MPPs hear budget wish list from many; More than 25 groups speak to committee

Katrina Ratz’s introduction to Front Door, an agency that provides access to mental health services for children and youth, came when her son was just two years old.

Severely allergic to a number of foods, he’d survived several close calls and developed extreme anxiety and obsessive-compulsive behaviours. In subsequent years, he developed an eating disorder, and wouldn’t leave the house.

But thanks to the services provided via Front Door, a partnership between Carizon Family and Community Services and Lutherwood, the six-year-old is now attending school and playing organized sports.

“What we’ve done is set him up on the road to success,” Ratz said Thursday as she shared her story at a provincial pre-budget consultation in Kitchener.

The story shows the importance of early intervention – and the need to adequately fund these services, Carizon chief executive officer Tracy Elop said.

“We’ve ignored children and mental health needs for too long,” said Elop, adding her organization’s budget hasn’t increased since 2005.

Parents must endure wait times of up to 18 months in some parts of the province, she said; locally, there’s a five-month wait for children in need of intensive services.

“For a family that’s going through that, that’s an eternity.”

Elop said increased provincial investment is needed to expand services, reduce wait times and retain more highly-skilled professionals.

That presentation was one of more than 25 scheduled Thursday as an all-party committee of MPPs heard the budget wishes and pleas of groups representing diverse interests such as education, health care, agriculture, transportation, labour and business.

Friday’s visit to Windsor is the last of five stops this week.

“The lack of affordable housing is one of the most significant drags on our economy,” said David Waters of the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada’s Ontario Council as he urged elected officials to see housing as the solution, not the problem.

Waters said he’d like to see the province sign on to the new National Housing Strategy, partner with the co-op and nonprofit sectors, and create targets for new co-op housing development. If Ontario earmarked a percentage of the land transfer tax for new affordable housing, it would go a long way toward reducing the shortage, he said.

Speaking on behalf of the Council of Ontario Universities, president David Lindsay called on the province to provide increased funding on a sustained basis.

Costs continue to rise, for things such as technology upgrades and facility modernization, increased demand for student services and recent labour law reforms, Lindsay said.

It’s imperative for post-secondary institutions to excel in strengthening the talent pipeline, especially as foreign direct investment opportunities like Amazon’s second headquarters increasingly look to Ontario as an option, he said.

“We think this is an opportunity to seize the moment for the province,” Lindsay said.

Waterloo Region Record – Friday, Jan 19 2018
Byline: Brent Davis, Record staff
Page: B1

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