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March 15, 2024

The elastic has snapped for Ontario’s developmental service organizations



While travelling for my regular constituency clinics, I was invited by a friend to join her and her husband in enjoying her mouthwatering maple salmon, which she knows is one of my favourite meals. I noted that her process differed from mine while the ingredients were practically the same as my recipe. But the bottom line is that hers was equally tasty as my dish.

I mention this because sometimes the feedback from News from the Park is that I’m rather critical of numerous policies and decisions of the Ford government. Some suggest that it does not matter what the Ford government does; I criticize them regardless.

Admittedly, while I can see why some readers would believe this to be true, I have to say that I disagree. I say this because governments are elected to affect policies that benefit the people who elect them. Just as culinarians may use different processes or techniques, the result is a savoury success. Therefore, politicians also can follow different paths to achieve the same result. However, in politics, the key is to have an overall positive effect that helps people. Therefore, my criticism is generally focused on this primary objective: does the policy or decision help people, especially the “Little Guy” whom Doug Ford professes to be so fond of?

I can’t help but wonder if the issue is that Doug Ford has forgotten his pledge to be there for the “little guys” of Ontario. Or, perhaps his definition is vastly different from that of most Ontarians. In my mind, those individuals who need developmental service agency support qualify as “little guys” who just need a helping hand.

So, where am I heading with this?

Readers need to know that I have been hearing from organizations in the developmental sector in the riding and across the province who are facing absolute financial ruin if Premier Ford’s promised “relief” does not find its way to them soon. Developmental service organizations include Community Living, which in this riding has branches in Sault Ste. Marie (CLA), Espanola (CLE), and Manitoulin (CLM). They provide outstanding support and assistance to people with developmental disabilities. They help such individuals access the same education, housing, employment, social, leisure, recreation, and retirement options as anyone else. They endeavour to ensure they exercise their right to make informed choices about their lives.

I must say that the information the agencies shared with me caught me off guard. According to CLA Executive Director John Policicchio, the disability services sector has only seen a 3.9 percent increase in the last 30 years. Unfortunately, he’s right.

On February 23, 2024, Policicchio was quoted by CBC News saying that over those thirty years, inflation alone has probably risen by 60 percent. However, when fact-checking, the CBC found that the Bank of Canada’s inflation calculator determined that inflation actually increased by 84 percent between 1994 and 2024.

“Let’s look at this from a perspective we can all relate to. Think of your own housing and living expenses. Have they gone up in the last 30 years? Rent, food, transportation, clothing, hydro, heating …? Rent, food, transportation, clothing, hydro, heating. In the last 30 years (1993), have you realized any increase in wages or pensions? Provincially funded developmental service agencies haven’t even seen a five-percent increase in those 30 years.

Ontarians believe in fairness and ensuring people have access to the same fundamental rights, freedoms and essential services. And as I said above, there can be multiple paths to achieve the same result. However, successive Liberal and Conservative governments have hardly taken a step to help existing developmental agencies to keep up, let alone improve or grow. I will always be highly critical of and will not support that level of neglect and mismanagement. Ontarians believe in fairness and caring for one another.

CLA’s Policicchio stated, “We see the need, and we are calling on the government to provide an immediate 5% increase to developmental services agency core funding in addition to a corresponding 5% increase in Passport Funding and Special Services at Home.”

Passport funding pays for community participation services and supports, activities of daily living and person-directed planning. It also provides funding for caregiver respite services and support for primary caregivers of an adult with a developmental disability. It helps to provide some of the essential services they need to function with some independence.

You might already have heard about the #5 to Survive campaign launched by developmental services groups, including CLE and CLA. The groups know that, realistically, there is zero chance that 30 years of being passed over will be recovered in one fell swoop. Instead, as the date on which the government budget release approaches, they are proposing a realistic and achievable 5% increase in core funding for service organizations, Passport, and at-home services. While this relatively moderate increase would not address the historic funding gap, it would be essential in stabilizing the sector’s funding.

Before the current session of the Legislature, I had the privilege to meet with CLA’s John Policicchio to discuss the issues at length. He shared an excellent analogy with me that really hit home. John explained that the government has directed to stretch and stretch and stretch their budget dollars year after year. But an elastic band can only stretch so far until it snaps. Well, the elastic has now officially snapped for Ontario’s disability service organizations.

When my friend made her delicious maple salmon using her recipe and techniques, I readily supported that. The end result was a savoury success.

When it comes to providing adequate funding for developmental services agencies with an acceptable intended goal and outcome, I could support a reasonable proposal from any government. It’s all about making life better for all Ontarians, even Doug Ford’s little guys.

As always, I invite you to contact my office about these issues or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at mmantha-co@ola.org or call Toll-free 1-800-831-1899.       

Michael Mantha MPP/député       

Algoma-Manitoulin 

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