The Liberal government today provided a clearer picture of its plan for 34 federal workers with developmental disabilities.
As CTV News first reported on Monday, the program that has employed these workers for nearly 4 decades is shutting down and the employees are devastated. The government said Tuesday that the work these folks are doing isn't needed anymore so they will be transitioned into other programs with more meaningful work.
But change will not come easily for some of these employees who have been at the same job for as long as the program has existed.
It's with a fair amount of pride that Gladys Whincup explains what she and her 33 co-workers do at the Personnel Records Centre in Tunney's Pasture.
“We do paper recycling, sorting and everything like that,” she explains.
Whincup has been doing it a long time: 38 years. But the group has been told the contract they have with the National Archives Program is ending next April. It's the second time it's been on the chopping block.
“I think it's a terrible thing to do to our program,” Whincup told CTV News on Monday, “and I don't know why they're picking on our program all the time.”
That’s what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked during Tuesday’s Question Period.
“The families of these employees are asking the Prime Minister to reverse the cut,” the Conservative Deputy Leader of the Opposition Lisa Raitt asked, “Will he do so?”
“People with disabilities remain underrepresented in the workforce,” the Prime Minister said, “Working with partners to address the challenges they face in securing meaningful employment is important to us. That’s why we're taking action to help people, regardless of their disability to fully participate and be included in society and in the Canadian economy.”
But the organization representing these workers isn't quite sure what that means.
“I look forward to offers of employment, alternative employment from the federal government for them,” said David Ferguson, the executive director of the Ottawa-Carleton Association of Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OCAPDD), “To date our experience is that none have come forward.”
Earlier at a Conservative Committee meeting, the Minister of Accessibility, Carla Qualtrough, admitted this was a tough one.
“We know Canadians with disabilities are the most underemployed group,” she said, “and we don't want to lose this group of talented individuals from the workforce.”
Qualtrough said the employee's contracts have been extended for one year during which time the government will work with organizations to move them into more meaningful work.
“The work that they're currently doing isn't needed anymore and I do not want to ever be the minister responsible for giving someone meaningless work.”
Just don't tell the 34 employees that.
“I like my job so, so much,” says employee Johanne Lalonde.
“I think they should leave our program alone,” added Gladys Whincup.
OCAPDD suspects some of the 34 employees may retire now; others may go into volunteer jobs. But, David Ferguson says they are still keen on fighting this decision and have asked for help preparing signs for their protest on Parliament Hill.