Leadership Candidates Discuss Disability Strategy with the SACL

January 4, 2018

We reached out to all of the current candidates (from both major political parties) running for leadership positions to get their thoughts on the Saskatchewan Disability Strategy. We encourage you to carefully consider each candidate's response in light of the leadership votes on January 27th (Sask Party) and March 3rd (NDP). 

 

All responses below are presented unedited. Candidate opinions do not represent the opinions or positions of the SACL, nor does this post represent any kind of endorsement for any particular candidate. 

 

 

 

 

Tina Beaudry-Mellor - Sask Party

Firstly, I have released a call for the creation of a Ministry of Accessibility in my platform, which you can read more about here: http://votetina.ca/ministry-of-accessibility

 

As for the former Minister of Social Services, I have long been concerned about the difficulties families and individuals have in accessing supports throughout the government system. Not only do they have to navigate within Social Services, but they also have to navigate the Ministries of Health, Education, and the Economy for employment related services that I know leaves many feeling defeated and frustrated. This is not dignified.

 

One of the goals of the Disability Strategy is to put people before systems. My commitment to the Ministry of Accessibility attempts to do just that by relocating all of the services and supports for people with disabilities under one roof so that families and individuals have a singular access point. This will also help us, as a government, in better tracking what interventions work to help individuals and families by enabling us to better track data and outcomes from a single ministry rather than through silos. Having a Minister responsible for people with disabilities re-affirms our Government's commitment to making our Province the best place for people to live and matches federal work on Accessibility legislation well.

 

Because we are dealing with a significant drop in revenues as a government and because I am always concerned about our government footprint, I propose that we rehouse existing supports under one roof and then I further propose that we collapse the Ministry of Central Services and house it under Government Relations so that there is a net zero expenditure.  

 

With respect to some of the other initiatives SACL is committed to, I can affirm that I am committed to:

 

The continuation of a person-centred planning process for the transitions at Valley View. I am, however, concerned about the length of time this is taking. Having visited Valley View and conferred with staff there, I am troubled that resources are dwindling at the facility while vulnerable people are still there. You can expect me to elevate this priority as Premier.

 

The community inclusion model for people with disabilities. I support neighbourhood inclusion and educational inclusion. On the latter point, I have talked about my desire to discuss the Supports for Learning component of education funding, which is currently only 15% of the total education operational budget with our partners in education. This is the challenge I hear most about and therefore it makes sense to me that this is the area where we need to examine first.

 

Examining our support programs currently in the Ministry of Social Services, under the new Ministry. An increase to SAID benefits at this time is not likely given our revenue pressures, but rehousing the program into a separate and distinct Ministry focused on persons with disabilities will help to shift the organizational cultural mindset towards SAID as being less about a last resort program and more about being a support program. I would start by looking at the assets which currently exclude a person from being eligible for funding support. I remain concerned that we have created a system where we discourage families from responsibly planning for their children's future and will make this a priority.

 

I want to thank SACL and its partners again for helping advance this agenda on the leadership stage and hope that you will successfully encourage all prospective leadership candidates to consider how we continue to build on making this Province the very best place for people with disabilities to live.

 

 

 

 

 

Ken Cheveldayoff - Sask Party

In the 2015 Saskatchewan Disability Strategy, the Government of Saskatchewan committed to making Saskatchewan the very best place in Canada to live for those with disabilities. As you seek the leadership position of your political party, the Saskatchewan Association for Community Living (SACL) would like to know: 

 

Q: What will you do to work toward this goal? 

 

A: People Before Systems: The Saskatchewan Disability Strategy has been adopted by the Government of Saskatchewan. This report speaks to person-centred services, the impact of disability, promoting and protecting human rights, as well as accessibility and inclusion, and how each of these items benefits not only those experiencing disability but all residents of our province.

 

Each of the goals in the disability strategy are achievable if government works closely with all stakeholders. We must listen to those experiencing disability and use their knowledge and experience as our guide. All policies (government or non-governmental), that affect services for those experiencing disability, must be designed to put the person needing programs or services, at the centre of the decision-making.

 

Services and programs should be available to all who need them. Impact of disability should be the governing factor when accessing supports.

 

Government in consultation with all stakeholders needs to develop one Ministry responsible for disability that would eliminate departmentalizing, enabling access to services and programs based on the impact of disability. One ministry would enhance opportunity for those experiencing disability to access a streamlined system.

 

Everyone has the right to safety of person and property. We must all work together to inform and educate on Human Rights and how these apply to all. Justice and law enforcement, as well as all government departments must continue to develop and enhance practices that support all rights respecting the individual.

 

Inclusion of First Nations, Metis and Inuit when designing and providing services and programs, is essential. Services and programs must be available, giving people the opportunity to remain near the ‘home fires’ if they so choose.

