Toronto Star

October 10, 1999

Collection plan not dead yet

Province still after deadbeat parents

Toronto Star

Ontario says it isn't giving up, after all, on using private collection agencies to round up overdue support payments from deadbeat parents.

The Star reported yesterday that Ontario was abandoning the year-old program after managing to collect less than 1 per cent of money owed -- $4.4 million out of $450 million in debt.

However, a spokesperson for the province said yesterday the program was a one-year pilot project to recover debt more than three years old. Now the province will aggressively target support payments that are six months to three years overdue, said Nancy Daigneault, a spokesperson for Attorney General Jim Flaherty.

A day earlier, another provincial spokesperson insisted that nothing new was planned and the private collection project had to be evaluated first.

Yesterday, Daigneault said the province is already proceeding with a tendering process that will see private agencies hired to help with a second stage of the job.

Asked whether her statement could be construed as damage control following The Star story, Daigneault said "absolutely not."

She added, "I don't know what stage the tender is in right now but we are going ahead. We are building on the original program and we always intended to have a second stage."

Daigneault said the one-year pilot that collected $4.4 million in "old debt" was ground-breaking in the field in Canada.

"No effort has been made anywhere else to collect such debt, because in many cases it is almost uncollectable," she said.

The province's own staff will handle some of the collection in the second stage, which will also be a year-long pilot program, Daigneault said.

On Friday, Brendan Crawley, another spokesperson with the attorney-general's ministry, said the ministry didn't have any new plans for collecting arrears.

"We haven't made any decision on what our next enforcement measure is. We have to basically evaluate," he told The Star's Patricia Orwen. "There is no decision on what enforcement measures we may try next."

New Democrat MPP Shelley Martel said yesterday the province should hire more staff for its family responsibility office and let it do all the work.

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