YWCA Toronto Responds to Ontario's Employment Services Transformation Impact on Torontonians

May 10th, 2023

Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie
100 Queen Street West, Suite B25
Toronto, ON M5H 2N2
By email: councillor_mckelvie@toronto.ca

Dear Deputy Mayor McKelvie and Toronto City Councillors,

YWCA Toronto believes that all women, girls and gender diverse people must have access to adequate income, shelter, food, transportation and personal necessities. We advocate for social assistance rates that ensure the health and dignity of women and gender diverse people on low and fixed incomes – rates that can protect and support families. Further, we advocate for the implementation of decent work conditions for women and dedicated funding towards gender-inclusive upskilling and other employment programs focused on the diverse needs of women and gender diverse people.

The City shares with us a historic and deep commitment to supporting people receiving social assistance and helping Toronto residents find better jobs. Ontario’s Employment Services Transformation will largely impact the wellbeing of Toronto residents and it is important that the City work to mitigate these impacts.

We are deeply concerned that the province’s new employment service model will not meet the need of community members seeking employment, including individuals living with disabilities. As such, we were extremely disappointed to read a report from City staff suggesting Toronto’s City Council not bid to fill the Employment Service System Manager (ESSM) role. We believe that the City of Toronto serving as the ESSM would be very valuable to all residents of Toronto who are looking for employment.

While the city staff report fairly identifies the risks of taking on the Employment Systems Service Manager role, the City must also consider the adversarial impacts of not placing a bid for the role. We echo the point made by our colleagues at Maytree that a decision not to place a bid means that “the needs of the City are prioritized over the needs of residents in deepest poverty […] and pushes the risk onto residents across Toronto who are looking to their local government for support.” 1

Moreover, we are very troubled by the prospect of another entity becoming the ESSM, in particular a private sector company, rather than having the City, which is in a precarious financial situation, benefit from a new revenue stream. The City cares for its residents in a way that the private sector simply does not. The new model poses a threat to many of our most marginalized community members, forcing many into low-wage, precarious work.

Workforce development is important and plays a critical role in helping people out of poverty, but we know that workforce development cannot act alone – wrap-around support services and programming to assist those working to transition out of destitution are critical. Good jobs can offer a path out of poverty for women who are able to work, however, not all jobs are created equally. Some individuals will not be able to engage in paid work for various legitimate reasons. People who are unable to engage in paid work are deserving of lives free from violence, poverty and discrimination. The City has experience working with stakeholders to support job seekers and recipients of Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program and is much more equipped to serve Toronto residents in moving out of poverty and achieving better jobs than a private entity would be.

For the past 130 years, the City has played a role in providing services to Toronto’s most impoverished residents and assisting job seekers. The City has the opportunity to continue to be a leader in delivering these critical services and we believe more careful consideration should be made before conceding its role.

Regardless of who assumes the ESSM role, the City is accountable to Toronto residents. Should the City not bid to take on the ESSM role, it is critical that the City find alternative ways to support all Torontonians seeking employment through comprehensive programs and services.

We urge the City to seek more time to determine whether or not they should place a bid to undertake the ESSM role and to investigate thoroughly the implications not bidding for the role will have on our communities.


Heather McGregor, C. M.
Chief Executive Officer, YWCA Toronto

1 https://maytree.com/publications/toronto-should-put-the-needs-of-its-residents-first/