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Thomas renews call to remove Jaczek

Toronto – Warren (Smokey) Thomas says the Minister of Community and Social Services must go following revelations that Helena Jaczek knew the Social Assistance Management System (SAMS) was deeply flawed even before it was rolled out.

The president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents workers at Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Plan, was reacting to a memo written to Jaczek before SAMS’ rollout on November 1, 2014, indicating there were “significant challenges.”

“We knew SAMS was riddled with defects before it was launched,” said Thomas. “[CUPE Ontario president] Fred Hahn and I wrote to the minister four months before SAMS launched. My members – frontline workers who’ve worked with social assistance recipients for decades – were telling me SAMS was a disaster waiting to happen.

“Now we’ve got proof that the minister’s own staff had warned her that SAMS had big problems.”

In her 2015 annual report, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk said the deputy minister and three assistant deputy ministers knew there were problems before the launch. She also noted that Ontarians were billed at least $50 million to fix the defective system.

“Helena Jaczek claims management didn’t pass along the concerns of frontline workers. Her most senior ministry staff knew there were problems. In a ministry that’s crucial to the wellbeing of almost a million vulnerable Ontarians, this minister seems chronically unable to get key information from her own staff.

“The blame for this bungling rests squarely with the minister,” Thomas continued. “She utterly failed in her due diligence and has kept the truth from the Ontario public.

I’ve already called for her dismissal for sheer incompetence. Today, Kathleen Wynne has even more reason to fire this minister.

“Ontarians deserve better. They deserve to get the facts. They deserve excellent services delivered by an accountable public service. They deserve a genuine and long-overdue apology. And they deserve a competent and trustworthy Minister of Community and Social Services.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931