Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Legislative Arguments

There are a series of arguments made during yesterdays Legislature.

One thing to be aware of is that the Ministry is cutting back funding to CAS's in order to keep them sustainable. (if they kept it going and increasing as they have, the government would not be able to afford them anymore so they cut funding)

One thing to keep in mind, is although the NDP usually (Andre Horwath) is good at calling CAS on their neglects and abuses of power, they are also a Union specific party, therefore they also fight for more funding for CAS's because their employees are mostly unionized (CUPE)

So keeping that in mind, here is the interesting arguments made yesterday.

Also of note, I believe Norm Sterling (Belleville area) is an MPP, but he is also I think a foster parent and on or was on a CAS Board so watch how hard he fights in this one as well.


Mr. Gilles Bisson: My question is to the Minister of Children and Youth Services. Minister, you will know that child and family services agencies were notified in the spring of a reduction in budget as a result of the exercise that you've engaged in to reduce their budgets. Le centre Jeanne Sauvé, which is the child protection agency in the Kapuskasing, Hearst and Smooth Rock Falls area, is seeing an 18% reduction in their budget this year if your plan goes forward. That 18% means they may have to lay off as much as a third of their staff, and, quite frankly, will put them in a position not to be able to deliver the services that they're mandated to deliver under the act.

My question to you is simply this: In light of that 18% reduction that you're handing them, how do you expect them to provide essential services that they have been mandated to do under the act, such as protecting children from harm, abuse and neglect?

Hon. Laurel C. Broten: I'm pleased to have the opportunity to speak about this really important issue. Children's aid societies across the province do some of the most important work and that's why our government has been a government that has invested significantly in children's aid societies. Over 385 million additional dollars have been put forward to children's aid societies since 2003-04, and in this year alone, an additional $30 million more than their budget last year.

What is different this year is that in light of the economic circumstances across the province, in June of this year, children's aid societies were told that we would not be able to top up their budget at year-end, but that we would be working with them, both on a local basis and an across-the-province basis, to find a sustainable pathway to ensure that children's aid societies can put kids' interests first. That's our first priority. We need to focus on the outcomes for Ontario's kids, and we're absolutely committed to doing that.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?

Mr. Gilles Bisson: I think the people in the Kapuskasing area and I want to know what class of mathematics you attended, because when they look at their budget, it is not an increase, it is a decrease in budget. They're looking at over $700,000 that will be eliminated from their budget. They have to deliver these services. This Legislature has passed legislation that says that they are mandated to protect children in this province, and you are, by reducing their budget, putting them in a position that they can't do that.

So I ask you again: Stop with the gobbledegook about your math class that you took 50 years ago and talk about what you're going to do to provide the dollars so that they can match the services that they're required to give.

Hon. Laurel C. Broten: Let me put some real numbers on the table for the member opposite, and let me tell him what is happening across Ontario with the transformation that we have brought forward with respect to children's aid societies. For the children's aid society mentioned, they have received a 35% funding increase, and at the same time, kids in their care are down by 25%.

We need to work at a regional level with children's aid societies, and we are. Regional offices are meeting regularly with them to look at whether they can establish partnerships and how we can better serve Ontario's kids. It's incumbent upon all of us to look for solutions where children's aid societies can prosper in the long term. That's what I'm committed to doing. That's what our commission will be undertaking. We need to look at a modern approach, and all of the kids in Ontario are counting on us to work collectively to do just that.


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CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETIES

Mr. Frank Klees: To the minister responsible for children: 36 out of 51 children's aid societies in the province are facing a funding crisis. The York Region CAS is one of those, but it's even more critical because that agency is already receiving the lowest per-unit funding in the GTA. To make matters worse, it has now been advised that it is facing a $5.5-million cut to its existing budget. The minister has a letter from the agency advising her that vulnerable children will be at risk if, in fact, this cut is imposed.

So I ask the minister: How, in good conscience, can she say, as she did yesterday, that the most important resource in this province is our children, and yet defend these cuts? Will she agree to personally intervene to review her ministry's flawed funding formula, and specifically its effect on York region?

Hon. Laurel C. Broten: I do think it is imperative that we look at what has transpired with children's aid societies over the past decade. I'll acknowledge in this place that we have seen an unsustainable level of increases to children's aid societies, from $500 million 10 years ago to $1.4 billion now. We need to work with children's aid societies such as the York CAS to ensure that children are put first and that their outcomes are a priority.

1130

That's why one of the early telephone calls that I made in this role in which I'm privileged to serve was directly to the chair of the board at York CAS. I invited her to continue working with our regional office. Our regional office is currently working with the York CAS to develop a financial plan to address the challenges. They understand, and we understand, that that plan might be one that is multi-year. We all need to work collectively to ensure that we're meeting the goals. There's another meeting-

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you. Supplementary?

Mr. Frank Klees: When the minister considers that her government wasted more than $1 billion on scandalous contracts to consultants, one would think that if she does in fact believe, as she said she does, that our children are our most valuable asset, she would challenge her colleagues to prioritize funding for the most vulnerable children in our society.

