ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

AODA Alliance Asks Candidates for Leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party to Make Commitments on Disability Accessibility

February 23, 2015

Summary

1. AODA Alliance Writes Each Candidate for Leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party

On February 22, 2015, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance wrote the three candidates now running for leadership of the Ontario Progressive Party, to seek their commitments on disability accessibility, Christine Elliott, Patrick Brown and Monte McNaughton. We set out below our open letter.

We will make public responses that we receive from the candidates. We have asked the candidates to answer our letter by March 20, 2015.

We ask each PC leadership candidate to commit to strengthen the AODA’s implementation, and not to weaken it. We ask them to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025-the AODA’s mandatory deadline. We ask them to commit to work together with us on these issues.

As a non-partisan grassroots community coalition, we do not support or oppose any party or any candidate. Our aim is to secure strong disability accessibility commitments from all parties, and from all candidates for a party’s leadership.  

We took similar steps to get strong commitments on disability accessibility in the 2012-2013 race for leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party. Our efforts to get disability accessibility commitments for candidates for leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, and the responses received.

2. The Accessibility Clock Chimes Again

The Government has only nine years and 313 days left to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities, as the AODA requires.

A breathtaking 461 days have now passed since we revealed that the Ontario Government was not effectively enforcing the AODA, and that there have been rampant AODA violations in the private sector. The Government still has not made public its promised detailed plan for the AODA's effective enforcement. The Government’s November 7, 2014 web posting on AODA enforcement includes little new. It does not constitute the promised detailed AODA enforcement plan.

Three hundred and sixty-seven days have passed since the Toronto Star reported on February 20, 2014 that the Government would be publicly posting that new enforcement plan "in short order." Two hundred and eighty-one days have passed since Premier Wynne promised to establish a toll-free line for members of the public to alert the Government to accessibility barriers against people with disabilities in the community. None has been announced.

To read our November 18, 2013 revelation that the Government was failing to effectively enforce the Disabilities Act despite knowing of rampant private sector violations, and funds on hand for enforcement.

To read the Government's February 20, 2014 pledge to publish in "short order" its plan for enforcing the Disabilities Act.

To read the Government’s May 14, 2014 election promise to establish a toll-free line to report disability accessibility barriers.

To read our analysis of the Government’s paltry November 7, 2014 web posting on the AODA’s enforcement.

As well, 543 days have passed since the Government unveiled its plans for the legacy of the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games. Yet it has still not released details and specifics of a comprehensive disability accessibility legacy for the Games. Only 138 days remain until the 2015 Games begin. Time is running out!
 
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MORE DETAILS

Text of the AODA Alliance’s Open Letter to All Ontario Progressive Party Leadership Candidates

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com
 Visit: www.aodalliance.org

February 22, 2015
 
AN OPEN LETTER

TO: All Candidates for Leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party

FROM: The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Who Are We?

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance is a non-partisan grassroots voluntary community coalition. Founded in 2005, we are united to achieve a fully accessible Ontario for over 1.7 million Ontarians with disabilities, through the prompt and effective implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. (AODA) Our supporters include persons with disabilities, people who have not yet gotten a disability, and community organizations concerned with the rights of persons with disabilities in Ontario.

Our predecessor coalition was the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. From 1994 to 2005, the ODA Committee spearheaded a province-wide accessibility campaign. It led to the enactment of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 (passed by the Mike Harris Government), and later, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005 (passed by the Dalton McGuinty Government).

Our leadership on the issue of accessibility for people with disabilities, as well as that of our predecessor coalition, has been repeatedly recognized by all parties in the Ontario Legislature, as well as the media. We have been recognized as a leading non-partisan grassroots voice in Ontario, that advocates to make Ontario a fully disability-accessible province. We have worked very extensively with the Ontario Government since 2003 on the development of, and later the implementation of, the AODA.

We now ask each candidate for the leadership of Ontario's Progressive Conservative Party, a short list of important questions. We seek your specific commitments on disability accessibility. These aim at ensuring that Ontario achieves the goal of full accessibility on or before 2025, the end date that the AODA requires by law. We will make public all responses we receive to this open letter.

As a non-partisan community coalition, we do not seek to get any party or candidate elected. We do not endorse or oppose any candidate for leadership of any party.

We took similar action during the 2012-13 leadership race held by the Ontario Liberal Party. As well, during each of the last six provincial elections, starting in 1995, and during many by-elections between those general elections, the ODA Committee, and after it wound up in 2005, the AODA Alliance, has solicited election commitments from Ontario's major parties, on the issue of accessibility for persons with disabilities.

The Ontario Progressive Party’s Past Positions on Disability Accessibility

Starting in 1995, the Ontario Progressive Party has made written election commitments on accessibility legislation for persons with disabilities, in general elections held in 1995, 2007 and 2014. These commitments have been set out in letters from the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party to the ODA Committee before 2005 and to the AODA Alliance since 2005. These letters were successively signed by PC leaders Mike Harris, John Tory and Tim Hudak. In the 2011 election, the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party wrote us but made no specific election commitments on disability accessibility.    

