Health Minister Deb Matthews is often regarded by the media as one of the front runners to replace Dalton McGuinty as Ontario Premier – a surprise given the intense scrutiny the Minister has been under for her role in the ORNGE air ambulance scandal.
Earlier this year we ran a series of stories about the April closure of the Canadian Blood Services plasma donation centre in Thunder Bay. At the time, Matthews showed little interest in defending the centre or the needed jobs in Northern Ontario – this despite the fact that Bill Mauro, a northern MPP in her caucus, was stating publicly that something didn’t smell right about the closure.
In the legislature she accepted CBS’ explanation that the plasma from Thunder Bay was not needed even though the organization’s annual report showed significant increases in imports of American-sourced plasma.
It is interesting to compare Matthews’ lack of interest over the fate of the Thunder Bay facility with that of the New Brunswick government over the closure of a CBS processing and distribution centre in Saint John.
In late 2009 the New Brunswick Liberal government learned that CBS planned to close the Saint John facility by 2012. Both the Liberals and Conservatives opposed the centralization of the centre’s activities to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
They were so furious the New Brunswick government even commissioned a KPMG report to look at the option of taking the province out of CBS altogether.
In January 2012, following a change of government, New Brunswick Health Minister Madeleine Dube announced the province had abandoned plans to go it alone, claiming the option was too expensive.
At that point it appeared to the public that the fight was lost. The processing and distribution centre may be gone, but clearly there were other negotiations going on behind the scenes.
Later in the year CBS announced it was creating jobs in Saint John by establishing a second national call centre. A very Anglophone pocket of the province, CBS stated Saint John was the most suitable site for the call centre because of the presence of a bilingual workforce. At the time we wondered if CBS Chief Operating Officer Ian Mumford was confusing Saint John with Moncton.
The New Brunswick call centre would augment the national call centre located in Sudbury, Ontario.
More ominous for Ontario, Mumford said the current contact centre work will be “redistributed” and that additional information would be provided after a “more detailed staffing analysis is complete.”
CBS has said that as many as 50 jobs could be created as part of the new Saint John call centre. The question is, are these jobs simply coming from northern Ontario?
There is no question that CBS is playing politics. The problem is, only one of two governments is in the game.
If Deb Matthews wants to be premier, she should be paying attention and asking some hard questions – the kind of questions she waited too long to ask in the case of ORNGE.
This week OPSEU and NUPGE are hosting CBS workers from across Canada for a two day meeting. Weclome delegates.