On the one hand, the minister legislates what services must be provided yet, on the other hand, refuses to fund the delivery of those services. The minister should either ensure that the funding matches the mandate or direct the agency as to which child protection laws they should be breaking and provide the appropriate liability support and protection for the agencies because they cannot deliver the mandated protection services that-

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you. Minister?

Hon. Laurel C. Broten: The current funding formula was developed in consultation with children's aid societies, and it reflects historical costs with respect to the CASs.

In the York circumstance in particular, I can tell you that the York CAS has received a funding increase in the amount of 34.4% since 2003-04, and 188% since-

Mr. Frank Klees: That is not true.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I'd just ask the honourable member from Newmarket to withdraw the comment, please.

Mr. Frank Klees: That is not true.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I'd ask the honourable member to withdraw the comment, please.

Mr. Frank Klees: I withdraw, but it's not true.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I would ask that the honourable member withdraw the comment, please.

Mr. Frank Klees: I reluctantly withdraw.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I would just ask that you withdraw the comment.

Mr. Frank Klees: This is tough-very, very difficult. I withdraw but, Speaker, we have a problem here.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I need the honourable member to please stand and say, "I withdraw the comment."

Mr. Frank Klees: I withdraw.


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Mr. Norman W. Sterling: On a point of order-

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I will recognize the honourable member with his point of order following question period.

Mr. Norman W. Sterling: It's important during question period.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I would just ask that he raise it-we have one minute left in question period.

Mr. Norman W. Sterling: Mr. Speaker, I want to raise the point of order now because it's relevant to question period.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I'm not going to recognize-

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): As the enforcer of those standing orders, over a long period of time and through numerous Speakers within this chamber, we have had an agreement and an understanding that we allow question period to flow and deal with points of order following question period. I'm going to continue with that practice. If there are challenges that want to be made to that, I certainly would invite that that matter be taken up at the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly, but I will continue to follow that practice of not recognizing points of order during question period.

The time for question period has ended.

Mr. Frank Klees: On a point of order, Speaker: I realize that I cannot correct the minister's record, but I would ask this: that once the minister of children's services has an opportunity to review the facts regarding the York Region Children's Aid Society funding, she would clarify and correct the record for the House.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): The honourable member is quite correct that he cannot correct another member's record. I would encourage any honourable member in the House at any time-they have the ability to correct their own record.

USE OF QUESTION PERIOD

Mr. Norman W. Sterling: My point of order is this, Mr. Speaker: You brought the member for Newmarket-Aurora to his feet to withdraw a statement where he said it was not true. Earlier in question period, the Premier said in a response that what one of our members alleged in their question was not true. Why was he not required to withdraw, as the member for Newmarket-Aurora was?

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I thank the honourable member for the comment. It was not the Premier's answer, but there was another member who answered a question, and I heard some comments from the opposition side. The way that I heard that answer-it was in the context of the use of that word. We've had discussions in this House, but I will undertake, to the honourable member, to review Hansard. But often, words used in a certain context at times are either parliamentary or not parliamentary. In the context I heard, I allowed the debate to continue.

The Minister of Transport on a point of order.

Hon. James J. Bradley: Mr. Speaker, what you have in essence done by allowing my good friend Norm Sterling, whose riding is Carleton-Mississippi Mills, I believe, to rise during question period is in effect cut off a question for the next party in line. That is something that you have been trying to avoid, or that all members of the House have been trying to avoid: People getting up and-I know it wasn't his particular concern in this case; I know he wasn't trying to do that. But what that does is it allows for people to get up in the House to prevent further questions from being asked simply by asking to consider points of order during question period. I think that in those terms the next party to ask a question should be permitted to do so.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Again, I'll remind all honourable members-and I would welcome the opportunity for this discussion to take place at the House leaders' meeting-it has been the practice within this chamber, and not just within this chamber but certainly within the House of Commons as well, that points of order are not accepted by the Speaker during question period. They are always accepted afterward. It is a sheer coincidence of the timing when the honourable member rose, and I chose, because-had it been the government that had risen, I would have stopped the clock, but because it was the opposition I do allow the clock to continue to run in that circumstance. I hear the honourable member, but the time for question period has ended.


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PETITION OF INTEREST


JUSTICE SYSTEM

Mr. Tony Ruprecht: I've received a number of petitions from the Save Our Children organization. The petition is addressed to the Parliament of Ontario and the Attorney General. It reads as follows:

"Whereas the Canadian Judicial Council has been asked by Ontario's Attorney General to probe the judicial behaviour of judges; and

"Whereas judges are human beings and have been known to make serious mistakes in the judicial system, leading to devastating consequences and unfair justice for Canadian citizens; and

"Whereas some judges ... have fallen asleep in the midst of a trial...; and

"Whereas some judges have been observed making biased, disrespectful comments and abusing their judicial powers; and

"Whereas Canadian families need to be protected from these judges who are unable to change their habits, unable to follow the rule of proper conduct and unable to exercise recommendations set by the Court of Appeal, and consequently commit grave injustices;

"Therefore we, the undersigned citizens, are strongly requesting the following changes in our judicial system:

"(1) That a 'judicial demerit point system' be applied to ensure that judges are accountable for their judgments rendered; and

"(2) That a yearly review of their performance be established" by the Canadian Judicial Council.

I am signing this petition and I am delighted to send it with Madeline.

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