Over sixteen years ago, on October 29, 1998, the Ontario Legislature passed an historic resolution. It set out eleven important principles that a strong and effective Disabilities Act should fulfil. That resolution passed unanimously. Each MPP from the Progressive Conservative Party in the Legislature that day voted for that landmark resolution.

In 2005, all three Ontario parties in the Legislature voted unanimously for the passage of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. On the day that that legislation passed Third Reading, every MPP present in the Legislature that day, including every PC MPP, voted for it, and then stood to join a unanimous standing ovation to mark its enactment. 

The May 24, 1995 letter to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, our predecessor coalition, from PC leader Mike Harris during the 1995 election.

The September 7, 2007 letter to the AODA Alliance from PC leader John Tory during the 2007 election.

The August 31, 2011 letter to the AODA Alliance from PC leader Tim Hudak during the 2011 election.

The May 12, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance during the 2014 election.

What We Ask of You

We have made some progress on accessibility over the past years. Yet there is still a great deal to be done to achieve the goal of full accessibility by 2025 that the AODA requires of us all. We are eager to ensure that the leaders of all political parties in the Legislature will ensure that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility by 2025 and will speed up action on accessibility. In that spirit, we ask you the following:

1. Under your leadership, will the Progressive Conservative Party fully maintain the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005 and the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, and not weaken or reduce any provisions or protections in that legislation or regulations enacted under them, or policies, practices, strategies or initiatives of or within the Ontario Government that implement them or help achieve their objectives?

2. Will you ensure that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility for persons with disabilities no later than 2025, the deadline that the AODA requires?

3. Under your leadership, will your Party make as a priority, pressing the current Government to keep its commitments and fulfil its duties on disability accessibility?

4. Two Government-appointed mandatory Independent Reviews of the Government’s implementation of the AODA have been conducted, in 2009-2010 by Charles Beer and in 2013-2014 by Prof. Mayo Moran. Both reports called on the Government to revitalize and breathe new life into its implementation of the AODA, and for the Government to show strong new leadership on this. The 2014 Moran report specifically called on the Premier to show strong new leadership on disability accessibility.

If you become Ontario’s Premier, will you show new, strong leadership on accessibility and breathe new life into and revitalize the Government’s implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act?

5. Will you ensure that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is effectively enforced?

6. Will you direct your cabinet ministers, the Secretary of Cabinet and other senior officials to implement your Government’s duties and commitments on disability accessibility?
 
7. The final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review identified instances when public money has been used to create accessibility barriers against people with disabilities. Will you commit that public money will not be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities?

8. The final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review found that the Ontario Public Service has not adequately worked towards ensuring that it is a barrier-free employer and that it provides accessible services to the public. It recommended that the Government put a minister and potentially a deputy or associate deputy minister in charge of this. Would you agree to put a minister and deputy or associate deputy minister in charge of ensuring that the Ontario Public Service becomes a barrier-free employer and provider of accessible public services?

9. Voters and candidates with disabilities still face too many barriers in provincial and municipal elections in Ontario. Legislation that the Government brought forward in 2009 and 2010 to address this has not solved the problem. The Progressive Conservative Party pressed amendments in 2010 to better address this, which the current Government defeated.

Would the Government under your leadership bring forward new measures, including new legislation where needed, to ensure that provincial and municipal elections in Ontario are fully accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities?

10. In future Ontario elections, including the next general election scheduled for 2018, will you make specific election commitments to us on the issue of achieving a fully accessible province for persons with disabilities, in correspondence to us (As has been your Party’s past practice as well as that of Ontario’s two other major parties)?

11. We have welcomed face-to-face meetings with the past two leaders of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, and with the present and previous Ontario Premiers to discuss accessibility issues (in addition to face-to-face meetings with a host of different cabinet ministers, successive Secretaries of Cabinet, and other senior government officials).

If you become your Party’s leader, will you maintain this practice of personally meeting with us to discuss accessibility issues, in addition to our meetings with your appropriate caucus members? If your Party is elected to form the Government of Ontario, will you agree to periodically meet with us, in addition to our meeting with appropriate cabinet ministers?

We would very much appreciate a response to these questions by March 20, 2015. We would be pleased to provide you or your staff with any information that might assist you in responding to our inquiry. Please email your response to us in MS Word format. You can email us at: aodafeedback@gmail.com 

Our coalition's mandate is to address disability accessibility issues in Ontario. We do not wish to leave any impression that accessibility is the only disability issue that will require the attention of Ontario's next leader of the progressive Conservative Party.

We look forward to working with the leaders of all parties now and in the future on the shared goal that all major parties have endorsed, of leading Ontario to become fully accessible to all people with disabilities no later than 2025.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O.Ont,
Chair AODA Alliance
Learn more about progress to date on achieving the AODA's goals, by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org 
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