Manitoba Liberal Party (MLP) - Candidate: Robert-Falcon Ouellette

Q: How have disabilities played a role in your life and the lives of your loved ones?

Disabilities have significantly impacted the lives of my loved ones and me, shaping the way we navigate systems, support each other, and advocate for necessary resources.

Firstly, my grandmother, who was a cornerstone of our family, had major health challenges near the end of her life. This meant that she had to interact extensively with the health system. It wasn't just about routine visits or check-ups; it was a journey of seeking specialized care, addressing her unique needs, and bearing the brunt of the additional costs involved. Despite the challenges, our family's love for her never wavered. Instead, it only underscored the need for a more accommodating healthcare system for individuals like her.

Similarly, my son faced his own set of challenges during his early age. He had a condition that necessitated added support within the school environment. Fortunately, due to our residence in Quebec while I served in the military, he could get essential interventions. It was a realization for our family that access to these disability supports was largely contingent on our geographical location. Every child, regardless of their residence, should have unhindered access to such support. With the timely interventions and supports he received, I'm proud to share that he is successful today.

Furthermore, my commitment to understanding and alleviating the challenges of disabilities extends to my friends as well. I actively support a close friend, a military veteran, who grapples with health issues that needs home care. My role as his family home care manager involves ensuring that he has the necessary care to maintain his independence. This often translates to relentless advocacy on our part to secure the services he needs. It's a testament to the fact that while individual perseverance is paramount, a supportive environment that recognizes and caters to unique needs is equally crucial for independence and success.

Everyone has encountered disabilities through friends, family or personally, my life is no different. We are taught resilience, the importance of advocacy, and the unwavering value of love and support.

Q: Which one of DMVote’s 5 priority issues is of the greatest interest to you and why?

I am committed to implementing a guaranteed dignified income (mincome) for people over 60 and those living with severe mental or physical disabilities.

Manitoba’s Employment Income Assistance (EIA) system has barely changed in more than 35 years. Instead of being designed to lift people out of poverty and be more self-sufficient, Manitoba’s EIA program has been designed to punish people in poverty.

Many who receive EIA benefits and supports want to work. However, the more a person tries to work, the less benefits they end up receiving.

Manitoba’s EIA system is punitive to those who pursue school, work, or even for volunteering. In addition, people with disabilities are denied support if they are married. This creates a crushing burden for many families which may result in divorce, so that a person who is disabled is not a financial burden on their family.

Manitoba Liberals commit to:

  • Implementing a provincial guaranteed dignified income (Mincome) for people with severe physical or mental disabilities, as well as people over 60. It will be top-up based on the previous year’s income;
  • Removing barriers to work and volunteer for people on EIA, including by increasing the amount a person can receive when volunteering from $100 to $500 a month;
  • Creating the ‘Manitoba Works for Good’ voluntary jobs program which will provide wage and job subsidies for not-for-profit and other organizations to provide work for the public benefit and for community improvements projects.

The Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said “At the debate on poverty sponsored by Make Poverty History, the NDP made it quite clear that they have no intention to lift a finger for people living in poverty. If you want a real choice and real change, the only party that’s offering action to lift people out of poverty and ensure they can live in dignity is the Manitoba Liberal Party,”

Q: Disability discrimination has made up the largest share by far of all the formal complaints lodged with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission over the last 20 years. What do you think accounts for this and what do you think needs to be done to address it?

Thank-you for the question. There are several factors that might account for disability discrimination taking the lead in formal complaints:

  1. Lack of Awareness and Education: Despite advancements in the understanding of disabilities, there's still a pervasive lack of awareness and education about the diverse range of disabilities, both visible and invisible. Misunderstandings or misconceptions can unintentionally lead to discriminatory practices.
  2. Inadequate Infrastructure: Often, Winnipeg and other regions may not have the necessary infrastructure or services (like snow removal) in place to accommodate individuals with disabilities, making daily tasks more challenging and highlighting discrepancies.
  3. Employment Barriers: Employers may still harbor biases (conscious or unconscious) or might lack the facilities and resources to provide accommodations for disabled employees, leading to discriminatory hiring and working practices.
  4. Social Stigmas: Societal views on disabilities can sometimes be rooted in pity, ignorance, or even fear. These perspectives can culminate in exclusionary or patronizing behaviors.
  5. Lack of Representation: People with disabilities might not always be adequately represented in decision-making bodies or consultations, leading to policies and practices that overlook their needs.

