ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

The Ontario Government Commits to More Open Government, but Keeps Dragging Its Feet on Answering the AODA Alliance Chairís Freedom of Information Application, Submitted to Unearth the Governmentís Plans for Effectively Enforcing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

October 22 2013

SUMMARY

Hard as it may be to believe, we now face yet more delays in our effort to get the Ontario Government to keep its 2003 and 2011 election commitments to effectively enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

In the latest in this roller-coaster ride, on October 21, 2013, the Ontario Government asked the AODA Alliance to provide the AODA alliance’s financial statements. It says it needs these to help decide whether the Government will waive the steep $2,325 fee it plans to charge to answer David Lepofsky’s August 15, 2013 Freedom of Information request. That request seeks to get access to the Government’s plans for enforcing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

In response, on October 22, 2013, David Lepofsky quickly wrote the Government to let it know that we have no financial statements. The AODA Alliance is an informal unincorporated community coalition. It has no money, no bank accounts, no real or personal property, and thus, no financial statements to provide.

It is a cruel irony that the Government created this latest delay in our effort to unearth the Government’s plans for enforcing the AODA, on the very same day that Premier Kathleen Wynne announced a new strategy to ensure a more open Ontario Government, and greater accessibility of the Government’s information.

MORE DETAILS

Here’s how the saga has unfolded:

* a long 271 days ago, we wrote the Ontario Government on January 22, 2013 for its plans to enforce the AODA. We have received no reply.

* Fully 68 days ago, on August 15, 2013, AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky filed an application under the Freedom of Information Act to get access to the Ontario Government’s plans to enforce the AODA.

* On October 2, 2013, the Ontario Government emailed AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to advise that the Government wants him to pay approximately $2,325 as a fee for fulfilling his Freedom of Information Application.

* On October 2, 2013, David Lepofsky promptly emailed the Ontario Government to ask it to waive that hefty fee, since his request for information is made as a matter of public interest, and the AODA Alliance has no money.

* On October 21, 2013, the Ontario Government emailed David Lepofsky, asking that he provide the Government with the AODA Alliance’s financial statements. It wants this information because David Lepofsky had based his request that the fee be waived on the fact that the AODA Alliance, a volunteer community coalition, has no money. The text of this email is set out below.
 
* On October 22, 2013, David Lepofsky emailed the Ontario Government, to explain that the AODA Alliance has no money, and no financial statements. The text of this email is set out below.  

KEY LINKS

The Ontario Liberal Government's 2011 disability accessibility election pledges, including the reaffirmed commitment to effectively enforce the Disabilities Act, are set out in former Premier McGuinty's August 19, 2011 letter to David Lepofsky as Chair of the AODA Alliance. Former Premier McGuinty’s August 19, 2011 letter to the AODA Alliance

To read the AODA Alliance’s unanswered January 22, 2013 letter to the Ontario Government, requesting the Ontario Government’s plans for enforcing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, visit http://is.gd/XdwlVG  

Learn more about AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s August 15, 2013 Freedom of Information application

To read the Ontario Government’s October 2, 2013 email proposing to charge David Lepofsky $2,325 to answer his Freedom of Information request, and lepofsky’s request that this fee be waived

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The Ontario Government’s October 21, 2013 Email to AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky

October 21, 2013

David Lepofsky

Dear Mr. Lepofsky,

RE: MEDTE 2013-34 - Fee waiver request

Thank you for your fee waiver request of October 2, 2013, related to your access request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (the Act), that was submitted to the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment.

As you know, in keeping with the user-pay principle, section 57 of the Act requires that an institution head obtain payment from a requester for the cost of providing the requested information unless, in the head’s opinion, it is fair and equitable to waive the fees, after considering the following:

From your correspondence we understand that you are acting on behalf of a non-profit community organization, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance). You have indicated that the AODA Alliance has no funds of its own. As such, your request for a fee waiver relies on the financial hardship exemption set out in section 57(4)(b) of the Act.

To support your statement that the AODA Alliance has no funds of its own and to determine whether it is fair and equitable for the Ministry to waive all or part of the estimated fees on the basis of financial hardship, the Ministry requests that you provide supporting financial statements regarding the AODA Alliance’s financial situation. 

Please provide the Ministry with such financial information within 30 days of the receipt of this letter. The processing of this request will be on hold until the time the Ministry receives this information.

