Provincial update: The price of everything, and the value of nothing

Submitted by Joel Harden,  MPP Ottawa Centre – 

A common thread linking decisions of the Ford government during its first year is an understanding of the price of everything and the value of nothing. Whether it’s cuts to festivals, education, or inaction on accessibility, they’re prepared to balance the budget on the backs of communities and vulnerable people. 

Cuts to Ottawa Festivals

Ottawa is a city of festivals. These events bring tourists to Ottawa, support local jobs, and enrich our community through the arts.

That’s why the government’s decision to pull funding from several Ottawa festivals at the last minute is so wrong. 

The list of festivals left off the list of 2019 Celebrate Ontario grant recipients includes Italian Week, Jazzfest, Glowfair, Escapade, the Ottawa International Busker Festival and the Canadian Tulip Festival. 

Our official opposition caucus is sounding the alarm about these changes, and I’ve reached out to local festival directors to offer my support and provide any information we can about the changes. 

Education Town Hall

On June 1, our office hosted a town hall bringing teachers, education workers, parents and community members together to discuss the future of public education. 

Participants were gravely concerned with the impact of the province’s changes to our education system. Larger class sizes, teacher layoffs and fewer course offerings will harm both students’ learning conditions, and educators’ working conditions. 

You can’t do public education on the cheap: it’s one of the most important investments a government can make. We’ll continue working with teachers, parents and education workers to push back against cuts that undermine our community schools. 

Taking Action on Accessibility Motion 

Accessibility is a non-partisan issue. As a province, we’re required by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) to achieve full accessibility by the year 2025, but we have no hope of meeting this target at our current pace of change. We need to see much greater urgency in eliminating barriers. 

That’s why on May 30, the house debated a motion I introduced calling on the government to release an accessibility action plan, and act on key recommendations from David Onley’s report including new standards for the built environment, stronger AODA enforcement, accessibility training for design professions and making sure public money is never again used to create new barriers. 

Shamefully, members of the PC caucus voted our motion down, and argued that moving forward on accessibility will create “red tape” and “confusion”. 

People with disabilities are not red tape, and they deserve to live in an equal opportunity society where their human rights are respected. 

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