A car without tires cannot reach its destination

By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady

Questions in the Ontario Legislature are like gold to me. Parliamentary privilege ensures I receive a question every eight sessional days. This week, one of my colleagues asked if I’d trade questions. I jumped at the opportunity to get something off my chest ahead of next week’s Ontario Budget. 

By way of background, since December, my colleagues and I have received letters containing the slogan 5ToSurvive – a campaign started by Community Living Ontario to draw attention to the crisis the developmental services (DS) sector is in.

Over the past 30 years, agencies that support those with developmental disabilities have seen a meagre 3.9 per cent increase to base funding. While the current government has taken measures such as tying Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefits to inflation, the organizations sustaining some of Ontario’s most vulnerable are no longer sustainable. The situation is akin to a car without tires. 

I asked the Minister of Finance to assure Ontario families supporting loved ones with developmental disabilities that they will see the long-awaited five per cent increase in the upcoming budget. The Minister bounced the question to the Minister of Children, Community, and Social Services, the Honourable Michael Parsa.

Minister Parsa, with whom I have a very good working relationship, said, “We will make sure that no one in Ontario is left behind.” The truth is that many are being left behind as services have been, and continue to be, cut. The Minister also said the government has invested an additional $1.5 billion in the sector. Agencies immediately began contacting me questioning where these monies have been allocated because they are uncertain. 

Response to the campaign has been most pronounced by families in Haldimand-Norfolk who realize the impact from agencies like Community Living Haldimand, Norfolk Association for Community Living, HN REACH, and Community Living Access. I’ve met with these agencies, and they are beaten down. They describe the exodus of underpaid staff.

A five percent increase in base funding, which translates into $145 million, would by no means make DS rich—it would basically keep the lights on in a sector that provides vital services to families. 

Almost daily in the Ontario Legislature, I hear the government boast about building 1.5 million new homes and welcoming more people to Ontario. In my supplementary questioning, I said, “I suggest this government stop talking about building houses for five seconds and listen to the 100,000 people currently needing this government’s help.” There are 100,000 individuals relying on the support of DS agencies—these are Ontarians here, and now we need to assist.  

My final ask was that the Minister promise the 100,000 individuals and their families the 2024 budget will ensure no further cuts to their support and services. Sadly, the Minister chose to talk about building another 1.5 million new homes. Why? Because he doesn’t get to decide what goes into the upcoming budget, and using talking points allows him to skirt this fact. Minister Parsa has done his job to lay the five per cent on the table, I am sure, but what will the Minister of Finance choose to include come March 26th?

I hope the government and key decision makers listened closely to my questions and the community response as well, and they will not miss the opportunity to put the tires back on the car and let the rubber hit the road.

Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk