The 1980’s were back in full force at Optimus SBR on Thursday, November 15th as our team came together for the sixth annual Play it Forward event in support of two local charities. A joint collaboration between our employee-led Corporate Social Responsibility and Social committees, Play it Forward combines live action games with silent auctions and raffle prizes to raise money for our partner charities. This year the Optimus team was able to raise an outstanding $24,000, a 185% increase from funds raised last year!

Employees are encouraged to dress up according to the theme, and prizes are awarded for Best Costume. To help drive donations, participants in the live action games represent all areas and levels within the organization, and are placed into tiers based on seniority. Tiers are unlocked as funds are raised, often times far exceeding the published targets. Silent auction items and raffle prizes are generously donated by employees and local businesses, and include golf packages, signed jerseys and cooking lessons.

All proceeds from Play it Forward go to our two partner charities, the Fort York Food Bank and Engage and Change. Please take a few moments to visit their websites for more information on either or to donate.

Special thanks to GiftMagnet for creating our donation site.

Reaffirming priorities from the Ontario Government

At Optimus SBR, we regularly keep an eye on public sector developments for our clients. Our recent piece on Finding the Money: New Realities for Ontario’s Broader Public Sector discussed the new Ontario government’s priorities and what they mean for public sector leaders going forward. Now, the government’s fall economic statement, officially titled in writing as A Plan for the People – 2018 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review, Background Papers, provides a more comprehensive picture of its priorities and what they mean for spending and the fiscal health of the province. This briefing note only addresses selected highlights from the economic statement.

The Fall Economic Statement

The Honorable Vic Fideli, Minister of Finance, presented the government’s fall economic statement in the Legislature on November 15th.[1] The mantras throughout the accompanying document are “For the People” and “Every Dollar Counts”. Indeed, immediately after the cover page and copyright details in the front matter, there is a box entitled EVERY DOLLAR COUNTS describing how the government has saved taxpayers approximately $11,000 by “only printing one-third of the typical print run” and “not formally publishing a booklet with the Minister’s Statement.” It sets a tone.

“The Fiscal Hole is Deep”

As the fall economic statement’s official title suggests, it is not a budget but rather provides an outlook and fiscal review, taking as its starting point 2017-18 actual spending figures and a “Commission Revised Baseline” for revenues, expenses and deficit figures from the Report of the Independent Financial Commission of Inquiry. That report forecast revenues of $150.9 billion, expenses of $164.9 billion, and a $15 billion deficit once a $1.0 billion reserve had been added.

The government has updated this to a Current Outlook which projects $148.2 billion in revenue, $161.8 billion in expenses, and an overall deficit of $14.5 billion. This improvement in the deficit of $0.5 billion is the net result of:

  • a $2.7 billion drop in revenue, the main contributors to which are: $1.5 billion from cancelling cap-and-trade; “other changes” of $0.7 billion; and stopping planned tax increases from the previous budget of $0.3 billion; and
  • a $3.2 billion drop in expenses, the main contributors to which are:
    • “Savings from Expenditure Management Restrictions and Updated Forecasts” (restrictions on discretionary spending and updated program forecasts) of $1.1 billion;
    • a reduction in program spending (primarily cap-and-trade, OHIP+, infrastructure spending) of $1.8 billion;
    • an increase of $0.3 billion from spending on hospital and community spending, police tools, the Muskoka Watershed, and forest fire fighting; and
    • $0.5 billion in “other changes”.

Fedeli says of this that “The fiscal hole is deep.” Elsewhere, the document describes principles the government will adhere to in “restoring balance” but leaves details and projections of how that will happen to the 2019 Budget. While little is said on this front, statement is setting the stage for “restoring the balance” in the future.

Distribution of Spending

Where spending is concerned, sector shares are not substantially different from the previous budget given that the fall economic statement is an update and the government has not yet had a chance to put in place a longer term fiscal plan. The government’s expected spending of $161.8 billion includes:

  • $61.7 billion or 38% of the total in the health sector;
  • $30.7 billion or 19% in the education sector;
  • $11.4 billion or 7% in the post-secondary and training sector; and
  • $12.5 billion or 8% in interest on the debt.

Of course, this structure may change as the government plans for a balanced budget in the coming years.


There are some spending announcements and reiteration of recent ones. More importantly, the government is starting to signal directions and priorities in a variety of sectors. Below are some highlights.

