Over the past month in this space I’ve had a lot to say about post-budget cuts that have come from the Ford Conservatives in Ontario. Fact is that there have been many cuts to talk about, and many of them that have made little sense, fiscally or morally. But while listening to Question Period in Ottawa, another story of a cut with questionable justification came up. This one was made by the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau, one that left me shaking my head and wondering what they were thinking:
For all the things that this federal government has done of late that is so against brand, this must rocket right up the list. It turns out that the National Archives have run a program that employed people with developmental disabilities to work in their offices in Ottawa. For nearly four decades, this program has employed these people to work sorting paper to be shredded. At present this program employs about 34 people, paying them minimum wage to sort government papers before they are destroyed. Previously the program paid the workers an honorarium of $1.15 an hour, but that changed last year when changes to provincial law mandated that they be paid minimum wage.
It turns out that this program has faced cuts before. When the program started, the job was shredding government documents, but that got outsourced. So, when that happened, the workers began sorting government paper, removing any metal material. Also four years ago, the Harper Conservatives tried to cut this program too, only to backtrack after the public backlash from it. Yes, the Trudeau government just repeated a cut that Stephen Harper tried to make and reversed course on. That’s bad on many levels.
So, what exactly what the savings that this cut would have brought about? According to Ottawa-Carleton Association of Persons with Developmental Disabilities, who works with these workers, the contract for these employees would cost the federal government between $400,000 and $500,000 a year. Take that in folks; putting 34 people with developmental disabilities out of work over less than half a million dollars.
This is a decision that just blows my mind in its stupidity and cruelty. For starters, in the budget that the Liberals just introduced in Ottawa in 2018, Canada was projected to spend over $338.5 Billion in that budget year. Yes, billion with a “B”. So the cost of this program is so infinitesimally small in the that budget that it’s surely not being done as a cost cutting measure, or at least if it is it’s a bad way of doing that. Secondly, you’d think that someone in the department would have pointed out to people up the line that just four years ago the previous government did this and backed down. It seems that didn’t happen here either.
To me though the worst part of this whole story is the effect on those 34 people working in those jobs. It is not easy for people living with developmental disabilities to find work and earn a decent wage. On top of that, there is the dignity that comes from having such a job, something that our society tends to deny people with developmental disabilities all too easily. In this day and age when we are talking about trying to build a more inclusive society and workplace, this move runs totally counter to that and is just insulting. These 34 people shouldn’t find themselves in this position, being forced to protest on Parliament Hill to save their jobs.
I’m left with a lot of questions about how the government arrived at this decision, of all decisions they could have made. How they decided that this was the move to make and decided that it made sense, because to me it seems pretty easy to see that they’ve gotten this one all wrong. This is just so wrong on so many levels and if this cut were made by anyone else, progressives would all say the same. It shouldn’t take a protest on the Hill and a CTV news story for the government to get this right, yet here we are. The Liberals need to fix this ASAP, without delay. There is no justifiable reason for doing this and if they actually refuse to backtrack on this (which would stun me to be honest given the Prime Ministers reply in Question Period), then that will speak louder then the initial act in making the cut to begin with.