ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

New Democratic Party and Progressive Conservative Party Call on the Wynne Government to Make Public All Information that AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky Requested in His June 4, 2015 Freedom of Information Application, on the Disabilities Act's Implementation and Enforcement Without Charging a Fee and Other Developments on the Freedom of Information Front

August 3, 2017

Summary

Despite the lazy, hazy days of summer, there are four important developments on our efforts to get the Wynne Government to keep its promise to be the most open and transparent government in Canada.

First, last week's Information and Privacy Commission decision in the case of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky against the Ontario Government, has gotten quite some attention. In its ruling, Ontario's Information and Privacy Commission ordered the Wynne Government to give AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky some of the documents he sought two years ago in a Freedom of Information application, at no charge. It also slashed the huge $4,250 fee that the Wynne Government wanted to charge Lepofsky for the rest of the information to be reduced by over 80%, down to $750. We have called on the Government to waive that remaining fee and make public all the requested documents at no charge.

The excellent August 1, 2017 Canadian Press article on this ruling by Michelle McQuigge was picked up either in hard copy or online by the Toronto Star, the Sault Ste Marie Star, Global News, the National Post, CBC, 680 News, and possibly others. It has been retweeted a good many times on Twitter.

Second, we commend both the Ontario New Democratic Party and the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party for issuing news releases that call on the Wynne Government to drop its $750 fee and give the AODA Alliance all the documents that were requested in David Lepofsky's Freedom of Information application. Those two news releases are set out below. As a non-partisan coalition, we take no position on any remarks in any news release, regarding next year's election. The AODA Alliance never supports or opposes any party or candidate.

We mention a minor correction. The PC news release describes the AODA Alliance as a non-profit corporation. We are in fact unincorporated.

Third, on July 27, 2017, right after receiving the Information and Privacy Commission's ruling on his Freedom of Information application appeal, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky wrote the Wynne Government by email, set out below. In the 2015 fall, after it calculated its fee estimate for his June 4, 2015 Freedom of Information application, David Lepofsky asked the Government (among other things) to give him, at no charge, any specific items listed in his Freedom of Information application that did not require significant search time. To its credit, the Government did so 20 months ago. As a result, on December 3, 2015, we issued a news release, making public what we learned from those disclosures.

One and a half years later, the Information and Privacy Commission's ruling last week has substantially reduced the fee that the Government is permitted to charge for the remaining items in David Lepofsky's June 4, 2015 Freedom of Information application. In a number of cases, the Information and Privacy Commission concluded that the Government needed 90 minutes or less to find the items requested. Therefore, in his July 27, 2017 email, set out below, Lepofsky asked the Government to revisit his list of requested documents in light of the Information and Privacy Commission's ruling. He asked the Government to turn over, at no charge, any items that would not take a significant time for the Government to find, using the Information and Privacy Commission's fee new schedule.

The Government confirmed receipt of Lepofsky's email but has not answered his request. His request does not take away in any way from his broader request of the Government to drop its entire fee, just as it did almost three years ago, when it answered his earlier 2013 Freedom of Information application regarding the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Fourth, here is an amazing tidbit in that came out from the Government in the midst of the oral argument on the Lepofsky appeal before the Information and Privacy Commission. One of the questions which David Lepofsky asked of the Government in his June 4, 2015 application was:

"4.        I seek records since June 2014 of any requests or inquiries from or on behalf of the office of the Economic Development Minister to the Ministry, including for example, to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, for information regarding on levels of compliance or non-compliance with the AODA or any accessibility standards enacted under it, and any reports or other answers provided to the office of the Minister on this subject since June 2014."

The Government let the Information and Privacy Commission  know that that there were no documents or records that are responsive to this request. What that means is that from the time of his appointment as minister responsible for the AODA's enforcement in June 2014 to the late 2015 summer, Minister Brad Duguid and his office never asked public servants in writing, e.g. in an email or memo, for any information on levels of AODA compliance or non-compliance. This was so even though the topic of AODA enforcement came up several times. We wrote him about it. He gave media interviews about it. On June 3, 2015 he announced a new strategy on enforcement (which the Government now must reveal at no charge, thanks to the Information and Privacy Commission ruling). 

We will keep you posted about any new developments.

MORE DETAILS

 

August 1, 2017 New Democratic Party News Release

NDP statement on AODA Alliance FOI ruling

QUEEN'S PARK – NDP Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities Critic Monique Taylor issued the following statement on the recent ruling from the Information and Privacy Commission regarding a Freedom of Information request from the Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance:

"As the NDP critic for Accessibility Issues, I was pleased to see that the Information and Privacy Commission has ruled in favour of transparency and accountability by ordering the Liberal government to waive the thousands of dollars in fees they had levied against Ontarians trying to access information about accessibility enforcement and compliance in the province.

It's been literally years since David Lepofsky and the Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance requested straight forward details on what the Liberal government was doing to make sure businesses were complying with the accessibility act. New Democrats support the enforcement of accessibility standards in Ontario, and we believe the government should do so in a transparent, accountable way.

The Information and Privacy Commission rightly saw the information being sought as having a clear public health and safety benefit – and how could it not?

