to reverse the planned closure of Service Ontario in Minden is the right decision for two reasons.
Number one – because not everybody has Internet service adequate to use ServiceOntario online.
Number two is transportation. Not everyone has a car and public transportation is virtually non-existent in the county. If you live in Minden it’s a 50-km return trip to Haliburton and even further to Bobcaygeon, Fenelon Falls, Lindsay, Peterborough or other centres. People without cars or on fixed incomes don’t have the luxury of just driving to another centre or hopping on a bus.
So, good decision. It’s just too bad it took nine months from the date the closure was announced to its reversal last Thursday. That must have been an agonizing nine months for the two full-time employees who work at the centre.
Residents, businesses such as the car dealerships in town, and municipal politicians have also been on tenterhooks.
We’re trying to figure out what the province was thinking.
It announced May 5, 2016 that the closure was imminent, citing “minimal impact” to customers due to online services and proximity of other centres.
There was a hue and cry locally, including a 700-plus name petition from resident Richard Bradley.
On June 9, 2016 we reported the stay of execution – since the province needed more time to do a further review because customer service is number one, we were told.
They announced the reversal Feb. 16.
The impact on customer service and the community should have been assessed long before making an emotion-charged decision; putting that decision on hold after just one month; then taking nine months to make a final determination. It shows a lack of consideration for those who depend on these outposts: rural Ontarians.
In the end, the right decision was made. Nevertheless, the process should not have been so painful for this community and the others affected across Ontario.
Lisa Gervais is the editor for The Highlander.