Please contact Pat Carroll-Tougas at 416-326-1344 with any questions that you may have concerning the request or fee amount. The case number MEDTE 2013-34 assigned to your file should be referenced in any future correspondence.

Sincerely,

Original signed by David Clifford

David Clifford
Assistant Deputy Minister
Corporate Services Division

c. Pat Carroll-Tougas

October 22, 2013 Email from David Lepofsky to the Ontario Government

October 22, 2013

Via email

To:  Pat Carroll-Tougas, FOI Coordinator
Service Management and Facilities Branch
Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment
Ministry of Research and Innovation
900 Bay Street, 3rd Floor, Hearst Block, Room 332
Toronto, ON M7A2E1
Fax: (416) 325-1118
Email: patricia.carroll-tougas@ontario.ca
From: David Lepofsky, CM, O.Ont, Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
Re: Freedom of Information Request MEDTE 2013-34

Thank you for your October 21, 2013 email, concerning my October 2, 2013 request that the Government waive its proposed fee of approximately $2,325 to answer my August 15, 2013 Freedom of Information request. I am trying to get access to information concerning the Government’s plans for enforcing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

The Ministry’s October 21,2013 email to me states in part:

“From your correspondence we understand that you are acting on behalf of a non-profit community organization, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance). You have indicated that the AODA Alliance has no funds of its own. As such, your request for a fee waiver relies on the financial hardship exemption set out in section 57(4)(b) of the Act.

To support your statement that the AODA Alliance has no funds of its own and to determine whether it is fair and equitable for the Ministry to waive all or part of the estimated fees on the basis of financial hardship, the Ministry requests that you provide supporting financial statements regarding the AODA Alliance’s financial situation.”

May I respond as follows:

  1. The AODA Alliance is an unincorporated, volunteer community coalition. We have no money. We have no real or personal property. We have no bank accounts. We charge no membership fees.

    Because we are unincorporated, we have no corporate documentation. We have no financial statements to provide.

  2. Your Ministry should not need financial statements to support what I have told you about this Freedom of Information application. We have had a very extensive working relationship for years with the Ontario Government, and especially with the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. The Government and opposition parties have each made election commitments to us over the years, and have praised our efforts in support of accessibility for people with disabilities.

    You are strongly encouraged to speak with the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to get any information you might need to assess my request for a fee waiver. The Directorate could have quickly and easily provided you with this information about me and the AODA Alliance. You can also learn all about us by visiting  www.aodalliance.org    

  3. Contrary to the thrust of your October 21, 2013 letter to me, my request for a fee waiver is not only based on the financial hardship criterion for waving such a fee. As my October 2, 2013 email to you made clear, this fee waiver request is also based on the fact that my Freedom of Information Act application is clearly a “public interest” request. I hope and trust that the Government in general, and your Ministry in particular, is sufficiently familiar with my public interest activity, and that of the AODA Alliance, in the area of disability accessibility, to lay that question to rest. If your Ministry has any doubt about this, or questions whether I have a genuine public interest motivation in mind in seeking this information, please let me know, and tell me what further I can provide.

    The fact that this is a “public interest” application should be obvious from the simple fact that Ontario’s Premier, Dalton McGuinty, made specific written election commitments to our coalition, in a letter addressed to me as its chair, on the effective enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. My October 2, 2013 email to you gave you a link to that letter. This Freedom of Information application focuses directly on information pertaining to that election promise.

  4. Your October 21, 2013 email to me does not answer my request, which I repeated again in my October 2, 2013 letter to you, that the Government immediately provide to me any documents sought in my Freedom of Information request, the provision of which involves little or no search time. The Government should not maintain an “all or nothing” stance, whereby I must agree to pay $2,325 or else I cannot get access to anything, including items that can be easily located and provided at no cost. I again restate this request.

  5. I regret the Government’s delays in dealing with this fee waiver request. It is somewhat ironic that your October 21, 2013 email to me came on the same day that Premier Kathleen Wynne announced a commitment to more openness in the Ontario Government.

May I please definitively hear from you as soon as possible on my request for a fee waiver, and may I get the answers to my Freedom of Information Act request as soon as possible.

cc: Wendy Tilford, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment wendy.tilford@ontario.ca  

Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario  ann.hoy@ontario.ca