Community Living Visits the Legislature
On May 6, Community Living Ontario held its Annual Day at the Legislature. The event, co-hosted with Community Living Toronto included a lunch reception with more than 200 people including many MPPs and Community Living members and supporters from across the province. Once again, Community Living Toronto coordinated the “Take a Break for Community Living” campaign as part of our visit. Through Take a Break, MPPs are given a KitKat chocolate bar which has been wrapped with a special label recognizing Community Living and are encouraged to “take a break for community living. Many MPPs have commented how they look forward each year to receiving their KitKat bar and the initiative clearly helps remind Members about Community Living and the important role we play in Ontario.
At the lunch reception, MPPs from all three political parties brought greeting to participants and spoke of the important and continuing work that we all need to do together to create a more inclusive society. Minister of Labour, the Honourable Laurie Scott, spoke for the government while Lisa Gretzky from the NDP and Kathleen Wynne from the Liberals spoke for the other parties.
Other speakers at the reception included the Chair of the Community Living Ontario Council, James Taylor who called on government to do more to address issues of ongoing poverty that people who have an intellectual disability face. Shineeca McLeod, a self-advocate representative from Community Living Toronto spoke about the importance of support in helping people to build a life in community.
Community Living Ontario was very pleased to have the President of OASIS, Darren Connolly join us for the reception and address participants. Darren spoke of the important partnership that has formed over the years between OASIS and Community Living Ontario and our shared values regarding the importance of building an inclusive society.
Many of those attending the event also visited the Legislature during the morning and afternoon sitting of MPPs. Many of our members were specifically recognized and welcomed by their MPPs in the House. During the afternoon sitting the Honourable Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing made a statement acknowledging Community Living Day on behalf of the Government.
Minister Clark recognized the important work of Community Living and provided assurance of the Government’s ongoing commitment to the work that lies ahead saying:
“Even though this province invests $2.6 billion to support adults with developmental disabilities, our work requires that there needs to be more government investment, and not just government investment. It requires fair, sustainable supports throughout people’s lives, supports that give them hope and give them opportunity, and it requires changes in public attitudes to embrace the value and the unique gifts that people with disabilities have. We are promising, Speaker, to protect those critical services. Our people’s government makes a very responsible and very transparent approach to the improvements we’re making, and I know that if Minister MacLeod were able to be here today, she would talk about those.”
Lisa Gretzky, the NDP Critic for the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, responded to Minister Clarks Statement. Ms. Gretzky spoke to the ongoing challenges facing people who have an intellectual disability and the community organization that support them. She said that the governments words “ring hollow unless we acknowledge the reality of the situation in developmental services.” She challenged the government to “do better”.
Interim Liberal Leader, John Fraser responded to Minister Clark’s statement saying that he took his words to heart, but went on to say that “one of the things that we have to do here in this Legislature is to make sure that words match deeds”. He called on the government to move more quickly in providing information to agencies and families about current budget allocations and future plans for Passport, Special Services at Home and other things that people and families rely on.
Participants at the event also paid visit to MPPs to discuss the ongoing work of Community Living. Community Living Ontario held meetings with MPPs Lisa Gretzky, John Fraser and Monique Taylor, NDP critic for Children and Youth.
Community Living Ontario finished the day at a meeting with Tim Porter, Chief of Staff to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, the Honourable Lisa Macleod and Susan Truppe, Director of Policy and Legislative affairs for the Minister. We discussed the need for the sector to get up to date information about the budgeting process for agencies in the coming year.