Ford government fires lead Ontario Medical Association negotiator
Ontario premier-elect Doug Ford walks out onto the front lawn of the Ontario Legislature at Queen's Park in Toronto on Friday, June 8, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Colin D'Mello, CTV News Toronto Queen's Park Bureau Chief
Published Wednesday, August 15, 2018 2:40PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 15, 2018 8:17PM EDT
A veteran negotiator for the City of Toronto has been hand-picked by the province to take on the Ontario Medical Association.
Bob Reynolds was named as a new chair of the negotiating team, as the Ford government looks to smooth relations between the government and Ontario doctors.
Reynolds takes over for Dr. Barry McLellan, who Premier Doug Ford and his cabinet made the decision to fire in early August. McLellan had been appointed by the previous government to lead the negotiations.
He was supposed to continue in the role until September 2019 but was instead officially replaced on Monday.
Reynolds, who retired from the city last spring, played an instrumental role in 2012 during tense bargaining with CUPE Local 416, one of Toronto's largest unions, representing garbage collectors, snow plow operators and paramedics.
His strategy left union negotiators with two options: haggle an acceptable deal with the city, or expect a new contract to be imposed on its 6,000 members.
Local 416 agreed to a contract that included a one-time zero per cent raise, avoiding a strike. Later that year CUPE Local 79 ratified a new contract under similar circumstances.
Both deals were celebrated as a victory by then-Mayor Rob Ford who called it "phenomenal" news for taxpayers.
In a statement, the Ontario government said that Reynolds will bring a “fresh face” to the negotiations.
“We are confident that his extensive experience will prove instrumental in making progress at the negotiating table – for patients, for our hard-working front-line health care professionals, and for Ontario taxpayers,” the statement reads.
“Our government’s determination to negotiate with health care workers is not only essential for repairing our damaged relationship with doctors, but is also crucial for producing a physician services agreement, which has been absent for four years. As a result, these negotiations will significantly influence health care spending in the province. Our government looks forward to creating a productive partnership with all of Ontario’s health care professionals over the course of our mandate as we work towards fixing our health care system for Ontario patients.”
Negotiations with Ontario doctors
Ontario's doctors have been without a physician services agreement for four years, but decided to return to the negotiating table after the Progressive Conservative government extended an olive branch.
The association said each side still has the option to return to arbitration after a "cautious trial" of negotiations with the new government.
Doctors rejected a proposal in 2016 that would have increased the physician services budget to more than $13-billion but also included $200-million in fee cuts.
In a statement, Dr. Nadia Alam, President of the Ontario Medical Association, said they were notified of the change to their negotiating team on Tuesday.
“Though doctors have been without a contract for over five years, our goal has always been to have a fair agreement for our members and a productive relationship with government. We look forward to continuing discussions,” the statement reads.
Reynolds will also get a significant $67,000 salary boost from his predecessor.
His salary has been set at $217,500 for 50 days of work.
-With files from the Canadian Press