Ellen and I wanted to take a moment to pay homage and congratulate the Hon. Elizabeth Witner on her new post as chair of the WSIB. While I’m sure her decision to leave politics was made with a heavy heart, I know that she will lead the WSIB with as much enthusiasm and passion that she gave each and every day as an MPP.
Elizabeth’s work in our Province is well known – transforming our Health Care system while she was the Minister of Health, significantly increasing long-term care beds, introducing Tele-health, and creating the first comprehensive strategy to deal with Alzheimer’s Disease. She was always tireless in her efforts to make our Province the best place to live in the world, and she always worked for the betterment of the people of Ontario.
Elizabeth once told me that she wakes up each day with the hope of making this world a better place for at least one person. As an MPP, she served for over 8,000 days in office, and I’m sure she made the world a better place for many, many, times that number. Born with a rare, progressive, and devastating disease, my son Isaac is one of those people. Without Elizabeth, my son wouldn’t have the chance at a life that he does today.
When Isaac was first diagnosed with MPS VI, we were told that there wasn’t much hope for him to have a long and productive life. Without a very expensive treatment, which wasn’t available in Canada, Isaac would have been left to the ravages of the disease, suffering from severe joint stiffness, heart and airway disease, spinal cord compression, shortened stature, and premature death. Obviously, Ellen and I were devastated. We were informed that a treatment existed, but the cost was over a million dollars a year and the treatment could not be obtained in Canada. Immediately, we went to work.
In short order, we attained permission to bring the treatment to Canada – contingent on the Province funding it. The Liberal government immediately rejected our application, with many excuses being given for their decision. With nowhere to turn, I contacted Elizabeth, who was the Health Critic at the time and she made an appointment for me to meet with her for the following day.
I will never forget that meeting in her office in the Legislature. I arrived with brochures, papers, and rationale about why the government should try to save the life of my little boy, and I expected just a few minutes of Elizabeth’s time. When I entered her office, I pulled out my papers but Elizabeth didn’t want to see them. She just wanted me to talk about my son. She wanted to know all about him, about the joy that he brings our life, about our hopes for his future. After a few hours together, we were both in tears as I explained to her how quickly we would lose our son if he didn’t get the treatment he needed. In the end, she simply hugged me and said “I’m going to help you. Not because I’m a politician but because I’m a mother.” I left her office, sat in the sun at the McDonald Statue in front of the Legislature, and called my wife to deliver the news.
Elizabeth made good on her promise, tirelessly advocating for our son against seemingly insurmountable odds. She raised his case during Question Period and spoke to the media on our behalf. She pushed for rationale behind the decision to deny Isaac treatment and relentlessly kept the pressure on the government to save him. After a few months of dedicated work, we were successful and Isaac’s treatment was approved.
Too often in politics, “compassion” is a term often quoted but never demonstrated. But Ms. Witmer unselfishly came along and took up our cause. She gave us Hope at the very moment when all seemed lost; and she gave us faith. Elizabeth’s determined work in the Legislature has allowed our family to Hope again for the future. While the government did nothing to show their support for Isaac, and while the government showed no remorse for our family situation, Elizabeth Witmer came to the rescue.
Her kind, caring, and compassionate work changed public policy; something that I was continually told could never be done. Elizabeth changed my belief in the political system and showed me that it is possible for our elected representatives to make a difference in the lives of the people they represent.
Our family is indebted to Elizabeth for what she has done for us. She has changed our lives immeasurably and has given Isaac hope for the future. That's all any parent can ask for - Hope for their children's future.
The photo to the right was taken at Isaac's first soccer game - a moment we never thought he would experience in his life. Thanks to Elizabeth, he did. Although we can never repay her for her kindness and support, I will continue to send her updates on our son’s life and the amazing things that he’s accomplishing. I can’t wait to send her a card when Isaac graduates from highschool. I can’t wait to invite her to our son’s wedding, to send her a thank you note when he starts his first job. I can’t wait to share the announcement of the birth of his first child with her. And I truly can’t wait to have her celebration party when we make the announcement that we've found a cure for this horrible disease. No matter what the future holds, we have one for our son thanks to Elizabeth Witmer.
Ellen and I wish her nothing but the best as she leaves politics for a new challenge. And I hope that she knows that her legacy of helping make the world a better place for those around her has been fulfilled. I know this because I see it in my son’s beautiful eyes each and every day.
Thank you, Elizabeth.
The McFadyen Family