More than 100 people from across Ontario including workers, people they support and their families, came to Queen's Park on September 18. They gave our government a strong message that developmental services are in crisis, and that it's time for this to change.
Sponsored by MPP Cheri DiNovo, NDP Critic for Community and Social Services, the packed event was attended by more than 30 MPPs — Liberal, NDP, and Conservative. Everyone present was overwhelmed by the powerful stories shared by family members and caregivers.
"This is a shameful situation, and it does not have to be this way," said Patti Markland, Chair of OPSEU"s developmental services. "There is tremendous wealth in Ontario. In fact, there is more money in our province than there has ever been. We can afford to care."
Family members described their exhaustion and desperate need of access to services and respite. Some are on waiting lists that never seem to end, while others fear daily for the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones due to lack of access to services. Many are growing older worrying who will take care of their dependents when they are gone.
OPSEU President, Warren (Smokey) Thomas delivered a key message to the politicians saying: "developmental services are underpaid, understaffed, under-funded and under-resourced". He then invited Ted McMeekin, Minister of Community and Social Services, to address those gathered.
Minister McMeekin declared his full support for decent funding for the sector. The next day, however, it was announced that the long-promised Select Committee on Developmental Services has been stalled.
MPP Michael Prue, NDP Finance Critic, spoke eloquently of the importance of decent funding. He later tweeted a reiteration of his support, saying "Development Service in Ontario is in crisis. Investment is crucial now. Ontario must act!
Christine Elliott, the Conservative MPP who initiated the proposed "Select Committee" appeared very briefly, and chose not to speak to those present. It was also noted that Tim Hudak, Conservative Party leader, walked hurriedly past the room without stopping.
OPSEU Executive Board Members Felicia Fahey, Len Elliott, Glen Archer as well as President Warren (Smokey) Thomas took the opportunity to share their personal experiences of the challenges and heart-ache that come with inadequate access to developmental services. OPSEU Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, and EBMs Mary Cory, Chris Cormier and Edie Strachan were also in attendance.
The September 18 lobby day, is just the beginning. OPSEU developmental services workers, the families they support and the people they care for are determined to ensure this government is held to account.
Join the fight for better funding. Ontario can afford to care. Write to your MPP, participate in coming events, and get plugged in to further communications.
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