Ontario Election: Candidate answers to our questions from Joel Hardin, NDP

Polls show that it is a two-way race for leadership between the NDP and Doug Ford’s PC Party in the Ontario election. NDP is consistently polling close to PC: meaning that the Liberals do not have a chance at leading the next government. For those who want to defeat the PC Party, the only strategic voting choice on Thursday is the NDP.

There is nothing that helps autistics in either the Liberal or the PC platforms. By contrast, the NDP have committed to consulting with autistic people in the development of programs and services, which no other party has promised or done. This is in line with their general principles about governance.

Answers to our candidate questions: Joel Hardin
NDP candidate Joel Hardin (Ottawa Centre) responded to our candidate questions, helping to outline the NDP position on the issues we asked about.

Sheltered workshops
Background: The government recently banned the long-standing practice of sheltered workshops, where developmentally disabled workers earned pennies for their work instead of a fair wage. Both the PCs and the Greens leadership have hinted they want to re-open sheltered workshops and the Liberals would not commit to a position.

Our question: Would the NDP work to maintain our provincial ban on sheltered workshops?

Hardin’s answer: “In a word, yes. Sheltered workshops, which segregated and often underpaid their workers, began to be transitioned out in 2016, and will be fully phased out by January 2019. The NDP supports the provincial ban on sheltered workshops and will not restore them.

“Sheltered workshops are, and must continue to be, a thing of the past. So-called ‘training’ under these (and other) circumstances has been too often a euphemism for exploitation. In addition, integration into the wider community, rather than hiding people away in this fashion, is clearly a preferred option—this is, after all, 2018.”

Representation: Nothing About Us Without Us
Background: Ontario is behind the times in terms of engaging autistic people in advising on our needs and the services that work for us. For the $500 million Ontario Autism Program, not one autistic person was surveyed or consulted with.

Our question: Would the NDP directly and meaningfully engage autistic people as you develop policies that affect our lives?

Hardin’s answer: “This should go without saying, but too often it must be said—those affected by government policies, such as people with autism, must have a direct role in the shaping of those policies and in how they are to be implemented. The NDP will overhaul the way Ontario delivers support services for people on the autism spectrum. We will ensure the full involvement of people with autism in every government decision that impacts people with autism – in line with the principle of ‘nothing about us without us.'”

Developmental Services Ontario and other programs
Background: Autistic adults without an intellectual disability can no longer access Developmental Services Ontario. In fact, there is no section of policy in Ontario that makes specific mention of autistics (other than the OAP, which only funds ABA for children). This  makes it difficult for us to navigate services.

Our question: Would your party work towards extending the DSO to meet the needs of autistics?

Hardin’s answer: “Yes. An NDP government will invest $67 million annually in increasing support for agencies, including the DSO. An NDP government will base care on a person’s need rather than their age so that care can follow them as they grow older.”

Budget and priorities going forward
Background: In 2017, the Ontario Association for Behaviour Analysis (ABA) hired Pathway Group to lobby eight Ministries at Queen’s Park. Today, under the Liberals’ $500 million government autism plan, only ABA therapy is allowed in schools –and all aides and therapists who receive public funding must now become ABA-certified. The Liberal Party has placed the autism services portfolio with the Ministry of Children and Youth and there is no policy or service model at all for autistic adults.

Our question: Would the NDP work to revise the OAP to reflect consultation with autistics, (which didn’t happen when it was developed)? Would you critically review how the OAP was developed and establish best practices building on lessons learned?

Hardin’s answer: “Andrea Horwath and the NDP will launch a comprehensive autism-support strategy, including on the Ontario Autism Program, built in full collaboration with families, caregivers, experts, and people with autism. Best practices are established, as you note, by critical examination of existing programs, remedying the flaws and making improvements. The NDP is committed to full consultation with A4A in this process going forward.”

In addition to the above info, the NDP platform lays out meaningful policy on a range of intersectional issues. The NDP has committed to provide drug and dental coverage for all Ontarians, making this care accessible to low-income Ontarians for the first time. The NDP also commits to “ensure LGBTQIA2S+ communities have access to affirmative and inclusive health care” with a number of inclusive policies and initiatives. The NDP also supports increased funding for mass-transit as well as green/sustainability plans and other programs that will serve all Ontarians.

For these and other reasons, we wanted to write this post on the eve of our provincial election. We hope that you can get out to vote and that the results of this election will be good for our communities as well as all of Ontario. Thanks for reading.

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