Open For Business

The government includes a variety of initiatives under its Open for Business umbrella, including:

  • repealing the more onerous provisions of and proposing amendments to Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 and introducing Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open for Business Act;
  • limiting the increase in the minimum wage to $14/hour
  • reducing Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) premiums;
  • cancelling Ontario’s cap-and-trade program;
  • cutting red tape, with a target of reducing regulatory red tape by 25% by 2022; and
  • winding down the Ontario College of Trades.

Agency and Tribunal Reviews

The new government is:

  • establishing task force to review agencies and ensure they are relevant, efficient, effective and provide value for money, conspicuously mentioning the Ontario Geographic Names Board and the Rabies Advisory Committee; and
  • planning to review adjudicative tribunals and tribunal clusters under the Ministry of the Attorney General.

Financial Market Regulation

The government announced that it will:

  • play a leadership role in implementing the Cooperative Capital Markets Regulatory System (CCMR);
  • respect the recent decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in pursuing streamlined capital markets regulation;
  • propose to amend Ontario capital markets legislation to regulate benchmarks like the Canadian Dollar Offered Rate (CDOR) and Canadian Overnight Repo Rate Average (CORRA) that underpin tens of thousands of financial contracts;
  • introduce legislative amendments that would provide for the amalgamation of the Deposit Insurance Corporation of Ontario (DICO) and the Deposit Insurance Reserve Fund with FSRA, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario, to simplify the regulatory landscape.


The fall economic statement highlights that:

  • the government is cancelling 758 renewable energy contracts to help reduce electricity bills by 12 per cent;
  • it will be reviewing industrial electricity prices;
  • it is encouraging consolidation in the electricity distribution sector with private sector involvement;
  • it is closing the Thunder Bay Generating Station following announcements from Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) to save $45 million; and
  • the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) is conducting a review of its customer service rules and exploring its mandate, role and structure through the OEB Modernization Review Panel.

Health Care

The statement reiterates the government’s commitment to health care transformation, integrated care, and ending hallway medicine with advice from the Premier’s Council led by Rueben Devlin. Other highlights include:


  • $90 million for 1,100 beds and spaces in hospitals and the community, including the creation of over 640 new beds and spaces as an immediate measure

Mental Health and Addictions

  • $1.9 billion over 10 years on mental health and addictions services;
  • spending to reduce wait times, faster access;
  • a new Consumption and Treatment Services model; and
  • funding to expand the scope and coverage of Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) clinics for people with substance abuse issues.

OHIP+ and Ontario Drug Benefit Program

  • Children and youth under 25 who are covered by private insurance will bill those plans starting in March 2019, while those who are not covered will continue to benefit from OHIP+, creating an estimated savings of $250 million; and
  • a commitment to examine the Ontario Drug Benefit Program to create an easier to understand, more consistent and more sustainable drug system.

Long-Term Care

  • 6,000 new beds and a commitment to invest $300 million to support them, as the first wave of over 15,000 new long-term beds over the next five years.


On the municipal front the government highlighted that it:

  • has signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO);
  • committed $40 million over two years to help municipalities with implementation of cannabis legalization, plus provide municipalities that have not opted out of retail stores by January 22, 2019 with 50% of the federal excise duty exceeding $100 million in the first two years;
  • will launch a Housing Supply Action Plan and undertake measures to increase the supply of housing across Ontario.

Transportation and Transit

The government announced it:

  • will be completing a review of all transportation and transit capital projects;
  • will develop a plan to upload responsibility for the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) subway infrastructure from the City of Toronto to the Province;
  • undertaking planning work with respect to high-speed rail in the province, particularly Southwestern Ontario;
  • is working to resume the Environmental Assessment for the Greater Toronto Area West Highway Corridor, covering portions of York, Peel and Halton regions.
  • is planning to propose amendments to the Metrolinx Act, 2006 to modernize Metrolinx, consistent with its broader agency review.

Alcohol and Cannabis

On these two fronts, the government:

  • will undertake a comprehensive review of the beverage alcohol sector and expand the sale of beer and wine into corner stores, grocery stores, and big-box stores;
  • established the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) as the regulatory for private cannabis retail stores;
  • has aligned cannabis consumption rules with the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 restrictions, so that smoking and vaping cannabis is prohibited near schools, children’s playgrounds, hospitals and child care facilities, among others; and
  • intends to introduce legislation to amend the Municipal Act, 2001, and the City of Toronto Act, 2006to clarify municipalities’ authority in the cannabis area.

Discussion: It’s About Priorities Right Now

There is of course more in this economic statement, and surely much more in the spring budget to come. As we said in Finding the Money: New Realities for Ontario’s Broader Public Sector, all indications are that the budget cuts the government has touted are to be taken seriously, and may be even greater in non-core areas.

