ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
A Disability Accessibility Perspective on the March 28, 2018 Pre-Election Ontario Budget – Many Missed Opportunities to Ensure 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities Equally Share in New and Expanded Programs the Wynne Government’s Budget Announces
March 28, 2018 Toronto: What does the new Ontario Budget do from the perspective of accessibility for 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities?
The Wynne Government’s pre-election March 28, 2018 Ontario Budget is full of new and expanded spending initiatives. Several could benefit people with disabilities in Ontario. (Key passages relevant to people with disabilities are set out below.) This analysis looks at the Budget Speech itself, but not on the large volume of supporting Budget documents.
The Budget’s organizing theme is that Ontario’s economy has been growing, but “The benefits of this prosperity have not been shared by all.” The goal of the Budget is summarized in this line:
“We must work to ensure that opportunity reaches everyone.”
However, the “everyone” to which it refers seems limited, and does not specifically refer to people with disabilities:
“Women. Students. Seniors…And those who are in precarious work — toiling away in the gig economy. The benefits of a growing economy must be shared by them, too.”
There are some targeted new expenditures which will have a direct focus on people with disabilities, such as expanded new mental health services funding, and the $250 million added over a three year period for students with special education needs That latter figure boils down to an average of less than $300 per student with special education needs per year over those three years.
The two things that are most strikingly missing from the Budget are these:
First, there is no new plan, nor new budget associated with it, to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005 requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to that goal by that year. Yet Ontario is now not on schedule.
The Ontario Government now has no multi-year plan in place to get us there, much less a dedicated budget to ensure that it is reached. This is missing from the new Ontario Budget. If the Ontario Government continues with “business as usual” on the accessibility agenda, Ontario will keep creating new disability barriers, and will fail to remove the existing barriers that continue in our society. We won’t reach full accessibility by 2025, a goal Premier Wynne promised she’d ensure Ontario will reach.
Second, there is nothing in the budget that would ensure that people with disabilities will be able to equally share in several of the important new initiatives that the Budget announces. From past experience, absent such safeguards, people with disabilities will run the serious risk of again being left out or left behind. For example:
* The Budget announces new funding for pre-school day care, with nothing to ensure that the spots it will fund will have accessibility for children and parents with disabilities.
* The Budget announces major new spending on college and university buildings, with nothing announced to ensure that these will have full accessibility for students, faculty and staff with disabilities. Recent AODA Alliance videos reveal serious accessibility problems at such new buildings, namely the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre and the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre.
* The Budget announces new funding for school buildings, without ensuring that these will have proper accessibility for students, teachers, staff and parents with disabilities, and that no public money will be spent on existing buildings that will not become accessible.
* The Budget announces new money for economic development and job creation, without announcing any conditions to ensure that this will only go to workplaces that have proper accessibility for employees with disabilities and will be used to expand employment opportunities for the vast number of Ontarians with disabilities who are unemployed.
* The Budget speaks generally about new infrastructure, including public transit, without announcing effective measures to ensure that these have proper accessibility for passengers with disabilities.
* The Budget announces funding for new and expanded hospitals, without announcing measures to ensure that these will have proper accessibility for patients and staff with disabilities, and their families.
* It is commendable that the Budget allocates new funding to help seniors stay in their homes, rather than having to move out as their needs grow. Yet there is nothing announced to expand the supply of accessible housing, to help fight the crisis in accessible housing in Ontario.
* The Budget expands access to free medication for seniors but includes no measures to ensure that patients with disabilities can read their prescription labels and instructions. Readily available technology could easily address this need.
The AODA Alliance will soon be writing the major parties to seek their election commitments on disability accessibility. The AODA Alliance and, before 2005, its predecessor coalition, have done this in each Ontario election as far back as 1995.
Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, firstname.lastname@example.org
All the news on the AODA Alliance’s campaign for accessibility in Ontario is available at: www.aodaalliance.org
Key Excerpts from the March 28, 2018 Ontario Budget from a Disability Perspective
* We have an aging population and more and more people moving out of work and into retirement.
* Another challenge we face today, Mr. Speaker…Is that while this province has experienced economic growth…
The benefits of this prosperity have not been shared by all.
We must work to ensure that opportunity reaches everyone.
Women. Students. Seniors.
And those who are in precarious work — toiling away in the gig economy.
The benefits of a growing economy must be shared by them, too.
What We Choose to Do
* We will continue to ensure that the benefits and opportunities of growth are widely shared across the province.
