Friday, June 13, 2014

Why I Promoted the Ontario Liberals. A Personal Story

Kathleen Wynne's incredible victory last night was a shock to some and an inspiration to others.

For Andrea Horvath, who triggered the election by turning down a budget practically written for the NDP, it was a tough blow that could still cost her the leadership of her Party.

For Tim Hudak it was the end of the road, as he stepped down.

Both Horvath and Hudak ran controversial campaigns.  Horvath tried to capture conservative voters with right wing talking points, which only angered her base.  Hudak ran on an American right wing style platform, with a Million Jobs Plan that was wrought with errors, putting his candidates in the difficult position of trying to explain the unexplainable.

Wynne was hammered constantly about the gas plant scandal, and was forced to wear a label of corruption, bestowed on her by her competition.  I've learned that these kind of campaigns only turn off the electorate, already weary of divisive politics.

It also might have hurt the NDP who hammered the "corruption" message, while their federal counterparts were found guilty of using public funds for party electioneering.

The fact that Wynne could overcome the assault, is a testimony to her leadership skills.  She will now have four years to prove herself, unfettered by the threat of another election.

My Personal Story

As many of you know, I have been living with Chronic Progressive MS, the operative word being "living".

I have also mentioned several times, that my husband and I are raising a disabled grandson.

Nicholas was born 12 1/2 years ago, to our adopted daughter, who was still at home.  Because she is also disabled, the CAS was involved, recognizing that she was unable to care for her son alone.  Initially we acted in a supervisory capacity, until the demands of motherhood proved too much for and she became a threat not only to her son, but to us.

Nicholas was born with Coffin-Lowry Syndrome, a rare neuromuscular disorder that affects 1 in about 50,000.  It is genetic, which is the only reason I mentioned that my daughter was adopted.

Because both of her birth parents were alcoholics, she was originally diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  However, when Nicholas was born with similar characteristics, we knew that it had to be something more.  We were referred to a geneticist and the diagnosis was made.

While only the mother carries the gene, male heirs are usually burdened with the worst of the symptoms.  Nicholas is deaf, non-verbal, and cognitively scores at about two to three years old.  He is also incontinent with compromised and degenerative mobility.  His life expectancy is about 18-33, though we're optimistic.

Females often suffer from mental illness and in fact, his mother is now in a communal apartment building run by our local mental health unit.

When we first agreed to kinship foster Nicholas, we had no idea the challenges imposed on family members; usually grandparents, who are only trying to keep these children out of foster care.

This is not like many States in the U.S., where children receive the same benefits as other foster children. Instead Nicholas was thrown into an Orwellian welfare system, where routing out "cheats" was more important than the welfare of a child.

Mike Harris had gutted the system to pay for his misguided tax cuts, and many people suffered horribly. It has been gradually improving under the Liberals, especially in the attitudes of staff, but is still sorely lacking.

We currently receive benefits of $253.00 per month. That doesn't even cover his diapers, especially since he now uses men's Tena; three to four packages a week costing about $400.00 monthly. Easter Seals reimburses us $75.00 a month.

My husband had already retired but had to go back to work three days a week, which only reduced Nicholas's Child Tax Credit, so we couldn't win.

We applied to Assistance For Children With Severe Disabilities, and after a two year wait, finally received help with things like hearing aids and mobility devices. But more importantly, it helped to pay for a part-time Disability Support Worker, who took Nicholas out for a couple of hours after school, two nights a week, and Sunday afternoons. It was only ten hours a week, but it helped.

Then as my husband once again looked to retirement, we knew we had to re-examine our finances. He had a small RRSP that he'd bought several years ago and forgot about. We still had a year left on our mortgage, so knowing that cashing this in would not have much affect on his overall retirement annuity, he cashed it in and cleared the mortgage.

Unfortunately, this skewed our actual earnings total, and since ACSD is income based, we were cut off. Without these funds, for the first time we were faced with the real possibility of not being able to continue to care for Nicholas. Ours was the only home he'd ever known and the thought of him having to go to strangers was devastating.