It's totally unreasonable for the government to charge over $4,000 for access to the information in the first place, as well as spending thousands of dollars on a team of lawyers to fight the AODA Alliance. Ordering the Liberals to drop the $4,000 fee is a good start; the right thing for the Wynne Liberals to do would be to waive the remaining $750 charge entirely."

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Media contact: Andrew Schwab, 416-325-2358

August 2, 2017 News release by Progressive Conservative Party

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 2, 2017

Wynne Liberals Have Abandoned Ontarians with Disabilities: Walker

Today, Ontario PC Accessibility Critic Bill Walker slammed the Wynne Liberals for trying to block the AODA Alliance from accessing information on the government's progress to improve the lives of people with disabilities, and also attempting to stick the organization with a hefty legal bill.

"It's deplorable the Wynne Liberals tried to hide information from this volunteer organization about an issue they've only paid lip service to, and it's even worse she then set her team of lawyers on this group," said Walker. "It's clear the Wynne Liberals have pushed people living with disabilities off of their agenda."

The AODA Alliance is a not-for-profit coalition that advocates on behalf of persons with disabilities. Recently the Ontario Information and Privacy Commission sided with the Alliance against the $4,250 fee the government wanted to charge the Alliance for information on the government's progress towards creating an accessible Ontario by 2025. The ruling agreed the original fee was unjustified and would cause unnecessary financial hardship to the not-for-profit. 

"Who would have thought a government would try to squeeze every dollar out of an organization whose job is to protect some of society's most vulnerable?" added Walker. "Instead of working to help improve the lives of 1.8 million Ontarians living with a disability, Kathleen Wynne has been busy launching legal battles against a volunteer organization with no disposable funds."

The Wynne government has claimed to be a leader on accessibility, however there has been ongoing criticism that her government is falling short on its promises. At minimum, Walker asked the government to waive the remainder of the Access to Information fees, and to support the organization in their efforts to help Ontarians. 

"The next election will be about who will make it easier for Ontario families to make ends meet and get ahead. Every single action this government taken for the past 14 years has been about helping the Ontario Liberal Party instead of hardworking Ontarians. This disgraceful behaviour is just more proof that if they're re-elected they'll continue down the same path."

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CONTACT: Nick Bergamini | nick.bergamini@pc.ola.org | 416-325-8505

July 27, 2017 Email from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to the Ontario Government

Via Email

Pat Carroll-Tougas, FOI Coordinator
Service Management and Facilities Branch
Ministry of Economic Development and Growth
Hearst Block, Room 332
900 Bay Street
Toronto, ON M7A 2E1
Email: patricia.carroll-tougas@ontario.ca 
From: David Lepofsky, CM, O.Ont
Chair
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Date: July 27, 2017

Re: Freedom of Information Request MEDEI 2015-12 -  
Information and Privacy Commission Order PO-3755 (Appeal PA16-156)

I have reviewed the ruling of the Information and Privacy Commission on my fee waiver request in this Freedom of Information application. In several instances, the Commission reduced the fee that the Ministry could charge to 1.5 hours, 1 hour, or less than one hour.

I appreciate that in the past, the Ministry has commendably been prepared to provide me with requested information at no charge where the allowable search time is not significant. I am writing to ask if the Ministry would be prepared to provide me, at no charge, any or all of the information which I requested in any item in my June 4, 2015 Freedom of Information application, where the Information and Privacy Commission has reduced the allowable fee to an amount which is 1.5 hours or less.

I ask the Ministry to take into account, in considering this request, the fact that the Ministry has already gathered those records. In its ruling, the Information and Privacy Commission considered whether it would order a waiver of the entire remaining $750 fee, and ruled in the Ministry's favour. However, I ask the Ministry to consider here applying its item-by-item assessment, as it has in the case of my earlier Freedom of Information applications. In the 2015 fall, when the Ministry made its item-by-item decisions over what to disclose to me at no cost, in connection with my June 5, 2015 Freedom of Information application, it was examining the item-by-item charges that the Ministry had assessed, and not the reduced item-by-item charges that the Information and Privacy Commission has just ordered.

I would be pleased to discuss this with you, if that would assist. A prompt response would be appreciated. Please confirm that you received this email.

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance  

For More Background

To read the July 28, 2017 Information and Privacy Commission ruling on David Lepofsky v. the Ontario Government.

To read the AODA Alliance's August 1, 2017 news release, responding to the Information and Privacy Commission ruling.
 
To read David Lepofsky's June 4, 2015 Freedom of Information application which is the subject of this appeal.

To read David Lepofsky's memorandum of argument, filed on this appeal last March.

To read the January 24, 2017 affidavit which the Ontario Government filed (appendices excluded) in opposition to 'David Lepofsky's appeal.

To read the January 24, 2017 memorandum of argument that the Wynne Government filed with the Information and Privacy Commission in opposition to David Lepofsky's appeal.

To read David Lepofsky's reply affidavit, that he is providing in response.

To read David Lepofsky's reply memorandum of argument that he has filed in response.

You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at aodafeedback@gmail.com

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