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The Public Benefit of a Private Bill


Wendy MurphyMy name is Wendy Murphy and I have been confined to a wheelchair for more than 30 years now. As a former City TV roaming reporter, I can honestly say that access has been a priority when it comes to my daily life, striving to maintain my optimum form of independence. While I have witnessed many access improvements made over the years, my recent frustrations are with the accessible parking permit and its failings as a system.

The accessible parking permit originated in the early eighties as a system to better accommodate public parking facilities across the province for those who must use a wheelchair. Today those eligible to use the permit include individuals with walking ailments, which puts a new meaning on access when the spots are, at times, taken by individuals using fraudulent permits. There are currently thousands of Ontario residents struggling with mobility issues and vying for accessible parking. What makes the need for revision greater is those of us in wheelchairs need the space allotted to those spots, with little recourse should they not be available. That is where Gila Martow and her dedicated efforts to make change comes in.
 
Ms. Martow is the MPP for the Thornhill region, and is a member of the Progressive Conservative Caucus in Ontario. Our relationship began when she set out to make change happen on the accessible parking front and we have come relatively far on the journey. She has introduced a Private Members Bill — The Transportation Systems Improvement Advisory Committee Act, 2017, that is calling on government to set up a permanent committee assigned to look at improving traffic flow, road safety, and ensuring that accessible parking spaces are available for those who need them. 
 
The Bill is in its second reading. Should it come into effect it will require the Minister of Transportation, the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, and the Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police to establish an advisory committee. The committee will then be assigned to analyze highway incident management, inquire into the report on the system of accessible parking for persons with a disability, and consider how to optimize the use of technology to make highways, roads, and infrastructure safer and more accessible.

It is approximately once a year that Members of Provincial Parliament get the opportunity to put forward a Private Member’s Bill on the topics they feel need attention. I am more than pleased to see MPP Gila Martow has taken notice of a system that today, stands in great need of revival.

To learn more about or follow the progress of Bill 136 - Transportation Systems Improvement Advisory Committee Act please follow this link:
or 


2017 Ontario Budget 

Queen's Park - Toronto​

April 27, 2017

At a busier-than-usual budget lock-up at Queen’s Park, most political observers today describe this as a “do-or-die” budget for the government of Premier Kathleen Wynne, and by all appearances, this budget just might do what is needed.

Among the previously announced initiatives is the pilot project for a Basic Income, a test to see whether 4,000 recipients of social assistance in three Ontario municipalities will experience improved employment outcomes and income security through a lump sum amount that replaces the plethora of social assistance transfers. 
A disability component increases that amount. The aim is also to reduce overall costs of addressing poverty.
 
On the health care front, the government proposes to expand Home and Community Care through an additional investment of $85 million over three years to enhance programs such as home nursing, personal support and physiotherapy as well as respite care services. 

Key to our sector, the government is launching the Ontario Dementia Strategy with more than $100 million over three years, improving and better coordinating services for Ontarians living with dementia, and their caregivers. A continued investment of $250 million in 2017–18 for community and personal support services will help meet increased demand and support faster and more equitable access to services across the province. The funding will continue to support more hours of care for complex patients, much-needed respite for caregivers, and the delivery of key improvements in mental health and addiction services. 

Employment
In the 2016 Budget, the government announced its commitment to develop a provincial employment strategy to help more people with disabilities connect to job opportunities, and employers to connect to a talanted and underutilized labour pool. To develop this new strategy, the Province has consulted individuals with disabilities and other key groups, including disability organizations such as March of Dimes Canada. Ontario also took the advice of the Partnersip Council and the Premier’s Highly Skilled Workforce Expert Panel. Over the next year, the Province will be working with its Employment Ontario service delivery partners, education and training institutions, employers, workers and job-seekers to modernize key employment and training programs.

Seniors
To meet the growing needs of seniors, $8 million over the next three years will provide an additional 40 new Elder Person Centres by 2018-2019 to help support some of Ontario's vulnerable populations, with a proposal for a new Ontario's Seniors Public Transit Tax Credit for all Ontarioan's aged 65 and older to cover eligible public transit cost as of July 1 2017. Additionally, providing and additional $11 million over three years to the Seniors Community Grant program will support facilities to help seniors engage socially, to volunteer and to continue their lifelong learning.