But this update is less about revenue and spending announcements than about signalling broad directions and priorities. It will be important to be aware of going forward, as the hard work for everyone in the Ontario public sector is yet to come.

In the meantime, if you need help preparing for this hard work, give us a call, or send us a note.

Terri Lohnes, Vice President and Practice Lead

David Lynch, Principal

Mary Tate, Principal

[1] Excerpts in bulleted form below preserve or paraphrase the Fall Economic Statement’s wording to ensure accuracy and clarity.

New Realities for Ontario’s Broader Public Sector

At Optimus SBR, we regularly keep an eye on public sector developments for our clientsWith a new Ontario government, there has been no shortage of new developments, so we have put together this briefing for our Ontario Transfer Payment Agency (TPA) and Broader Public Sector (BPS) clients.

Ontario’s New Government, 100 Days In

Ontario’s new Progressive Conservative government was sworn in a little over one hundred days ago, and has moved quickly ever sinceWhile it is still early in the mandate, key messages and areas of focus are emerging:

  1. Finding the Money – During the campaign, the PCs promised to find $6 billion in savings from the provincial government, roughly 4% of the total stated budget at the time. While the fall economic statement set for November 15th will say more, indications to date are that, across government, efficiency targets in this range are not only real, but likely even greater in areas that are seen as outside of government’s core functions
  1. Consolidating Transfer Payment Agencies TPAs, of course, represent a wide variety of organizations – from regulatory agencies and hospitals to forestry authorities and community organizations, providing all kinds of programs and services. Much of the government’s early attention has been focused on the thousands of such organizations the government relies on to carry out policy and deliver services. Consolidation is coming – in all sectors. Senior civil servants and appointees are already picking up this messaging in public and private discussions. 
  1. More Data! – Senior government officials want more data, particularly about outcomes for Ontarians and the bottom line, to clarify what value TPAs provide to government and more importantly the people of Ontario.

What can TPA and BPS leaders do as the government focuses on the finding the money, consolidation, and data? We provide some answers – mantras, really – below.

What Leaders Can Do to Prepare

1)    It’s Not About You, It’s About What You Do and Who You Do it For

Individual agencies, health and social service providers, service delivery organizations and other TPAs often play a niche role in a broader system. Leaders will need to ask themselves: 

    • Are we demonstrating unique value?  
  • Are we delivering programs, services or functions that are more valuable than what government could get from other agencies or the not-for-profit or private sector? 

Organizations must be able to answer these questions, because government will certainly be asking them. Imagine central agencies and ministries mapping, mixing, and matching various organizations’ mandates, core functions, programs, and services – yours included – to figure out what makes sense for the system. They will be stepping back and asking: 

  • What are people getting out of the system? 
  • What does government need to do here, if anything? Does it need to do things or just fund them? 
  • Do we need all of these organizations? Does the way these organizations are set up actually help us achieve our goals? 

In other words: consolidation discussions are not going to be about you and your organization – they are going to be about whether what you do needs to be done or funded by government, whether you are a high value provider, and if so, what capabilities you have to ensure government is only as big as it needs to be and minimizes its impact on taxpayers’ wallets.  

The question of whether you demonstrate unique value also applies to organizations in the regulatory space. In his book The Regulatory Craft, Harvard’s Malcolm Sparrow’s mantra for regulators is “…to pick important problems and fix them.”1 The corollary is that if you are doing things that do not fix real problems, then you likely need to stop doing them and get out of the way.  For organizations charged with fixing problems in a regulatory context, the corresponding questions will be: 

  • Are you focusing on real problems that are of significant public interest? 
  • Are you uniquely able to fix those problems on your own? Is that apparent in the outcomes you are mandated to monitor and improve? 
  • How are you and your partners striving to fix problems and hold yourself accountable for outcomes, rather than – as sometimes happens – diffusing accountability?

2)    Prioritize: What is Yours to Do?

Citizens and government are demanding a system of partners that demonstrate collective accountability in every sector. To prepare for this type of discussion, you need to ask what the priorities are, starting with the system’s and ending with yours. At OPTIMUS | SBR, we use our Accountability Framework® System (AFS) to help clients do strategic planning.  The AFS boils public sector organizations’ mandate and mission down to a single question: What is ours to do?  

Right now, organizations will need to ask themselves some serious questions that are less often asked: Should what we do be done by government? Could someone else do it better? Do we need to deliver things differently or with other partners? 

