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CAS merger veers from plan — Staff call for openness, consultation, no program cuts for at risk youth

The hasty, behind-closed-doors naming of a new executive director for thesoon-to-be amalgamated regional children’s aid agency is a troubling start to a merger process which veers from approved—plans and timelines—and is already creating instability in the community, say Bruce and Grey Children’s Aid Society (CAS) staff. 

The public implementation plan released last year calls for extensive stakeholder engagement and for a new leader for the soon-to-be merged CAS to be named in September of 2011.  But recently, the boards of both agencies abruptly decided to name a new director. 

Veering from the plan without any discussions with stakeholders, including staff at both agencies, doesn’t engender trust in a merger process already creating uncertainty for children and families receiving supports and staff,” say child protection staff representatives. 

In a letter to both agency boards, Nancy MacMillan and Terry Foster, who represent front line and administrative staff at the existing agencies, say that the “optics of these decisions by both agency boards indicate that there is a predetermined road to amalgamation that has, in fact, not been shared with ‘stakeholders.’  When recommendations don’t fit with the predetermined plan, “they are discarded without any consultation.” 

Based on recent media reports, it is now clear any potential savings from CAS mergers will not be going to enhance supports for at risk children and their families, but rather to pay off the provincial deficit.  Following the Ontario budget release on March 29, 2011, here is what The Toronto Star Editorial (March 30, 2011) said about CAS mergers: “$9 million saved from merging CAS – should not go to deficit reduction but to program spending…”

The boards’ “lack of transparency and accountability is troubling since the agency mergers are being sold as a good thing. And really, they are an exercise in cost-containment, a downsizing of the sector, and scaling down service access,” say MacMillan and Foster. 

They are urging the Bruce and Grey boards to consult with the community and to work cooperatively with front line staff to ensure the services of children’s and families’ need are not only protected, but also enhanced. “The lack of process transparency has eroded our trust at a time when a positive labour relations relationship is essential,” say Foster and MacMillan, who have requested to speak at the boards’ next scheduled meetings on behalf of the 125 staff they represent. 

For more information, please contact: 

Nancy MacMillan                    CUPE 2194, President                      (519) 270-9916

Terry Foster                            CUPE 2864, President                       (519) 375-0524

Stella Yeadon                          CUPE Communications                   (416) 559-9300