Housing
Roughly $45 million over three years will be invested to provide up to 1,150 additional supportive housing units for those with serious mental illness or addictions who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. For developmental disabilities, the government will take immediate action and invest $677 million over four years to help keep people out of crises and give more people the supports that are right for them. 

Additional information on the Government of Ontario's 2017 budget may be found at:


2016 Ontario Budget

Queen's Park - Toronto​

February 25, 2016

Amid the headlines of the ORPP and enhance3d public infrastructure funding, one item that might have been overlooked by the media focuses on accessibility renovations.

In January 2017, the Government will end the Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit, which is targeted to seniors as a tax break to assist​ with the cost of making one's home more accessible.  Instead the monies allocated for this tax expenditure will tentatively be directed to the Home and Vehicle Modification Program. Significant to the announcement is the fact that the idea was proposed and presented by March of Dimes Canada during several pre-budget discussions.  This represents a more effective way of achieving greater accessibility for both seniors and Ontarians with disabilities.

Ontario's new pension system will roll out in 2018, with benefit contributions in 2020.

Social assistance rates (Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program) will increase by 1.5%.

As previously announced in budgets since 2013, alternative social financing will be piloted through the use of Social Impact Bonds.  The government will pilot at least one Social Impact Bond initiative.

The Long-Term affordable Housing Strategy will receive $178 million.

Measures announced in previous budgets, and reiterated or extended in this budget, focus on Home and Community Care and Personal Support Services.  The Government will fund growth in the home and community care sector by 5% per year to 2017-2018.  Also known from previous budgets, wages for personal support services will increase to $16.50 this April.

Over the next year, the Government will develop a provincial employment strategy for Ontarians with disabilities.  This will build on previous consultations and related initiatives including the Partnership Council.  As part of this employment strategy, amendments will be made to several statues - including the AODA, which will focus on amending measures to provide extension to legislated timeframes regarding the Employment Standard.

Additional information on the Government of Ontario's 2016 budget may be found at:


A Critical Look at the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities


A Critical Look at the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities paper, authored by Andria Spindel (CEO and President of March of Dimes Canada), Dr. Stuart Kamenetsky (University of Toronto), Ellen Waxman (Consultant and former Assistant Deputy Minister) and Kinzanoor Danish (a psychology student) was presented at the 6th International Conference on Disabilities, “Unity and Diversity in Action” in July 2015, which drew people from 24 countries. This paper gives a short historical overview of how the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) came into being and identifies current issues around its implementation. 

Ellen Waxman and Andria Spindel attended the conference organized by Beit Issie Shapiro International, a major rehabilitation agency serving children with developmental and physical disabilities. They had an opportunity to present the paper in a small workshop. 

Click here to view Accessibility Legislation in Ontario, Canada: Advocacy and Implementation presentation slides​ from the 2015 Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in Canada Conference

As authors and advocates, MODC is eager to share our thoughts about advancing the AODA philosophy and standards. We therefore welcome your feedback and invite you to circulate the link to this paper among your colleagues, consumers, family advocates, government contacts and interested parties.

The Government of Ontario has demonstrated a commitment to accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities. This year it is engaging in much dialogue with stakeholders on how to achieve the desired accessibility by 2025, so we invite the government and community stakeholders to consider ideas in this paper.

The government of Manitoba has adopted accessibility legislation, and Nova Scotia is well on its way to developing similar legislation, both having learned from the experiences of other jurisdictions, including Ontario. Furthermore, discussion around accessibility legislation in provinces like British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador is adding to a growing dialogue around creating a barrier-free Canada.

March of Dimes Canada is beginning to work within all Provinces and Territories, and with the Federal Government to help everyone come on board with legislation and relevant programs to achieve this nation wide. Perhaps our reflections here will serve to strengthen the commitment to see the goal through to complete implementation.


Infrastrucure Featured in Ontario Budget


Ontario's Queen's ParkApril 23, 2015, Queen's Park - Toronto

The Ontario 2015 Budget, not surprisingly is an infrastructure-oriented budget.  The remainder is rather pale with virtually no new program money.  And much of the content of the 2015 budget re-states commitments made in the 2014 budget.  But the plan does contain many measures aimed at and impacting our sector.