To answer these questions you will need to sort through system priorities and ask hard questions about whether you need to prune back programs and services that have accumulated over time: 

  • What system priorities can we play a high value role in advancing? What is ours to do for the system?  
  • Which priorities did we inherit, or were asked as an organization to take on because they “didn’t fit” anywhere else, even if they didn’t exactly match our mandate? 
  • Can we divest existing programs or services that no longer make sense? 
  • Which of our core programs and services simply must continue?  

Once you’ve asked and answered these questions, you should then step back and ask, “How has our role changed? What does that mean for how we are organized internally? Do we have the right people for the job? Are we working with our partners the right way?”

3)    Make Visible Changes and Have the Tough Conversations

This government has already made some tangible changes on matters large and small – getting rid of certain tax and license fee increases, for example – that signal its priorities to all Ontarians.  

You and your Board should also identify visible changes that signal your organization is making life easier (when it should be) for stakeholders and asking hard operational questions like: 

  • Do funding, stakeholder contributions or user fees need to increase this year, or can they be kept flat (or better yet, reduced) if some hard decisions are taken this year? 
  • Are there aspects of your processes that irritate stakeholders or get in the way of you doing your work most effectively? Can a few of them be changed quickly? 
  • What can you do for stakeholders that says: “We get it. We’ll fix it.”? 

These types of questions require tough conversations. And when fiscal constraints bite in a new environment, leadership must recognize that it is not immune from the pressures. 

These conversations must happen, and not just because there are tough decisions to be made – for many TPAs, there are existential decisions to be made. And if, in the pursuit of savings, an organization closes up shop because its functions have gone to another and citizens – as clients, patients, advocates, business people, or taxpayers – are better off as a result, isn’t that what public sector leaders are after anyway? 

An Optimistic Thought

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
– Ferris Bueller, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

To some leaders, these mantras will sound dire. They’re not. But they do reflect the speed at which Ontario’s new government is moving and the urgency with which public sector leaders need to act. Public sector leaders who get the big picture, and can have the tough conversations to prioritize, fix problems, and make visible changes will find savings more easily than others and still find themselves with much to do. Right now, you have an opportunity to design your future, rather than have it designed for you.

OPTIMUS | SBR’s Public Sector Practice

We can help design your future with you. We know these are big questions, because we ask them every day when we work with our clients to define their mandate, chart the next 3-5 years, find a partner, or find savings. Give us a call, or send us a note.

Terri Lohnes, Vice President and Practice Lead

David Lynch, Principal

Mary Tate, Principal

[1] Sparrow, Malcolm (2000). The Regulatory Craft. Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press, p. 9. Italics in original.

TORONTO, Nov. 1,  2017 /CNW/ – As part of its continuing growth strategy, Optimus SBR has acquired fellow industry leader BottomLine Group. This exciting new venture will create new capabilities and expanded industry depth at one of Canada’s leading management consulting firms.

BottomLine Group (BLG) offers substantial industry expertise in strategic growth, learning and enablement, business transformation, sourcing and optimization, and risk management.

Optimus SBR is now positioned to offer BLG clients new, complementary services in strategic planning, process improvement, project management, research-based decision-making, and leadership growth.

This new arrangement marks the sixth acquisition for Optimus SBR since its inception, a testament to the firm’s entrepreneurial spirit and bold attitude. The award-winning management consulting firm is well-known and respected for its can-do culture and ability to help clients execute.

“We are excited to be joining Optimus SBR and are eager to offer enhanced services to our existing clients in the areas of process improvement, program management, and leadership development,” says Alexa Nick, former BLG Managing Director.  “The combination of BLG and Optimus SBR creates a force in the market that will generate greater value for our clients. Our teams share a passion and energy that points to an exciting path forward, together.”

“We welcome the opportunity to offer BottomLine Group’s clients a wider and deeper range of opportunities for improvement – this is exciting,” said Kevin Gauci, Optimus SBR Managing Director. “In addition, we can provide our clients with greater expertise in learning and enablement, procurement and sourcing, and risk management. Great things happen when you put two strong organizations together; great things for our clients, and great things for our people.”

The new company will operate nationally and throughout North America as Optimus SBR with headquarters in downtown Toronto. BLG consultants and management will operate as Optimus SBR effective immediately.

About Optimus SBR

Optimus SBR is a Toronto-based management consulting firm that provides advisory services customized to address strategy, process, and project management needs to leading firms across North America.

Since their inception, their consultants have provided professional advisory services custom-tailored to fit the needs of each firm and clients individually.

Optimus SBR is recognized as one of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Professional Services firms by the PROFIT 500, and an AON Hewitt Best Employer for the past 5 years.

For further information:

Optimus Think