* Mr. Speaker, good public and social policy must also be sound economic policy…and that is what makes it sustainable.
So we are making a choice.
We are committing to more support for social and developmental services.
More supports for mental health and health care programs.
And more supports for students.
We are choosing to put our strengthened fiscal position to work…
To address the priorities of the people of Ontario.
* We all know that a growing and aging population is adding demands on our hospitals.
In peak times and during epidemics, our emergency rooms can become crowded.
So in the 2018 Budget, we are proud to invest an additional $822 million in hospitals.
This represents a sizable 4.6 per cent increase to hospital funding.
This increase will improve wait times and increase the number of critical services and procedures such as MRIs, cancer and cardiac surgeries, organ transplants and other life-saving supports.
This increase will provide additional supports for pediatric and psychiatric hospitals.
Plus we are investing $19 billion over the next 10 years in more than 40 major hospital projects in every region of this province.
From a new hospital in Moosonee for the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority in the north…
To Kingston General Hospital in the east.
From London Health Sciences Centre in the southwest…
To building the pediatric hospital of the future through Project Horizon at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
More Care for Children
Mr. Speaker, we know that access to affordable, quality child care is essential for families.
For our children, quality child care gives them the best start in life.
For the parents — particularly women — it gives them the choice to return to work earlier.
That’s why we invested to provide access to 100,000 more child care spaces.
In the 2018 Budget, we are going further, Mr. Speaker.
I am pleased to announce…
Beginning in 2020, we will implement free preschool for children aged two-and-a-half until they are eligible for kindergarten.
This means an Ontario family with a child of that age in child care could save, on average, $17,000.
Over the next six years, the government will invest $534 million to build 10,000 more preschool child care spaces in schools and 4,000 in other public spaces.
And for First Nation communities, we will double current child care capacity on-reserve, creating 4,500 new spaces, starting in 2019.
These are just some of the important commitments we continue to make for children and families.
Better Care for Seniors
Mr. Speaker, our seniors have helped build the province we enjoy today.
We are deeply grateful to them.
Today there are over two million seniors in our province.
That number is expected to grow to 4.5 million by 2040, having a profound impact on our social services and our economy.
It will also have a profound impact on those families who often struggle with added costs related to their care and well-being.
Many seniors would prefer to stay in their homes and live independently.
We want to help them.
We will help them, Mr. Speaker.
In the 2018 Budget…we are making targeted investments of $1 billion over three years in the new Seniors’ Healthy Home Program.
We will provide up to $750 for every eligible household led by a senior 75 years or older, to help offset the costs of maintaining their home.
This payment could be used to help pay for services such as snow shovelling, lawn care or house cleaning.
We are also investing $650 million more over three years in home care and community care to increase nursing and therapy visits.
It will also include more caregiver hours, to give families a much-needed breather from taking care of their loved ones.
And Mr. Speaker, in the 2018 Budget, we are expanding OHIP+ to include free medication for seniors, beginning in August 2019, by eliminating the annual deductible and co-pay from the Ontario Drug Benefit program.
Every person 65 and above in Ontario will receive free pharmacare, saving the average senior about $240 per year.
No senior will have to be out-of-pocket to pay for eligible prescription medicine…or have to choose between care and other life essentials.
This expansion of OHIP+ represents an investment of $575 million per year by 2020–21.
Mr. Speaker, for some seniors, staying in their homes is not an option.
They require long-term care.
This is why, in addition to the development of 5,000 new long-term care beds by 2022 and 30,000 over the next 10 years…
And the 30,000 existing beds that are being redeveloped…
We are investing $300 million over the next three years in long-term care, starting with $50 million next year.
This represents increased care hours and the hiring of more nurses and personal support workers. And we are investing a further $23 million to increase the number of personal support workers, many in underserved communities.
Because we know they provide invaluable care, which helps alleviate the burden placed on families and loved ones.
Improving Mental Health Support Services
Mr. Speaker, mental health challenges affect one in three people.
As a society, we have come to understand that mental health is essential to good overall health at every stage of life, from childhood to retirement.
So, Mr. Speaker, we are making an additional investment of $2.1 billion over four years to increase the level of care and access for mental health and addictions services.
This includes psychotherapy, supportive housing, and increased supports for Indigenous communities.
Mr. Speaker, we know that 70 per cent of mental health issues begin in childhood or adolescence, and that early intervention improves outcomes.
We want to ensure that kids get the help they need, as soon as they need it.
We will be expanding services for students in every high school across the province…
And providing counselling, therapy and walk-in clinic services in communities for approximately 46,000 more young people.