We could try doing the following to address these needs:

  1. Creating an Awareness Campaign: A sustained effort to educate the public, employers, and service providers about the spectrum of disabilities can be instrumental. This could help in dispelling myths and promoting understanding.
  2. Greater Infrastructure Development: Investing in accessible infrastructure, from public transportation to public spaces, should be prioritized, including using monies from the federal government to follow the federal Accessibility Act.
  3. More Inclusive Employment Practices: Encouraging employers in Manitoba through incentives, training, and legislation to employ and accommodate individuals with disabilities can be a game-changer. Please see you fund that we wish to create to help Manitoban get employment for people with disabilities.
  4. Stronger Legislation and Policies: Stronger laws and regulations that protect the rights of individuals with disabilities, coupled with effective enforcement mechanisms, are essential.
  5. Greater Empowerment and Representation: Ensuring that individuals with disabilities are part of decision-making processes, policy formulation, and implementation will lead to more inclusive solutions.
  6. More Collaboration: Working with disability advocacy groups, NGOs, and other stakeholders can provide more holistic solutions and insights.
  7. Legislative Review and Feedback: It's crucial to continually review policies, gather feedback, and make necessary changes based on the evolving needs and challenges of the disability community using the legislature of Manitoba. This is why a minority government is so important to hold governments to account.

There is a concerning level of disability discrimination in Manitoba, which underscores the importance of adopting a multifaceted approach to address the issue. Collaboration, education, and active policy implementation are key to fostering a more inclusive society.

New Democratic Party of Manitoba (NDP) - Candidate: Renee Cable

Q: How have disabilities played a role in your life and the lives of your loved ones?

Physical and psychological disabilities play a role in all our lives, whether we are cognizant of it or not. We all encounter folks each day who have visible and invisible disabilities. But how we treat and support folks who need additional supports is telling of who we are as people and as a society.

From a very young age, I was guided by my family’s experience in advocating for accessibility and inclusion for my late aunt. She was non-verbal and quadriplegic and was one of the first students with multiple disabilities to attend public school in the Brandon School Division. My worldview is shaped around the conversations I was privy to – again, from a very young age -- about respect and quality of life.

In addition, I have many friends with children who face additional challenges and one of my closest relatives has MS. She has permanently left the work force as a result of physical and cognitive limitations. And I know that without the salary of her husband, she would not be able to support herself on her LTD benefits.

Lastly, my own experiences with anxiety and depression have brought me greater awareness to the lack of supports and accommodation for folks with disabilities. I will continue to advocate for better.

Q: Which one of DMVote’s 5 priority issues is of the greatest interest to you and why?

I believe all of the priority issues require attention and movement by our future government. However, I understand that when folks don’t have their basic needs met, quality of life -- both short and long term – is severely impacted. I believe every person has the right to live with dignity in our society. And I believe in social justice -- how we treat the most vulnerable among us speaks volumes to the kind of people we are.

In my day-to-day work, I’ve been privileged to work with groups to advocate for higher wages and professional standards for the people who work in direct support roles, through the campaign. A fairly-compensated and professionally-trained workforce will directly impact the quality of care and quality of life for folks who require daily support.

Q: Disability discrimination has made up the largest share by far of all the formal complaints lodged with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission over the last 20 years. What do you think accounts for this and what do you think needs to be done to address it?

As a society, we have made strides in many areas of representation – gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, ethnic origin. We haven’t, however, realized those same gains in terms of representation for folks with disabilities.

According to the law, Manitobans with disabilities have the basic human right to participate in all aspects of life – but unfortunately, stigma and systemic barriers often prevent that from happening.

Government needs to take action to combat stigma provide solutions so people can live with dignity. We need to work with the community to implement and enforce the Accessibility for Manitobans Act, supporting education and awareness campaigns, and properly funding disability supports – including raising wages for disability support workers.

Manitobans with disabilities need to be at decision-making tables. A Manitoba NDP government will ensure the community is regularly consulted and included in policy initiatives – including as a part of our new Premier’s Business and Jobs Council.

The Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba (PC) - Candidate: Audrey Gordon

Q: How have disabilities played a role in your life and the lives of your loved ones?

My sibling has an intellectual disability. He has struggled for years with finding employment. As a society, we need to focus on ability and the skills a person has to offer an employer instead of an individual's disability. As well, many disabilities are not visible and many people are afraid to disclose their disability due to the stigma they encounter. We need to end the stigma! I fully support those who are living with a disability and want to ensure governments provide the supports they need to be fully able to engage in all aspects of society.

Q: Which one of DMVote’s 5 priority issues is of the greatest interest to you and why?

The DMVote top priority issue of greatest interest to PCs is meeting basic needs, because Manitobans living with severe and prolonged disabilities deserve dignified support. After DMVote advocacy called for it in 2019, our PC team delivered Manitoba Supports for Persons with Disabilities, a new disability income support program. There's more to do, but enhancements we made to benefits in recent years are steps in the right direction. It's both important and urgent to get it right, so a re-elected PC government would conduct a review of the newly launched program and involve community members.

Q: Disability discrimination has made up the largest share by far of all the formal complaints lodged with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission over the last 20 years. What do you think accounts for this and what do you think needs to be done to address it?

A lack of public awareness of disability issues may be behind disability discrimination; government has a role to play in fighting back against discrimination through public awareness campaigns that highlight things like the positives of hiring persons with disabilities. A re-elected PC government would undertake such a campaign.

Independent Candidate: Amarjit Singh

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