A BUDGET OF CRUMBS by Eleanor Grant
A few days before Premier Kathleen Wynne's first budget came down, a family tragedy occurred in Ottawa Ontario. The parents of a severely autistic 19-year-old took their son to a provincial developmental services office and left him there. Faces covered with tears, they told a CBC reporter that they could no longer care for their son with so little support from the Ontario government.
In response to this story, a Kitchener activist, Cameron Dearlove, started a petition to Social Services Minister Ted McMeekin. It demands that enough funding be provided to eliminate the years-long waiting lists and to ensure a seamless transition when children with developmental disabilities turn 18.
But the May 2 budget allocated only a little money, and was vague about how it would be used. Desperate families will be kept waiting a lot longer.
In similar fashion, backlogged needs across Ontario were severely shortchanged in this budget. The Ontario Health Coalition points out that hospital funding is being held to a zero per cent increase, which will lead to bed closures in a province that already has the fewest hospital beds per capita in Canada. Meanwhile not enough new funding is put into home care to take up the slack or even clear the existing waiting lists.
Perhaps most insulting of all, single adults on welfare will be given a top-up of $14 a month. Every social agency in Ontario has been pleading for years that a $100 a month increase would be a bare minimum for shelter and food. And even this would be far short of the $300 increase necessary to undo Mike Harris's crushing cuts of 1995.
Not a dollar was promised for affordable housing, even as the number of homeless keeps increasing. The Region of Waterloo alone has a waiting list of 1500 people in need of supportive housing, the biggest gap in service of all. It took five years of citizen fund-raising and organizing to create one such building to house 30 people. At this rate, most individuals in need of supportive housing will not receive it in their lifetime.
Meanwhile municipalities have to find new money out of property tax revenue, to replace an emergency housing fund that Ontario cancelled in last year's budget.
And if you were hoping that your minimum wage job would soon start paying more, well you'll have to wait for an "advisory panel" to report later this year, followed no doubt by further dithering.
The "social justice premier" hasn't done much to earn her designation yet! The best that can be said is that she threw her handful of crumbs in the right directions.
The Ontario Health Coalition said it well:
"Ontario already ranks dead-last in funding all public services, from roads and transit to education, justice and health care. Why? Because we have the lowest corporate taxes and taxes for the wealthy of almost anywhere in North America.
"This budget will see Ontario fall further behind. The result is a burgeoning array of user fees and out-of-pocket costs for residents. Ontario students already have the highest tuitions in the country and user fees are soaring for everything from parks to roads."
Ms Wynne, if you're still around in a year, you've got to do a helluva lot better than this. Ontarians are tired of eating crumbs.
The petition on children with developmental disabilities can be signed at:
Should Andrea Horwath press for more changes to the Ont budget? Such as improvement in minimum wage and welfare rates?
Statement from OFL on the budget: http://ofl.ca/index.php/2013-budget/
Statement from OCAP on the budget: http://www.ocap.ca/node/1077