Mr. Speaker, I am so proud that this government is making a historic $17 billion investment over four years in improving access to services for mental health and addictions…
The largest in Ontario’s history.
Reducing Prescription Drug and Dental Costs
Mr. Speaker, being able to afford to pay for prescription drugs and dental services is vital to maintaining good health.
Yet today, one in four people of working age in Ontario does not have access to an extended health benefits plan.
Meaning their kids may not have the dental care they require.
Meaning that families forgo medicines they find too expensive to buy.
This remains the great unfinished business of medicare, in our pursuit for a universal pharmacare plan for every single Canadian.
In the past, we have acted to lessen these burdens and help close these gaps. Today, we take our boldest steps yet.
Starting in summer 2019, we will invest over $800 million in the first two years of the new Ontario Drug and Dental Program for those without benefit plans.
We will reimburse up to 80 per cent of eligible prescription drug and dental expenses…
To an annual maximum of $400 per single person, $600 per couple and $50 for each child in the family.
This means an eligible family of four could receive up to $700 per year towards their drug and dental costs.
A healthier Ontario is a stronger Ontario, Mr. Speaker.
Strengthening Income Security
Mr. Speaker, our government is reforming income security so that everyone has a chance to live healthy, secure lives.
We will simplify social assistance programs, reduce punitive rules and remove barriers.
I am pleased to announce today, that those most in need will also receive a three per cent rate increase per year, for each of the next three years.
Because Ontarians are a compassionate people, we take care of one another.
* Providing Greater Opportunities
Mr. Speaker…a growing economy produces jobs and opportunity.
In the face of new economic challenges, we are introducing the Good Jobs and Growth Plan…
Which includes $935 million in new investments over the next three years.
That’s in addition to our historic infrastructure investments, Mr. Speaker.
This plan will build upon our economic foundations…further diversify our economy…support the development of local talent and entrepreneurs…and encourage the growth of businesses.
This plan will improve business competitiveness, supporting investments to make Ontario businesses more efficient.
It will support key sectors through our newly expanded Jobs and Prosperity Fund, which will invest in food and beverage, transformative technologies and forestry.
It will also support regional economic development, with investments in key regions like eastern Ontario, southwestern Ontario, and in northern Ontario…
Where we are expanding the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and increasing funding by 50 per cent, to grow and diversify the economy, and attract further investments.
* A Strong Education
We want to help all students succeed in school…and in life.
This starts with the places where our young people learn.
That is why we are investing almost $16 billion over 10 years for new and improved schools.
This includes $510 million since 2013 in construction, additions and retrofits at 62 French-language schools across Ontario.
Because more than 600,000 francophones call Ontario their home…and a strong Franco-Ontarian community means a strong Ontario.
But a great education is about more than buildings and classrooms, Mr. Speaker.
One in five Ontario students has special needs.
So we are announcing $250 million in new funding over three years to tackle the waitlist for assessments and improve special education services.
Mr. Speaker, Grades 7 and 8 are crucial years for our young people to explore pathways to apprenticeship, college, university and the workplace.
That is why the government will invest more than $120 million over the next three years, hiring over 450 new guidance counsellors to help students better prepare for the transition to high school.
A good start today means a better future tomorrow.
* We are also investing more than $3 billion to renew and modernize Ontario’s university and college campuses.
And we are moving forward with our commitment to create a new French-language university in the province.
Last December, the Université de l’Ontario français Act, 2017, was given Royal Assent.
And to ensure that employers have access to talent, the 2018 Budget announces the establishment of the Ontario Training Bank.
* This $63 million additional investment will bring employers, employees and training institutions together to develop skills programs that are tailored to the needs of the local economy.
Taken together, these steps improve the skills of our workforce, giving Ontario businesses a strong competitive advantage.
* Empowering Women
Lastly, Mr. Speaker, we truly cannot speak of creating opportunity without tackling the systemic barriers that hinder women’s full participation in the workforce…head-on.
Advancing women’s economic empowerment is good for business, good for the economy and good for society.
Empowering women economically will bring more people into the workforce and build on the strengths of our people.
Estimates show that women’s full engagement in the economy could add approximately $60 billion to Ontario’s gross domestic product by 2026.
Our strategy supports female entrepreneurs and promotes women on boards and in senior management roles.
And it promotes pay transparency in the workplace — to help close the gender wage gap.
Creating more equitable workplaces is not just about fairness.
It’s an economic opportunity we can’t afford to miss.