Issue One: Timely Access to Services

Disability Matters Vote is committed to providing Manitobans with detailed information to help eligible voters make informed voting decisions. We asked all four of Manitoba’s political parties to answer questions on the five priority disability issues in focus during this campaign. Here are the questions, and the parties’ answers in alphabetic order of the party:

Issue One: Timely Access to Services

  1. What will your party do to ensure the comprehensive reduction of wait times for disability services?
  2. Will your party commit to implementing a transparent, accountable system to measure and publicly report on wait times for disability services? If yes, please provide details on how this will be accomplished within the next two years.

Green Party of Manitoba

1. The Green Party of Manitoba is committed to reducing wait times for disability services. The current wait times are up to 10 years for access to residential services for adult children with intellectual disabilities, 1-2 years for supports for individuals with autism, and wait lists for psychologists can be as much as two years. This is unacceptable.

Our platform calls for immediately increasing services for individuals with disabilities and their families. We will increase the availability of support services for children living with disabilities, as well as the availability of support services for families with adult children with intellectual disabilities. By increasing the amount of available supports, we will be able to reduce the wait times significantly.

Taking direction from the Truth and Reconciliation commission calls to action, we also plan to establish and implement an updated FASD strategy with a focus on enhancing prevention and intervention services for people with FASD. This would mean that individuals living with FASD and their families would have access to appropriate supports and services services, in order to better address their unique challenges.

Lastly, the Green Party is committed to drastically improving the mental health system in Manitoba. Currently, only 5% of the health care budget is earmarked for mental health, which is lower than the national average. We will increase the budget for mental health services and supports to 10% of the overall health budget.

The additional funds allocated for mental health will be put into initiatives that promote and facilitate easy access to effective mental health supports and services across Manitoba, including enhancing integration with primary care and other health care providers, increased technological approaches, and additional collaborative approaches. We will also ensure that there is a range of culturally appropriate supports available for Indigenous populations, and informed supports for individuals that identify as LGBTQ2S+.

We also plan to expand mental health prevention and promotion initiatives, with a focus on healthy childhood development and early intervention. A portion of funds will also go towards initiatives focused on reducing the stigma surrounding mental health.

2. The Green Party of Manitoba will commit to implementing a transparent and accountable system to measure and publicly report on wait times for disability services.

Ultimately, we believe that this will be best accomplished by creating a task force that is composed of those with lived experience and relevant stakeholders.

The purpose of this task force should not be just to provide transparency and accountability with respect to wait times, but also to examine how we can improve the system overall. Navigating and accessing support services in Manitoba can be immensely challenging, and we believe that individuals with lived experience are the ones that often have the best ideas with respect to addressing those challenges and removing barriers to access.

Liberal Party of Manitoba

1. Manitoba Liberals believe that accessible services for all Manitobans, located close to home is the best way to build stronger communities. Manitoba Liberals have committed to putting psychological assessments under medicare while growing psychological services across the province to ensure that children can be assessed while there is time to develop a care plan. We’ve committed to increasing the home care budget by 10% in the first year to improve levels of care.

2. Government departments have the ability to report better on the programs and services they provide. Not only that but this information is crucial to program development and success by measuring outcomes and expanding successful projects. Manitoba Liberals believe that good data makes good policy and will commit to publicly reporting on wait times for disability services across the province.

New Democratic Party of Manitoba

1. We know sustained and sustainable investments in disability services is the best way to reduce wait times for services. That is why, for example, we have committed to cancelling private sector home care contracts made by the current government and taking those funds to invest them in increasing support for home care in Manitoba. We have also committed to increasing supports for mental health services in the community – that includes hiring more counsellors and psychologists for community clinics. Our goal is to reduce wait times for access to services and we believe our plan to invest in health care services in our community will provide a road map for the realization of the goal.

2. It is difficult right now to access accurate and timely data for wait times for disability services. This data exists in different departments and areas and is not centrally compiled nor is it easily accessible for families or people with disabilities. This should change and we are committed to developing in consultation with community advocates, families, organizations and people with disabilities a system to track wait times in a standardized format that is accessible, available and in plain language. We would work with the Accessibility and Advisory Council as well as the Disabilities Issues Office in order to develop standards, seek input and feedback, and then move to implementation.

Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba

Our PC team knows how important disability services are, which is why under our government the Department of Families, Education and Training, and Health, Seniors and Active Living are diligently working together to improve efficiencies and cost effectiveness so Manitobans can access services sooner. We will continue to focus on a client-first approach to continuously improve care and achieve transparent performance standards. Under our PC government, Community Living disability Services (CLDS) has undertaken a comprehensive redevelopment strategy, known as Building on Abilities, to strengthen planning with participants, improve efficiencies, and create a more transparent and equitable funding system for the future. Meanwhile, we’ve increased CLDS spending substantially to better support the needs of adults with intellectual disabilities as well as their families. The budget for 2019/20 is $439.5M, an increase of 27% over the NDP days.

We need to move forward, not backward. Under the previous NDP government, wait times in Manitoba for a range of health and disability services were the worst in the country. The NDP did nothing to improve a degrading system, and broke their own empty promise to address the wait-list for applied behavioural therapy. Our PC government has since demonstrated a commitment to addressing wait times by developing new partnerships. For example, we’ve worked closely in partnership with St.Amant to reduce the waitlist for autism services over the last two years, effectively helping more children sooner and reducing the waitlist. A re-elected PC government will also focus resources on individuals with the highest need. Families who have children with a recent diagnosis of a disability—and especially those with the most significant needs—will be prioritized, so long waits do not add to their hardship.

Many services for individuals with physical and mental disabilities are offered by private practices, many of whom don’t share wait times with the public. In order to make the system more transparent, a re-elected PC government will work to define transparent metrics, and develop a means of tracking and reporting on the wait times on an annual basis.