Reflections on the federal election: Next time, let’s choose something other than the blue and red team

On October 21,  Canada and Downsview voted for a new Federal Government. After a very messy election, the result was a Liberal Minority government and the Conservatives as the official opposition, with the NDP and Bloc Québécois  holding the balance of power.

Every time there is an election in Canada, Ontario voters seem to be given two picks. With one exception 30 years ago, since Confederation in 1867 voters have only made one of two choices at the ballot box in Ontario: red or blue. We vote Liberal when we cannot stomach the cuts that the blue team is promising to carry out. We vote Conservative when we cannot stomach the corruption and waste of the red team. In this riding we lean red federally for decades. 

Here is a list of what bouncing between the blue team and the red team have gotten us: 

  • Housing that is unaffordable in the GTA because the government stopped building cooperative housing and affordable rentals in the 1990s. 
  • Nearly 30 years of unfulfilled promises for a Universal Childcare Strategy.
  • Rising medication costs, because pharmacare is not a priority for the two main parties. 
  • The most expensive phone bills in North America, and bad internet coverage.
  • The most expensive monthly metropass in North America, and bad bus service. 

These issues affect all of us day in and day out. Whether we are stuck in traffic because public transit is not an efficient way to get around, or we are jammed in a hospital where there are not enough nurses to treat us when we need help the most. Many people have to choose between buying their prescriptions and paying their rent on time, even if they work more than 40 hours per week.

These are all things that governments in other places have tackled and worked on. Collectively, people in Ontario seemed to feel that we avoided the cutting of programs from another Conservative government. But same as the blue team – the priority of the red team on the first day after the election were tax cuts for the rich and to build a pipeline for Alberta. 

There is very little difference between the priorities of the blue and the red teams. This is why when we vote for the same people, we get the same results.

All of Toronto’s representation is from the red team. It is as if we threw a red carpet over all of the GTA to cover up all that is wrong from the last decision we took in Ontario – hoping it would make up for it.

The good news is that minority governments tend not to last the full term, so there might be an opportunity to demand more and to demand differently sooner rather than later. The same old decision to go back and forth between red and blue is not moving us forward as a society.

Families still waiting despite local MPP going to bat for children with autism

In March, the Downsview Advocate printed a story about my son with autism, Misha, and what the Ontario Autism Program (OAP) changes announced in February meant for children on the autism spectrum and their families.  The article highlighted the importance of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, an evidence-based best practice treatment for children with autism, and how the changes proposed by the Ford Government would not allow most children to access this life changing therapy.  

The OAP program changes were a ‘one size fits all’ plan that did not address the individual needs of the child.  I was devastated that other children would not get the therapy they desperately needed. As a result, along with other parents and advocates, I attended rallies, visited MPPs and organized my community demanding the government to not go through with those changes.  

I met with my local MPP, Roman Baber. At first meeting I was disheartened by his support of the OAP changes, nonetheless, I continued to meet with him.  At one meeting, I showed him a video of my son practicing for his Bar Mitzvah and explained this was only possible because of the therapy he received. Roman was intrigued and attended Misha’s Bar Mitzvah.  

The ceremony was very moving and meaningful.  All in attendance were in tears because they knew how far Misha had come.  Roman witnessed the benefits of ABA therapy firsthand.  

In April, Roman Baber was asked by Premier Ford to review the Government’s Autism plan. He continued to meet with me along with many other autism advocates and professionals.  Baber’s review of the OAP and later termed as the “Baber Report” was shared with the Government’s Autism Advisory Panel and then subsequently leaked by the Globe and Mail on June 28th.  In the Baber Report, Roman courageously criticized his own government’s plan and called for an immediate reset to the Government’s Autism plan.  

On July 29, the Ontario Government acknowledged that its proposed changes to the autism program were wrong and they reversed the course of the OAP.  Many Ontario autism advocates, including myself, praised Baber for his work and feel all the rallies along with Baber’s report set the stage for the government to change its direction and provide families with funding based on the needs of individual children.

The revised OAP announced by the government would be needs-based, sustainable, within $600 million and would treat as many children as possible.

The Ontario autism advisory panel made up of parents with lived experience, autistic adults, educators and other experts from a range of disciplines released their report on October 30th.  This report included many excellent recommendations.  However, an implementation committee needs to be created in order to implement panel’s recommendations.  Implementation of the new program is planned for April 2020.

Many children have lost valuable time not having access to therapy.  It will be well over a year from announcement of the disastrous plan back in February to the new OAP program implementation in April 2020.  Still, I extend a thank you to my MPP, Roman Baber, and all the advocates that made the government see the error of their ways.