The government is currently consulting on the integration of employment and training services, including employment supports for people with disabilities . In the immediate term, the Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy will receive an additional $250 million over the next two years.

The Province plans to provide more than $11 billion in hospital grants over 10 years to build adequate infrastructure capacity in the health care sector.  Forty major hospital projects are already underway.

There is a commitment of $23.5 million over five years to help establish the Aging and Brain Health Innovation Centre at Baycrest, and the Ontario Brain Institute receives continued funding.

Through an already scheduled move, the minimum wage will increase to $11.25 in October of this year.

More than $75 million will be added to support more visits at home for people who need nursing services.  As well, the government plans to move forward with implementing the recommendations from the Home and Community Care report.  And roughly $40 million will be invested over four years to support about 10,000 more rehabilitation visits.

The government remains committed to a total hourly wage increase of up to $4.00 over three years, raising the base wage for PSWs to at least $16.50 by April 1, 2016.

The Seniors Community Grant program will be doubled to $2 million.

Through ADP the government will continue to review approved costing of funded products, such as mobility devices, to reflect evidence-based updates to pricing.

The Ontario retirement pension plan, currently in Committee, will continue to unfold.

Starting in October ODSP rates will increase by 1%.  The Comfort Allowance for low-income residents in long-term care homes will also increase by 1%.  Ontario Works will also receive a 1% increase in October.

Additional information on the Government of Ontario 2015 Budget may be found at:
www.fin.gov.on.ca



This budget did not pass in the Ontario Legislature.  An election was instead called for June 12, 2014 and this budget forms the basis for the Liberal platform


Disability Sector Receives Modes Increases 

​May 1, 2014 - Queen's Park - Toronto

Many of the larger details of this year's budget were well-known to Ontarians prior to today.  Measures such as the personal tax increase on income more than $150,000, the consideration of leveraging assets like the LCBO, and the transportation and infrastructure plans were already announced prior to the May 1st budget delivered by Finance Minister Charles Sousa.

Pleasant surprises in the Wynne Government's proposed measures feature modest increases to social assistance, wage increases for PSW's and a new mandatory retirement fund for Ontarians.

A few highlights from Ontario's Budget 2014
  • Proposing a new mandatory provincial pension plan.  The Ontario Retirement pension Plan would have equal contributions shared between employers and employees, not exceeding 1.9% each on earnings up to a maximum annual threshold of $90,000.  Earnings below a certain threshold would be exempt.  Consultations to follow.
  • Raising the minimum wage to $11 per hour June 1 of this year.
  • Enhancing supports for adults with developmental disabilities and front line workers.
  • The Healthy Smiles Ontario program will be expanded to give 70,000 more children access to dental services.
  • Proposing to increase personal Support Workers base wage to $16.50 per hour by 2017.
  • An ODSP increase by 1% and a $30 top up per month to Ontario Works single recipients without children.
  • Comfort allowance for low-income long-term care home residents will increase by 1%.
  • The social assistance rates will take effect in September of this year.
  • Will consolidate social Assistance benefits within each of the ODSP and Ontario Works.
  • Investing an additional $5 million annually in Childrens Treatment Centres for children with special needs.
The Province is moving forward with the government-wide integration of employment and training programs.  Leading up to this will be stakeholder engagement at key stages of transformation, something March of Dimes will have to monitor closely.

In addition to the wage increase for support workers, there is a commitment to support demonstration projects that empower people to choose the care that best meets their needs.  And the Seniors Community Grant Program will be doubled to $1 million per year.

The budget proposes to amend the Insurance Act to require the long-term disability benefits are insured by the employer.

The Ontario Child Benefit will be indexed beginning in 2015. A new poverty reduction fund targeting local solutions to poverty will receive $50 million over 5 years.

The Employment Benefit streamlining will see the Work Related Benefit consolidated in the new employment benefit, which will be available to ODSP recipients with disabilities​ based on employment-related needs and expenses.  This will entail a 6 month transition for those receiving the benefit.

