At Queens Park earlier this week, Nickel Belt NDP MPP France Gélinas supported front line services when she raised the alarm about the ongoing funding crisis in children’s mental health. The following statement she made in provincial parliament on May 22 reflects the urgent need for funding across the province. Gélinas statement is worth reading in its entirety as it illustrates many of the recessionary pressures hitting working families and why Ontario’s public sector services must be strengthened immediately.
“On May 22, I held a community forum to give the people of Sudbury a chance to comment on the budget and Bill 162… Most of the people of Sudbury did not have a chance to be heard, so I offered them the community forum, and they came. What you will hear this afternoon is what they had to say.
Mrs. Rachelle Lacoste and Susan Nicholson…from the Child and Family Centre in Sudbury started by explaining that one in five children is in need of mental health services. In the last 15 years, they had only seen an increase to their budget twice, which left them with a great deficit, which meant that they had to close the residential program that we used to have. After they closed it, they started using the program at Roberts/Smart. But we all know what"s happening to their program. It was raised in this House that they are also closing their residential program. This means that not only will kids from Sudbury not have access to a residential program anymore if they need to; they need to be shipped out of their community. Now Roberts/Smart, which was one of the only ones to offer French-language services to the francophone kids of Sudbury, is also closing. That makes for hard times.
She talked about having to lay off 21 staff because of the closing of the program and the hard time that they are having. They"re presently struggling with about a $300,000 deficit. So because they don"t want to lose their trained staff, what they have done is basically balanced the books by not replacing vacancies and by reintroducing what people in this House will recognize as Rae days, so that staff takes time without pay to help their employers balance the books, because they understand how important children"s mental health is.
Those people are very knowledgeable. They knew about the roots of violence report and the increase of delinquency that happens when you don"t have the proper mental health for children. They knew about the Fraser Mustard report and the importance of attachment in early childhood development if you want a healthy society, and they also participated in the Kids Matter campaign.
Unfortunately, there is no money in the budget for children"s mental health, which means that the deplorable situation they came to me with is not about to change unless the government changes their mind and listens to the people from the Child and Family Centre of Sudbury…”
The second group that came was Mrs. Denise Lafond and Paul Corsi. They are the executive director and the president of the Sudbury and District Home Builders Association. They wanted to talk to me and make sure that I brought a very clear message back to Queen"s Park about the devastating effects the HST is going to have on their industry and on their members.
They can predict-and they have it well-documented-the devastating effect of the HST on home building in Sudbury and in Ontario, as well as for renovation. They talked about how last year on May 22 there were 72 new houses started up in Sudbury; this year it"s down to 19.
Then they went through the process of people who are building a house: from the architect"s fees that are going to go up 8%, the engineering fees going up 8%, the lawyer"s fees going up 8%-and then, of course, they told me that 60% of the price of building a new home is labour, and this is also going to go up 8%. They find that this is the wrong tax at the wrong time.
They"re also concerned about the full effect of the HST-or BST, whatever you want to call it-on buying a secondary residence. A lot of people in the north will have a camp which will be considered a secondary residence. And they"re worried about renovation.
But basically what they showed is that 48% of the home construction in Sudbury is from private owners, those most at risk of going to the underground market. With this new tax, they know full well that people will go to the underground market more and more, which means that the legitimate tax revenue that should have been coming to the province will decrease even more. Not a pretty picture.
The next one actually presented in French, so I will present her comments in French. La prochaine qui a présenté, c"était M me France Jodoin. Elle est la directrice de La Bouquinerie du Moulin, qui aura son ouverture jeudi matin. Donc, pour ceux qui nous écoutent, si vous êtes disponibles à 10 heures jeudi matin à Sudbury, c"est l"ouverture de La Bouquinerie du Moulin. Elle est une employée du Centre FORA, un centre qui fait de la formation de base ou de l"alphabétisation.
Elle a démontré l"importance de l"alphabétisation, de la formation de base. Parce qu"il n"y a pas de financement stable dans le budget pour aider les organismes qui font de la formation de base, il y a des conséquences sociales très importantes en ce moment avec toutes les mises à pied qui ont eu lieu à Sudbury. Les travailleurs qui n"ont même pas la formation de base se retrouvent en bien mauvaise posture, et son organisme aurait voulu voir un investissement par le gouvernement dans la formation de base. Malheureusement, ça non plus n"est pas là.
The next presenter-I have very many in very few minutes-was Mr. John Closs, who is from the Sudbury and District Labour Council, which represents about 15,000 workers in Sudbury. The labour council was asking to maintain the current and planned spending by the government on social services because our community has seen 700 layoffs at Xstrata nickel and all of the 4,000 workers at Vale Inco are presently on a production layoff for two months. This is having a tremendous effect on the demand for social services.
They also wanted to see funding in the budget for child care because child care is a work issue that is recognized by the Sudbury labour council. But here again there was no money in there for them. They would have liked to see a worker centre linked up with legal aid and funding for that centre in Sudbury, which is something that has been in the works for a long time.
They also asked for changes to Second Career because this program is too complicated and too hard for workers to gain access to, and they don"t want it to be limited to high schools and colleges; it should include university training.
Going really fast, the next one was Kate Barber. She was from Lansdowne Public School. She talked about precarious living conditions and the effect that has on kids. She gave an example of a child who moved two and sometimes three times during the school year, which means a completely different curriculum from one school to the next, which means reorganizing transportation, child care etc. because the living conditions are so precarious and they are not able to get onto social housing because of the long waiting list. They would have liked to have seen more money in the budget for social housing so that situations like this do not happen.
Another presenter who proposed a recommendation-basically, she was the victim of a motor vehicle accident, and she came to talk about the proposal by financial services to decrease the lifetime amount from $100,000 to $25,000. She was very opposed to this and took her opportunity to talk to me about this.
The next person who came and talked was Naureen McChesney. Naureen is from Best Start, a program that supports child care services in Sudbury. She talked about the lack of funding in the budget for child care and for the new hubs that have been developing in and around Sudbury. She talked about the need to pay child care workers a decent wage that brings them above the poverty wage and that recognizes the important work those people do. Again, she would like modification to the budget so that those complaints can be taken into account.
Then came Mr. Claude Berthiaume. Claude Berthiaume is a councillor with the City of Greater Sudbury. He talked about the need for funding to the municipality. He certainly recognized that there has been some uploading of services that had to be paid by the municipality that are now being picked up by the province, but he complained about the cuts to OMPF, which is the Ontario municipal partnership fund. As the programs are being uploaded, so is the money that they used to get to pay for those programs.
He talked about the 90 members of FONOM, the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities, who have asked for an increase in the northern and rural fund. They would like this fund to be increased by $15 per resident. All 90 of them have made requests to this government, but they have not received any answer back to their proposition, and they didn"t see anything in the budget either to lead them to believe that this would be acted upon.
They would also like to have seen funding for a northern Ontario school of architecture, which is a program that the city of Greater Sudbury has been working on for a long time.
They talked about affordable housing. The waiting list for accordable housing in Sudbury is extremely long.
I"m running out of time.
There were many people who wanted to be heard and clearly said that one day of public hearings in Toronto means that this government is not interested in hearing from people from Sudbury, because it was impossible for them to be heard. I was happy to be able to bring some of their comments here this afternoon.”