Francis Lankin's questions about WheelTrans cuts.

Ontario Hansard - Thursday 28 November 1996.



Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. Pearl Miller was here again today, and I'm very sure that you remember Pearl Miller. She'd be pretty hard to forget. Maybe, though, you weren't aware that her appeal has been denied and Pearl Miller has been cut off Wheel-Trans. Minister, Mrs Miller feels you duped her. A month ago you were only too eager, in front of all the cameras, to pull out all the stops to come to her aid, and now she's been cut off Wheel-Trans -- and she's not the only one.

Your cuts mean that children with special needs lose out, because Freda Bryman has been cut off and she can't get to their school where she volunteered twice a week. Your cuts severely limit the health and independence of Trent Brady, who's recovering from a stroke and used Wheel-Trans to get to therapy. Your cuts mean Brenda Morris has had to quit a full-time job and reduce her hours to half-time because her son, who was born with cerebral palsy, autism and epilepsy, has been cut off Wheel-Trans. She has to stay home to look after him.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Question, please.

Ms Lankin: Minister, these are your cuts. When are you going to take responsibility for them and for the people who are being cut off of Wheel-Trans because of them?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I have reiterated in this House all along that I am concerned about the mobility and accessibility needs of the disabled people in the province of Ontario, and I do have some concern about how some of these people might have been handled in the new approach through re-evaluation. But again I want to emphasize that while the ministry provides the funding for this support, we don't make that decision. It's clearly done by the Toronto Transit Commission and Metro. It is not a Harris government cut. I want to say it once more: We did not cut one dollar from disabled transit.


Ms Lankin: Minister, please, please stop with the smoke and the mirrors. You assessed a cut to the TTC, a percentage based on conventional transit and a percentage based on special transit. You've rolled it all up into the $8.17 million and said, "You can take it anywhere you want," but you've assessed that whole amount. You have not insisted that the special transit be maintained.

It's not just Toronto. You keep saying that it's only Toronto, that it is the only errant municipality. In London your cuts mean reduced service for everyone in Paratransit. In Ottawa your cuts mean tightened registration and prioritized booking. In Sault Ste Marie your cuts mean changes in who's eligible and increased fares. In Thunder Bay your cuts mean fewer vehicles and reduced hours of service. In Chatham your cuts mean eligibility changes; only one half of the riders are still registered. I could go on.

Your government promised in the Common Sense Revolution that "Aid to seniors and the disabled will not be cut."

The Speaker: Question, please.

Ms Lankin: These are broken promises. Real people like Mrs Miller are being hurt. When will you live up to your promises and restore this funding to special transit?

Hon Mr Palladini: The honourable member mentioned Wheel-Trans, and that is the reason I addressed the Toronto Transit Commission and Metro, because the honourable member mentioned Wheel-Trans.

However, I have a letter that I wrote to Mr Paul Christie back in August 1995, clearly looking to work together in a cooperative way at how we can avoid these situations. I asked the Toronto Transit Commission to look at an operating reduction in their budget of $8.17 million on a $708-million budget. I further reiterated in my letter after the meeting, "I am prepared to instruct ministry staff to immediately make the necessary changes to give you the option of meeting the saving target entirely from the conventional transit and maintain Wheel-Trans funding at the same level."



Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I have a petition signed by hundreds of my constituents who are very concerned about Veronica Manuel and her severely disabled son Dylan. The petition reads as follows:

"Whereas the Health Services Restructuring Commission has recommended a significant reduction of chronic care and psychiatric beds in Thunder Bay, which serves northwestern Ontario; and

"Whereas there is no commitment to reinvest the $40 million saved back into our community to compensate families and the people who may have to abandon paying professions for the uncompensated one of caregiving but rather in the specific case of Veronica Manuel, because of her overwhelming and demanding task as caregiver to a severely handicapped son, she has been forced on to welfare with imposed irrational eligibility criteria, poverty and hardship; and

"Whereas more and more families may also be forced to struggle under these conditions to adequately care for their loved ones, we will not only see a higher rate of unemployment but also the creation of at least two ill people for every original one;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to not only reject this recommendation but to offer adequate compensation to Veronica Manuel, recognize and support her and remove the irrational eligibility criteria that hinder her."

I'm proud to sign my name to this.

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