 

A strong economy is one in which everyone can participate. People experiencing disability make great contributions to the economy of Saskatchewan and this should be supported and enhanced. There is also excellent value in individuals having control over their income and expenditures. Inclusive work places should be celebrated and patronized.

 

Education and life-long learning are fundamental aspects to a person-centred-ness, as are sports, culture and recreation. All aspects should be meaningful and with education comes increased ability.

 

Supported accommodation, human services, technology, technical aids, and accessible communities will ensure that individuals experiencing disability, can live in their community of choice.

 

Family care givers are an essential part of the network of support for individuals experiencing disability. While honouring all that families contribute, we must continue to develop alternate or complimentary resources that can increase the capacity of service providers in community. Family, service providers, community organizations, government, and others in a person’s circle, can work together to ensure that all person-centred needs of the individual are met. 

 

There has been extensive consultative work done on The Saskatchewan Disability Strategy. The recommendations in each area are great points from which we can continue to move our province forward.

 

We will succeed through collaboration within all government departments, while working closely with our community partners, Aboriginal peoples, and most importantly, those experiencing disability. We must be bold in our plans, keeping Jordan’s Principle in mind, to create a province where People Before Systems is achievable and sustainable.

 

Q: How will you commit to working with the SACL toward supporting each of our strategic goals and priority initiatives? 

 

A: SACL and the Saskatchewan Party Government have a history of working together on your stated initiatives to achieve the outcomes of your strategic goals. In the spirit of People Before Systems, I commend SACL for broadening their scope to include people experiencing a wider range of disabilities. There is much more to be accomplished toward self-determination and inclusion. 

 

If elected, I look forward to working closely with SACL, ensuring Saskatchewan becomes a more inclusive province. 

 

 

 

 

 

Alanna Koch - Sask Party

In the 2015 Saskatchewan Disability Strategy, the Government of Saskatchewan committed to making Saskatchewan the very best place in Canada to live for those with disabilities. As you seek the leadership position of your political party, the Saskatchewan Association for Community Living (SACL) would like to know: 

 

Q: What will you do to work toward this goal? 

 

A: I love Saskatchewan because it is a place where people look after each other. We are a community that gives back, volunteers, works hard, cares, innovates and embraces diversity. We know that to succeed and prosper, we need to create a caring society by looking after the vulnerable, building healthy communities, having a strong educational system and creating supports for an aging population.

 

The work done to establish the Saskatchewan Disability Strategy in 2015 set a strong foundation, but I believe there’s always more to be done. We need to continue to work together to see what else can be done to move even closer to the goal of having every person valued and supported in our communities.

 

My platform, A Vision for 2030: Growth Plan 2.0, outlines how to keep Saskatchewan’s economy strong. A strong economy helps pay for services that can help make Saskatchewan the best place in Canada to live for those with disabilities. Revenues coming in help pay for the programs and services our more vulnerable citizens need. A strong economy also provides increased employment opportunities and we need to continue to ensure that these opportunities also exist for individuals with disabilities.

 

The Saskatchewan Disability Strategy was built in consultation with citizens, caregivers and experts from across the province. It gave us a path forward, and I am committed to staying on that path. Government -- both elected and non-elected, needs to get out from behind their desks and talk to real people. And when we do, we need to take action and work together with citizens to implement the solutions.

 

A major commitment I am making is to bring experts together from like Education, Social Services and Health so citizens get the very best care through a more coordinated approach. I want our services to wrap around a citizen so that they get what they need, when they need it.

 

Q: How will you commit to working with the SACL toward supporting each of our strategic goals and priority initiatives?

 

The foundation has been set for a very productive partnership with SACL. Thanks to the good work and strong voice provided by SACL, people living in Saskatchewan with intellectual disabilities have been strongly represented in the partnership with the Government of Saskatchewan. If elected leader, I will continue to commit to this partnership to work towards our mutual goals.

 

Valley View Centre Transition Plan: I would commit to ensure that supports and resources continue to be made available to successfully transition residents of Valley View into their communities in a way that ensures they lead happy and fulfilling lives.

 

Disability Income Support Coalition: I am most proud of the Saskatchewan Party Government’s work in giving a separate income support system for people with disabilities. SAID provides support in a way that gives individuals greater dignity and the ability to participate in their communities. While mindful of the financial circumstances facing the provincial budget, so much good work has been done in this area and we will look to continue down this path.

 

Northern Partnership for Inclusion: I fully support further work to be done on

ensuring that people living with disabilities in the North have what they need to ensure they can have the same success as those living in southern parts of the province. The North has unique needs and challenges, and I am happy to support the work that SACL and the Ministry of Social Services has been collaborating on to ensure these people get the services they need.

