The idea is to remove barriers to employment for everyone — not just able-bodied people, but also those with obvious physical or hidden mental challenges. With ODSP caseloads growing by 5 per cent a year, and most of the new and returning recipients coping with mental issues, it is no longer sensible or sustainable to hive them off and write them off.
There's growing consensus that the systems we have here in Ontario aren't working. Healthcare is too feudal, social service supports are too fragmented - the list goes on. The system that worked well enough once upon a time is past it's best-before date. The problem, however, is the political risk that comes with big change. In today's polarized, hyper-partisan political climate, it's guaranteed that opposing Parties will decry anything that speaks of bold reform. But we can't go on as before.
What's a province to do?
Here's a radical notion - picture we had three political leaders that thought more of achieving results, even if through working together, than of scoring political points by working against. Imagine there was a core set of values that the Liberal, PC and NDP leaders all held and were willing to build shared solutions around. Why, if there was an attempt by all three Parties to find and communicate consensus to stakeholders and voters, those big changes everyone says are necessary might just be doable - and with all Parties working together, we could actually get viable solutions that would be both effective and have longevity.
Of course, that's not doable with the current configuration - just witness the goings on at Queen's Park of late. With Premier McGuinty exiting the stage, there will soon be a new leader for the Liberals, likely to be one of a few women with track records of finding shared solutions. Andrea Horwath, for her part, has occasionally played the role of peace maker. That leaves Tim Hudak as the sole leader who is adamantly committed to an election and hasn't exactly carved out a reputation as a team player.
Hudak has committed to a Spring election, no matter what happens between now and then. Like Rob Ford, he's not interested in working together - he just wants to win. Especially for Hudak, it's critical he does; if he doesn't, that's two general election losses and a lost by-election against him. It would be the end of his political career and result in a PC leadership race. IF that scenario were to play out, a strong contender for the PC leadership role would be the amazing Christine Elliot - a woman who is unquestionably in politics for the right reasons and willing to work with anyone to address the issues that matter.
I'll get in trouble for writing this, surely - in partisan politics, you're supposed to wish the worst possible leadership on your opponents, not the best. I'm terrible at being self-serving that way - besides, I actually love the idea of a Legislature that functions the way parliaments were intended to. It might make for boring TV or news, but so what - you want spicy political entertainment, watch Game of Thrones. Just imagine the possibilities if Ontario had three women leaders with shared goals willing to put the best interests of the province ahead even of their own partisan aspirations.
It might just be the only way Ontarians can move forward - together.