I appealed our case, but the process is slow and tedious. The stress exaserbated my MS and my own health began to deteriorate. We were at a tipping point.

Then one day I took a chance and emailed the Minister of Youth and Child Services, Teresa Piruzza. At the risk of sounding cliche, what happened next was nothing short of a miracle.

Within days I was contacted by the director of our local ACSD office, to say that she was doing an internal review, and would make it her personal mission to see that Nicholas received the help he needed. Two weeks later our funding was reinstated along with three months retroactive, which allowed us to send him to day camp.

We were put in touch with an agency that provided funds to help us rebuild our high wooden fence so that Nicholas could play in the yard, and another that now provides us with one weekend a month respite.

That is what a minister is supposed to do and I will forever be in her debt.

I have spent more than a decade advocating for both my daughter and her son, writing letters to politicians of all stripes. Only the Liberal Party ever responded, even when they weren't in power.

Other parties should take note of that.

Nicholas is such a bright light in our lives. He is happy and funny and compassionate. He enjoys the love and support of an extended family, as well as a community that has embraced him. He is in an amazing school, Welborne Avenue Public, with teachers and EAs who recognize and develop his passion for life and fierce determination to accomplish things once thought beyond his capabilities.

That's why I voted Liberal and am thrilled that Kathleen Wynne pulled off a majority, beating all odds.

In the final days of the campaign I may have turned into a partisan she-devil, but I'd do it again.

I'd have too much to lose if I didn't.


  1. "an Orwellian welfare system, where routing out "cheats" was more important than the welfare of a child"

    Emily, as IMHO, a typical Canadian, my political stripe of the day, depends on the issue at hand. Crime & Punishment > frothing CON Conservative....Health & Education > a frothing Socialist... But I digress.

    Your line above in quotations, is why I tend to rest politically, just left of center. Fiscally, my brain is Conservative, but my heart is Socially Liberal. Thus I have no problem with my tax dollars supporting disadvantaged families, be it disabilities, or any other issue that 'holds people back'.

    Sure, we will always have people who 'abuse the system', but 'routing out cheats' should never be more important than looking after challenged families, especially children.

    However comma, with our present flavor of [Non-Progressive] Conservatism in Canada [and currently in Toronto] routing out the cheats is more important....So I vote Liberal [even tho they tend to electioneer left of center and run the country slightly right]

    Aside, here in Conservative bastion Alberta, it might interest you to know that a young single mother can be subsidized thru various provincial funds, to spend two years upgrading their education, before they go on to 2 years of college; The funding is actually so good, that they generally only need to 'work' during the summer breaks. Alberta's Progressively Conservative attitude, seeks to set the single mother up for success, not failure.

    Thus, it seems to me that Alberta's Conservatism is actually much more 'progressive', than Harper's federal morally sanctimonious, self-centered, jealous, petty, routing out the cheats brand of Conservatism.

    All that said, my grandson lives with us, and I can't wait to get home from work everyday, to enjoy his smile and laughter.

    Have a great day with Nicholas !


    Todd - in Spruce Grove, Alberta.

  2. Oh, Em, Nicholas looks adorable, and I'm sure he loves you and your husband with all his heart.
    Thank goodness you e-mailed Teresa Piruzza. There really are politicians who help their constituents. I was fortunate to have a compassionate and helpful Member of Parliament when I was fighting for a disability pension. The fact that he had been one of my college profs helped, but the real reason was that he cared about the people who elected him.
    Every once in a while we meet or hear of one of those caring politicians, restoring some of our faith in humanity. I am grateful you found one just when you were reaching the end of your tether.
    Hugs, K

  3. "Then one day I took a chance and emailed the Minister of Youth and Child Services, Teresa Piruzza." I'm so glad you got the help you so much needed. Out of curiosity did you e-mail any opposition with that file?