 

Inclusive Education: I recognize the value of having diversity in the classroom whether it’s physically, culturally or cognitively. I understand that there is $234M supplied to school divisions for “supports for learning” and that school divisions have autonomy in deciding how to use that funding. I support having flexibility to make sure the money gets to where it is needed. I am also committed to hearing from those that are in the system, the students, the families and groups like SACL on how to best support inclusivity in the classroom.  

 

Transitions to Inclusive Community Living: In my platform, I commit to looking at ways to wrap services like education, social services and health around a person so they get the very best care. It’s key that we work in partnership with community based organizations. I feel that working together to deliver services efficiently and effectively can help us do our best to serve the citizens of Saskatchewan who have intellectual disabilities.  

 

I encourage you to read my policy platform at www.alannaforleader.ca

I want to continue on the path of growth and prosperity in a way that reflects on Saskatchewan’s values and priorities, which includes caring and empowering everyone to have a good quality of life. I welcome further conversations and collaboration to ensure that all people can exercise their rights to be independent and living happy, productive and rewarding lives.    

 

 

 

 

 

Ryan Meili - NDP

To make Saskatchewan the best place in Canada for people with disabilities, we need to look at what makes the biggest difference in our health and wellbeing, factors such as income, education, employment, social inclusion and housing. Underlying this is a philosophy of inclusion and universality — the idea that we all do better when everyone has what they need to thrive.

 

Positive steps have been made through the introduction of the SAID program, which has increasingly assured income for people with disabilities. However, recent years have seen cuts to the housing support in SAID and the removal of coverage from seniors, as well as increased barriers for people to be approved for SAID. A program review, as part of the development of a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy, should be undertaken to be sure that SAID continues to serve everyone in need of assistance.

 

We have seen great advances in our understanding of inclusion, with more people with disabilities living in community, participating in the work force and attending school without segregation. There is still work to do, however, as social isolation and material deprivation are still realities for many people living with disabilities in our province. To ensure further progress, we need to support existing efforts adequately, but we also need to pursue new opportunities for advancing everyone’s quality of life.

 

New directions that I would pursue as Premier include:

 

Successful community integration, including ensuring the Valley View transition is completed and ensuring that all Valley View residents find homes in safe and supportive environments.

 

Adequately funded, inclusive, equitable education with the one-on-one resources students need to succeed in school.

 

Increasing self-directed funding so that people with disabilities and their families have greater autonomy over the decisions that affect their lives.

 

Building on successes like the group home in Ile a-la-Crosse, thus expanding opportunities for people to have the services they need in their home communities.

 

Supporting innovative workplaces, school and living arrangement to further advance inclusion and integration, with people of all levels of ability living, working, playing and learning together.

 

The provincial government has a significant role to play in advancing these initiatives. There must also be support for DISC and for meaningful involvement of people with disabilities and their families and caregivers, in keeping with the “nothing about us without us” philosophy of policy development. Together, by looking at all of the factors that affect the quality of our lives, we can fulfill the promise of Saskatchewan to be the best place in Canada for someone living with a disability.

 

 

 

 

 

Trent Wotherspoon - NDP

In the 2015 Saskatchewan Disability Strategy, the Government of Saskatchewan committed to making Saskatchewan the very best place in Canada to live for those with disabilities. As you seek the leadership position of your political party, the Saskatchewan Association for Community Living (SACL) would like to know: 

 

Q: What will you do to work toward this goal? 

 

A: There are many improvements needed to ensure that every person living with a disability in Saskatchewan has the dignity and security they deserve, and the access to the housing, care, and income support they need. By listening to people with disabilities and organizations like the SACL and following up with meaningful action on what I’ve heard, I would work to deliver on the promise to make Saskatchewan the best place in Canada to live for people with disabilities. 

 

One of the things I’ve heard time and again is that income supports for people living with disabilities aren’t sufficient, and as premier, I would fix that. I’ve committed to reversing the Sask. Party’s cuts to SAID, increasing benefits, and structuring them to ensure dignity for all. I’ve also committed to significantly increasing the amount of income SAID recipients who are able to work can earn before their SAID benefits cut off or clawed back. 

 

I've committed to ensuring action on safe, affordable housing across Saskatchewan, that includes investing and protecting high quality public social housing, supporting affordable cooperative housing and protections for renters. 

 

My comprehensive vision for education goes well beyond stopping the damaging cuts. I commit to building the most enriched and engaging classrooms possible would ensure the resources and support for students living with disabilities, including properly resourcing inclusive classrooms. 

 

My vision for universal mental health and addictions services, with urgent wrap-around teams and reimagined emergency mental health care will make a difference for all those needing services and support. 

