Feds cutting program that employs dozens with developmental disabilities
CTVNews.ca Staff, CTV Ottawa’s Joanne Schnurr
Published Monday, May 6, 2019 6:25PM EDT
Workers with developmental disabilities say they are planning to protest on Parliament Hill if the government doesn’t reverse its plan to shut the federal program that employs them.
For nearly four decades, they have sorted and shredded papers for Library and Archives Canada. Now, they’ve learned -- for the second time in four years -- that the program is being cut.
Gladys Whincup has worked in the program for nearly four decades. She was brought to tears when asked Monday whether she was worried.
“We’ll have no jobs,” she said.
Tim Doerty is worried too. The program “gives us opportunity,” he said.
The workers had been paid an honourarium of $1.15 per hour until a year ago when provincial legislation forced them to be paid Ontario’s $14 hourly minimum wage.
The cost of the 34 employees to federal coffers is estimated at between $400,000 and $500,000 annually.
David Ferguson of the Ottawa Carleton Association of Persons With Disabilities said the decision to cut the program flies in the face of government efforts to encourage hiring more people with disabilities.
“(We) don’t understand the contradiction,” he told CTV Ottawa. “This program is being closed and it employs people with a disability, and has for 38 years.”
Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility Carla Qualtrough said that the Liberal government has done more to support people with disabilities than any other.
The previous Conservative government had planned cut the program in 2015 but reversed its decision after a public outcry. MP Pierre Poilievre, who was employment minister at the time, criticized the Liberal government’s decision on Monday.
“I don’t know what’s behind the government’s decision to shut it down this time but I think it’s a very unwise decision,” he said. “It will be costly for taxpayers and harmful for these very inspiring workers.”
One of the employees, Toula Zoulas, said she’s going to protest.
“I’m going to fight to keep this one open,” she said.