Queen's Park Highlights - May 6, 2016

Date posted: Thursday, May 12, 2016 10:49 am



MPPs returned to Queen’s Park on May 2 following a constituency week break. The concerns on the part of parents of children with autism regarding the government’s plans to change the eligibility criteria for Intensive Behaviour Intervention (IBI) therapy continued to dominate Question Period this week, culminating in a Queen’s Park rally on May 5 at which ETFO President Sam Hammond was a speaker. 

The Opposition also pointed to another Ontario Provincial Police investigation, this time involving government cancellation of wind energy contracts. The case is apparently before the courts.

1. Opposition continues to press Government on Autism Policy 

On May 2, PC Leader Patrick Brown accused the government of implementing “devastating cuts” because children were being removed from the wait list for IBI therapy and transitioned to other programs. He asked: “Why did the Minister of Finance allow this cut in his budget?” 

Children and Youth Services Minister Tracy MacCharles replied:

“It’s very important to acknowledge that we are not removing kids from service. In fact, we are taking those kids who are waiting for IBI, who are over five, who are not in the right developmental window, and putting them into immediate service—330 million new dollars, 16,000 new spaces. I acknowledge that it’s a shift. I acknowledge that it’s a transition. 

“I and many of my colleagues and, I believe, members of the opposition have been meeting with families. I’ve made sure that everyone in the Legislature has all the facts, that they understand the step-by-step process by which this transformation will take place and that the new autism program will provide longer, more intense services and will be tailored to the individual needs of the child.”

In answer to a supplementary question, during which Mr. Brown challenged the claim that children would have access to “enhanced” Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) the Minister stated:

“Speaker, I’d like to know when the Leader of the Opposition will stop using the wrong terminology about kicking kids off lists. That implies they’re not getting support; they are getting immediate support. Those children he’s talking about will go to immediate service.”

2. Government indicates Willingness for Dialogue and Advice on Autism Policy 

On May 5, the day of the Queen’s Park rally to protest the autism policy, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath asked whether “the Premier would listen to these parents and cancel her plan to cut off IBI services for children over the age of five?” Premier Kathleen Wynne stated that the government was talking to parents and that the main focus was to address the long waiting list of children with autism seeking services. In answer to a supplementary question, Minister MacCharles stated:

“I just have to say that the Premier and I are both very committed to continuing the dialogue with parents and continuing the dialogue with the autism organizations to make sure that this is being implemented as smoothly as it can and in a supportive way for families. 

“It’s important for me to continue to get that feedback. I’m doing that every day. I am very happy to meet with families. I have enjoyed very much meeting with the children as well to hear about how things are going for them, whether they’re in school now, whether they will be going to school, whether they have some combination of school and private support. I think it’s very important, and I am in discussions with the Minister of Education about that—children who are in school. 

“That dialogue needs to continue, and I am open to all advice.”

3. Government provides Details of Election Finance Reforms 

The government has yet to introduce legislation that puts forth its plans to amend Ontario’s election finance laws, but the details of a draft bill have been reported in the media. According to the media reports, the government is planning to move forward with banning corporate and union donations and limiting individual donations to $1,550, down from the current $9,975. Third-party advertising would be limited to $600,000 during the six-month period before an election campaign and $100,000 during the campaign period. 

4. Government announces Ontario surpasses High School Graduation Target 

Shortly after the Liberals formed government in 2003, they established 85 per cent as the target for the high school graduation rate. In 2004, the graduation rate was reported to be 68 per cent. This week the government announced that 85.5 per cent of high school students graduated in 2015, surpassing the target. The government attributes the improvement to the Student Success Strategy, the Specialist High Skills Majors, dual credits, and an expanded cooperative education program. 

5. All Parties acknowledge Education Week and Importance of Education Workers 

On May 2, MPPs from all three parties acknowledged the start of Education Week.Education Minister Liz Sandals acknowledged Ontario as having “one of the best education systems in the world” because of “the dedication, passion and commitment of Ontario’s education community.” She also used the occasion to draw attention to the government’s consultation on student well-being, announced earlier in the week, and itsrenewed math strategy

In his remarks, PC Leader Patrick Brown pointed out that his mother was a teacher and school principal and said:

“On behalf of the Ontario PC caucus, I want to applaud all those who spur student achievement and acknowledge the important role that our educators play in building our society. I encourage all members of the Legislature and all Ontarians to thank someone in the education community for the knowledge they convey to Ontario’s children and for everything they bring to our schools.”

 

Here is a link to a video of NDP Education Critic Lisa Gretzy’s, who paid tribute to “our dedicated and professional education workers” and then focused on the funding shortfalls for education

6. NDP Bill proposes Policy Guidelines for Child Care Waiting Lists 

On May 5, NDP MPP Peter Tabuns introduced a private member’s bill that proposes to establish policy guidelines for child care waiting lists. Bill 195, the Child Care and Early Years Amendment Act (Waiting Lists), 2016 seeks to require child care providers to have written policy regarding how their waiting lists are administered and to prohibit them from charging or accepting a fee or deposit before a child is admitted for child care.

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