 

And I'm committed to improving transportation across our province and for people living with disabilities, this includes building a public provincial transportation system, in the wake of the damaging sell-off of STC, as well as better support paratransit across our province. 

 

Q: How will you commit to working with the SACL toward supporting each of our strategic goals and priority initiatives? 

 

The Valley View Centre Transition Plan: I would continue to partner with Valley View Centre residents, their families, and the SACL to make sure each resident is able to access the care they need and have the security and dignity they deserve. Decisions about care and housing need to be made with a person-centered focus and appropriate transition plans should be in place for all residents. 

 

The Disability Income Support Coalition: DISC was instrumental in the creation of the SAID program, and I would work with all 40 member organizations to protect and strengthen SAID. As stated in a previous answer, I would reverse the cuts to SAID, increase the income supports available for SAID recipients, and work to significantly increase the amount of income SAID recipients who are able to work can earn before their benefits are cut off or clawed back. 

 

Northern Partnerships for Inclusion: The Sask. Party government has been ignoring the needs of Northerners for far too long. I have committed to re-establishing the Ministry of Northern Affairs to work across government and ensure Northerners have access to the same services and opportunities available in other parts of Saskatchewan, and by working directly with Northerners to ensure services and partnerships that respond to the unique challenges and opportunities in throughout the North. Under my leadership, the Ministry of Social Services and the Ministry of Northern Affairs would work as partners with the SACL to improve and strengthen supports for Northerners living with disabilities. 

 

Inclusive Education: The model of Inclusive Education is one that I wholeheartedly support – but as a result of the damaging cuts of the Sask. Party government, very few classrooms across our province are able to deliver a truly inclusive learning environment. Inclusive Education is a key part of my comprehensive education policy and my commitment to create the most enhanced and engaging classrooms possible. To ensure that every classroom is able offer an Inclusive Education for all students, I would increase the availability of professional development and training for teachers, hire more teachers to reduce class size, and increase the number of EAs, Learning Resource Teachers, speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, counsellors and other professionals to ensure required supports are in place. 

 

Transitions to Inclusive Community Living: Person-centred community living with dignity and security should be available for every person living with a disability in Saskatchewan. I am committed to working with the SACL to ensure that the appropriate housing, care, and support networks are available for every person living with a disability in our province. People living with disabilities should be at the centre of all decisions made about their services and care, and I would work as a willing partner with the SACL to make that a reality. 

 

 

 

 

 

Gordon Wyant - Sask Party

In the 2015 Saskatchewan Disability Strategy, the Government of Saskatchewan committed to making Saskatchewan the very best place in Canada to live for those with disabilities. As you seek the leadership position of your political party, the Saskatchewan Association for Community Living (SACL) would like to know: 

 

Q: What will you do to work toward this goal? 

 

A: As a proud supporter of SACL, you have my ongoing commitment to work with your organization to achieve its goals and support its initiatives. As you indicated, our commitment as a Province is to ensure Saskatchewan is the very best place in Canada to live for those with disabilities. This all starts with a respectful conversation. You can expect from me, as Premier, an ongoing dialogue to ensure our strategy is meeting your strategic goals. We need to be working together and clearly, having a regular dialogue is important for that purpose. We also need to work to break down the silos within the human services ministries to ensure we are properly resourcing programs properly. This is especially important between Education, Social Services and Health. Building a common direction within Executive Government is one of the keys to effective program delivery and support for those with disabilities and is the key to more 'person centred' delivery of services.

 

Q: How will you commit to working with the SACL toward supporting each of our strategic goals and priority initiatives? 

 

A: As noted above, development of a strategy between Ministries is key to our support as a Government of your strategic goals and priorities. Reducing and ultimately eliminating silos within government will greatly assist so as to reduce a fragmented approach to disability issues within our province. I envision a committee of MLA's led by the Minister of Social Services who would meet with SACL and other stakeholders on a regular basis and provide advice through to Cabinet. Only with a strategic direction can we be more successful and I know we can count on your organization as we work together on this important issue. 

Although all your goals and priorities are important, I wanted to address two specifically.  

First, regarding the Northern Partnership for Inclusion, I have indicated that I want to bring the First Nations file into the Premiers office and take personal responsibility for it. Due to the fact that many First Nations and Metis people live in the north, as Premier, I would have some oversight of the issue of inclusion as part of the committee I referenced above.

As for inclusive education, this has been a key part of my platform form the beginning. Having a grand daughter who is autistic, I have a personal perspective on how important inclusive education is and the need to ensure we are properly resourcing our classrooms. I have expressed a desire to change the funding model from a per pupil grant to one that addresses the needs of individual children. By moving in this direction we can help ensure each child is getting the support they need within an inclusive environment.

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