Critics are slamming the government’s decision to permanently shut down all ServiceOntario kiosks five months after concerns were raised that the machines were being targeted by criminals to steal credit and debit card information.
It shows the governing Liberals can’t be trusted with delivering and overseeing even the most basic government services, the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats said Tuesday.
The machines, which provided access to 40 different services, were shut down in June after the security concerns were raised.
Closing them permanently will also inconvenience many customers who use the kiosks to access services quickly, such as address changes and renewing licence plate stickers, rather than wait in line, the parties said.
Conservative Rod Jackson said he’s received dozens of calls from his constituents in Barrie, asking why the kiosks are being shut down.
“This is a service provided to people that they use and it has been a very good one,” he said.
“Why they can’t keep them secure is their problem, but certainly it should have been an easy one to fix. And instead of fixing it, they did what they always do and cut bait and ran.”
The Liberals “dropped the ball” in managing the kiosks, said New Democrat Jagmeet Singh.
“I think first and foremost the issue is that, how could we trust a government to run the province, if they can’t properly run a kiosk?” he said. “That’s a big question.”
The decision was made to pull the plug after “careful analysis,” according to a government release.
“After months of careful analysis, consultation and testing of multiple options, it has been determined that even if we spend millions on security improvements, the kiosks would still be vulnerable to high-tech crime,” Government Services Minister Harinder Takhar said in the release.
“We encourage our customers to go online — where it is faster, easier and more secure — to get the services they need.”
Only two per cent of driver and vehicle transactions are done through kiosks, his officials said.
The machines were shut down after “financial partners” advised the government that there had been potential debit and credit card skimming at kiosks in the Toronto area, the government said.
The security issue involved the copying of the magnetic stripe that’s found on credit cards, which is used to make counterfeit cards.
After a “thorough investigation into safety and security issues,” the government decided to close down all the kiosks, it said.
The move will help protect financial information and save about $6.3 million in upgrading costs and $2.2 million in annual maintenance costs, it added.
Mr. Jackson said he’d like to know how much it cost to shut down and remove the kiosks.
“I don’t buy that it’s a money-saving issue,” he said.
“There’s a difference between spending and getting results, and spending and not getting results.”
If customers don’t want to go online to access services, they can also visit one of nearly 300 ServiceOntario centres in the province.
However, there are plans to close four of its counters in Chatham, Newmarket, Oshawa and Toronto to cut costs.