Any increase in social assistance rates and related wages is always welcome news.  The streamlining of employment supports will include additional details in the coming days.  And arguably the developmental services sector is the target of most spending in the disability sphere.  But it is the proposed mandatory retirement savings plan that will require some of the greatest attention to ensure that contributions are affordable to middle and low income earners, and to ensure that a "mandatory" plan to the most suitable approach.

We will soon learn if this Budget receives the Legislature's approval to become the official fiscal trajectory of the Wynne government or if this document forms the basis of a campaign platform in an election that would be forced the Legislature's rejection.

More to come.


A Broad Basket of Everything Designed to Generate Support

Queen’s Park - Toronto
May 2, 2013

Earlier today, Finance Minister Charles Sousa delivered his government's first budget under the newly-minted government of Premier Kathleen Wynne.  And it is difficult to find anything fundamentally wrong with its content

A few core areas of focus of this highly anticipated budget have been known for some weeks now.

An emphasis on youth employment, announcing a Youth Jobs Strategy valued at roughly $295 million over two years designated to boost job creation opportunities for about 30,000 youth (funded through the Youth Employment Fund, Youth Entrepreneurship Fund, Youth Innovation Fund, and the Business-Labour Connectivity and Training Fund).

Reducing auto insurance premiums by 15% (full details and implications pp 285-286, 2013 Budget).

Expanding home and community care to 46,000 more people, and adding an additional one percent per year, for a total of $700 million by 2015-16.

Transforming social assistance with a focus on jobs and financial security.

​Infrastructure, transportation and public transit receives a hefty $35 billion over the next three years.  Following the soon-to-be-released MetroLinx strategy.  Ontarians see high-occupancy vehicle lanes converted into high-occupancy toll lanes.  The government will be announcing further details on this front, and expect a lot.

ODSP will increase by 1% in this year's budget.  An it was announced that a new $200 monthly earnings exemption for people in Ontario Works and on ODSP would be created.  There will also be an increase in cash and liquid asset limits for those receiving Ontario Works (e.g.. vehicles, financial gifts.  Details found in pages 90 to 93, Budget).

The Budget also announces a new Partnership Council on Employment opportunities for People with Disabilities -- composed of government and corporate leaders.  There will be a need here to ensure participation of agencies like March of Dimes.  Finance officials confirm that the government will continue to integrate employment and training services across government with Employment Ontario.  Without details, it is also confirmed that there will be a continued focus on creating a more consistent approach to assessing the needs of clients for better job matching; ensuring that employers are engaged in the process; and enhanced referral pathways within Employment Ontario.

The Ontario government will also help promote the federal Registered Disability Savings Plan.  While this is a needed and welcome measure, one wonders if this signals the message that individuals and families must assume greater control of their financial futures, with less direct funding y government?  We shall see, and also learn if the government might want to use March of Dimes' own RDSP videos (found at the March of Dimes YouTube channel) to help spread the message.

A related measure will see the Ontario government consulting on pooled registered pension plans, something that other provinces have announced.  No legislation will be introduced prior to consultation.

Evolving from the Poverty Reduction Strategy is a new Cabinet Committee on Poverty Reduction, which will oversee the transformation of the social assistance system.  Gaining full insight on this Committee will be critical over the coming weeks, even though Finance officials indicate that official news won't be available until the fall.  It was acknowledged, however, that the overall social transformation will take time, and that discussions will soon commence with recipients, municipalities and delivery partners (i.e.. March of Dimes) to identify priorities and best options.  Essentially, the government has taken the SAR's advice to transform, and will now work with stakeholders to determine exactly how to improve employment-related benefits, recognize income from self-employment, integrate employment and training services and engage employers and partners -- while also working with the newly-announced Partnership Council on Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities.

We will need to identify when and where Employment Ontario will be holding its consultations, but Finance officials indicated a full timeframe.

We learned last week of the Government's intention to home care wait times for nursing services and to improve personal supports, targeting to delivery service to the client within five days of CCAC assessment.

North Ontarians requiring travel for medical care will welcome the move that will introduce a simplified process for accessing medical travel supports for social assistance recipients.

Ongoing commitments will work toward enhancing the Canada pension plan, Ontario Child Benefit and consider future changes to the minimum wage.

The Transfer Payment Accountability Productivity Team is developing a model and methodology for transfer payment partners in the broader public sector, that will, once rolled out, implement stronger accountability tools and performance/outcome measures.

