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OPSEU social services workers’ Queen’s Park lobby a hit

We Are Social Services! - OPSEU
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On Tuesday, social services workers from across the province came together for a lobby day at Queen’s Park. The members of the OPSEU Community Services Divisional Council (CSDC) had one key message for MPPs: stop treating social services like the poor cousin of health and education.

As First Vice-President Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida pointed out in his opening remarks, “right now, social services are not a priority for policymakers, and the proof is in the funding. While health care and education are still vastly underfunded, it’s even worse for social services.”

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First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida opens the breakfast.

OPSEU members were able to share this message with a number of MPPs who attended the breakfast and met with them throughout the day. The political leaders listened to social services workers discuss what it’s like on the ground in a sector enduring constant cuts and fragmentation. Members shared stories of, for instance, working in a women’s shelter and having to turn away women looking for a place to sleep, or not having the funding to even provide a transit token to a client needing to get to an appointment. Other stories included watching children and youth slip through the cracks of an underfunded children’s aid system. The list of stories was endless, and the impact they had on the MPPs was clear.

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MPP Monique Taylor (Hamilton Mountain) speaks with Len Mancini (L216) (front) and Jonathan Guider (L166) (right)

The morning also included a screening of OPSEU’s recent short film, Telling Our Stories: Reimagining the Safety Net. MPPs were each presented with a small gift, a handmade glass starfish paperweight. The starfish was a reference to a story told in the film that perfectly captures why social services matter.

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Community Services Divisional Council (CSDC) chair Deb Gordon introduces the film, Telling our stories: reimagining the social safety net," and thanks the special guests: two clients featured in the film, Leah Belin and Nathan Gilbert, both from Thunder Bay.

Kelly Holmes, a CSDC member from Local 386, felt the lobby was a great experience. “I really enjoyed the whole experience at the lobby day,” she said. “I spoke to some MPPs who seemed to be genuinely engaged and cared about what I was advocating for.”

Rachelle Lacoste, from Local 666, felt the same way: “I left feeling energized and grateful for the opportunity to advocate for social services.”

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MPP France Gélinas (Nickle Belt) (front right) chats with Jane Kaija (L668), Deb Gordon (L145) (back left), and Rachelle Lacoste (L666).

While the day was overall a positive experience, it was nevertheless clear that some work still needs to be done in bringing the plight of Ontario’s social services sector to the attention of our political leaders.

“I was concerned about how many MPPs didn’t know too much about the youth in corrections portion of the new Children, Youth, and Family Services Act, or that us youth justice workers in the broader public service don’t have WSIB coverage,” Leonard Mancini of Local 216 said. “But they heard our concerns, and agreed that something has to change.”

OPSEU thanks the MPPs for lending their ears, and for committing to acting on the demands members brought forward.

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MPP Jennifer K French (Oshawa) meets in her office with OPSEU members.

Sincere thanks to the MPPs who joined members for breakfast:

Catherine Fife (Kitchener—Waterloo), France Gélinas (Nickle Belt), Percy Hatfield (Windsor—Tecumseh), Hon. Helena Jaczek (Oak Ridges—Markham), Teresa J. Armstrong (London—Fanshawe), Shafiq Qaadri (via his Executive Assistant) (Etobicoke North), Lou Rinaldi (Northumberland—Quinte), Peggy Sattler (London West), Todd Smith (Price Edward—Hastings), Monique Taylor (Hamilton Mountain), Rick Nicholls (Chatham-Kent—Essex), Jeff Yurek (Elgin—Middlesex—London), and Cindy Forster (Welland).

Thank you to the NDP caucus for meeting with CSDC members.

And thank you to the MPPs who hosted individual meetings with our members: Monique Taylor, Jennifer k French (Oshawa), Hon. Deb Matthews (via her Executive Assistant) (London North Centre), Granville Anderson (Durham), Gila Martow (Thornhill), and Teresa J. Armstrong.

Finally, thank you to former MPP Rosario Marchese for providing the team with lobby training in advance of this great event.
 

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OPSEU members sit with the NDP caucus and discuss the state of social services in Ontario.

For more pictures from the CSDC lobby day at Queen's Park, see below.

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CSDC chair Deb Gordon speaks with MPP Percy Hatfield (Windsor—Tecumseh).

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Brenda Malott (L116) (right) discusses the state of children's aid services with Teresa J. Armstrong (London—Fanshawe).

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Jonathan Guider (L166) (right) discusses broader public service corrections with MPP Percy Hatfield.

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Kareen Marshall, Local 540, speaks with the Executive Assistant to MPP Shafiq Qaadri (Etobicoke North).

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MPP Peggy Sattler (London West) (right) speaks with Brenda Malott (L116).

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Deb Gordon (L145) speaks with Jeff Yurek (Elgin—Middlesex—London). 

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(Left to right) Len Mancini (L216), First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, MPP Cindy Forster (Welland), and Jonathan Guider (L166) talk social services.