Ontario's developmental services are in a state of crisis, and it would take more than $1 billion to rectify to the problem, said the president of Ontario Public Service Employees Union's Local 676.
June St. Germain led a group of developmental support workers with the public service union at an event Tuesday afternoon to raise awareness about the challenges they and their clients face.
“We can't keep staff working because they can find some other job that's going to be a lot less stressful elsewhere,” St. Germain said.
Ontario Ombudsman André Marin's office received 800 complaints regarding access to developmental services in 2013-14. Around 21,000 people are on waiting lists for the services.
The Liberals promised $810 million to improve developmental services in its last budget, prior to the election.
But St. Germain said even that money would not go far enough to pay developmental workers proper wages – they start at $15 an hour – and provide services for the thousands of Ontarians on waiting lists.
The NDP has gone further and promised $900 million for developmental services in its campaign platform.
Nickel Belt NDP candidate France Gélinas was at the intersection of Elm Street and Notre Dame Avenue with the developmental support workers Tuesday.
“It was obvious Ontario is not meeting the needs of people with development disabilities,” she said. hey are easy to ignore. They are people who cannot voice their needs.”
Joe Cimino, the NDP candidate for Sudbury, was also at Tuesday's event.
“The New Democrats are here to say it's not about cutting jobs, it's about providing dollars to the right place to provide the services people need,” he said.
Cimino added the NDP's plan for a financial accountability office will uncover $600 million per year that will go directly to services and programs.
“I think it's a realistic number,” he said.
Sudbury Green Party candidate Casey Lalonde attended the event, and said that while her party does not have funds set aside specifically for developmental services, it would provide support for community services across the board.
“These types of community services and social services we have really cannot afford funding cuts,” she said. “They provide something that is very valuable, not only to the community, but to the people who are accessing these services.”
Lalonde added politicians need to be held accountable and spend the public purse where the funds are most needed.
“You can have all the bureaucracies and oversight you want, but if the people in charge are not doing their jobs and not making sure that they're acting with integrity, it's not going to work,” she said.