With dozens of organizations represented in the Queen's Park lock-up, the overwhelming reaction to Premier Wynne's first budget was positive, something for everyone.  But will it be enough to generate the critical support of Ontario's NDP, since the Progressive Conservatives are already on record as having no confidence in this government and have vowed to not support this budget?

 


 

Past Budgets


Ontario Budget 2011: "We will build on our Track Record of Reform"

Queen's Park - Toronto
March 29, 2011

Minister of Finance, Dwight Duncan, delivered the McGuinty Government’s final budget today before heading to the polls in this October’s provincial election. This brings not only the count of government budgets to two within one week (the federal budget was delivered in the House of Commons March 22nd), but sends Ontarians to the polls twice this year for federal and provincial elections within six months of each other.

 This year’s budget has a strong emphasis on finding and delivering cost efficiencies that ultimately lead to deficit reduction. "Reform of the way government does business" is a phrase that appears numerous times. Savings entailed in the 2011 budget are approximately $1.5 billion.

March of Dimes pre-budget submission (see below) recommended a similar approach as regards funding and delivery of assistance devices in Ontario.

The specific portfolios this year to receive new monies … Education and select healthcare funding constitute the lion’s share of the budgetary focus.

A consistently pronounced message is, if your organization receives $10 million or more annually from the Government of Ontario, plan for funding reductions and/or freezes in coming years, stronger rules for accountability and reporting, and restrictions on items such as procurement, and external lobbyists (and working associations with them).

Highlights and Areas of Relevance

  • Major agencies will be instructed to deliver savings of $200 million by 2013-2014.
  • Reducing funding for executive offices at hospitals, universities, special transfer payment recipients and government agencies by 10% over 2 years. This might affect us.
  • Will establish the Commission on Reform of Ontario’s Public Services.
  • Additional funding will create 60,000 new college and university spaces.
  • Full-day kindergarten will be available to an additional 200 schools for upwards of 50,000.
  • Funding for mental health and addictions for youth and children will reach $93 million per year by 2013-14.
  • Beginning April 2011, the government will expand the pharmacy services and support available to those in the Ontario Drug Benefit Program (primarily seniors and social assistance recipients).
  • Additional $44 million over 3 years for basic literacy skills training.
  • Increasing funding to the community services sector by 3% annually. We should realize a benefit here.
  • $100 million annually to enhance pharmacy services and support (mainly consultation, assessment and follow-up services).
  • ODSP: Will increase the basic adult allowance and maximum shelter allowance by 1%.
  • For 2 years, freezing the salary structures for non-bargaining employees in the broader public sector and "eliminating unnecessary perks".
  • Rigorously pursuing the investigation of partnerships with social enterprises and alternative delivery mechanisms.
  • Will introduce an amendment to the Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) Act to ensure that services are available in French through every CCAC. This could merely mean the CCAC administration itself, although we should keep abreast of the French Language Services Act and any possible implications for direct service and contracts.

During the pre-budget consultations late last year, March of Dimes advocated for more cost effective measures for assistive devices in Ontario -- measures also recommended by the Province’s Auditor General.

Online copies of the budget and accompanying document may be found at www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/budget/ontariobudgets/2011/.

March of Dimes’ budget submissions and related documents may be found online at www.marchofdimes.ca/advocacy.

This submission may find life in this Budget’s emphasis on reforming the way services are delivered in government and the broader public sector -- the details of which will unfold in the coming weeks.

This is among the slimmest budgets seen in several years. The strongest area of possibility might look to the plans for pursuing partnerships with social enterprises and the announcements to explore alternative delivery vis-à-vis one-stop service and new partnerships with sectors other than the private sector.

Aside from that, it is what is not in this year’s budget that stands out for many. Funding commitments for affordable housing or the poverty reduction strategy are prominent among such exclusions in the 2011 budget.

Finance Minister Duncan stated in recent days that Ontarians should not expect him to deliver a pre-election budget filled with fiscal goodies and benefits. Based on our preliminary read of the budget, Duncan’s warning was accurate.

The Ontario Liberals were elected with a majority government in 2003, and re-elected in 2007. The next Ontario election is set for October 6, 2011.



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