November 4, 2001
MEDIA COVERAGE ON ODA ON THE EVE
OF THE BILL'S INTRODUCTION
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
Here are three recent newspaper articles referring to the ODA:
* A column in today's Toronto Sun by their Queen's Park columnist christina Blizzard, reporting on what the oDA bill is expected to contain. It appears that the Government may have leaked its story in advance to this reporter. This is not unusual for governments to do to try to get good news the day before the event happens. We again encourage you to wait to read the bill itself before forming any final conclusions about it.
* An editorial from today's Toronto Sun, which suggests that with the ODA and other recent events, the Ontario Conservatives are trying to look kinder and gentler.
* An article from the Wednesday, October 31, 2001 Toronto Star. It reports on a specific barrier which ODA Committee Chair David Lepofsky recently faced, and ties this to the need for a strong and effective ODA.
Sunday, November 4, 2001
Disabled are Tory priority
Law aims to make government buildings more accessible
By CHRISTINA BLIZZARD -- Queen's Park Bureau
Don't even think of sneaking into a disabled parking spot unless
you qualify for a handicapped sticker.
If a new Tory package of legislation aimed at improving access
for disabled people is passed, it will cost you big-time. The
maximum fine will skyrocket -- from $500 to $5,000 -- if
legislation to be introduced tomorrow is passed.
Citizenship Minister Cam Jackson will announce a new Ontarians
with Disabilities Act aimed at making municipal and provincial
government buildings more wheelchair accessible and barrier-free.
Unlike an earlier attempt at legislation, this law will have
teeth, and is expected to be one of the most comprehensive pieces
of disabled-rights legislation in the country.
There will be mandatory components on accessibility for
government and for the broader public sector.
As well, private business will be encouraged to become more
inclusive in providing services for people with disabilities.
"It will have a mechanism to engage the private sector," the
The province will also set up an accessibility council composed
of members of disability groups from across Ontario to will
advise Jackson on how to make communities more inclusive.
"The minister really believes that in order to effect change and
to drive public policy development, it's important to have the
affected groups -- the disabled community -- inside the fold
driving the policy," the source said.
While it is not expected that existing buildings will have to be
retrofitted to make them wheelchair accessible, it is anticipated
that the new ODA will provide guidelines for new construction.
It is also anticipated that money earmarked for SuperBuild
projects and capital expansion of GO Transit and the TTC could be
tied to accessibility. The province recently announced a $9-
billion transit program.
It is expected the new legislation will establish consistent
standards for accessibility and barrier-free access to buildings.
At present, no such standards exist.
Tender loving Tories
Meet the kinder, gentler Ontario Tories.
Tomorrow, Citizenship Minister Cam Jackson will unveil the
Conservatives' long-awaited, and much-delayed, Disabilities Act,
designed to remove barriers to the disabled.
(See Queen's Park columnist Christina Blizzard's exclusive report
in today's Comment section on page 5.)
Last week, Municipal Affairs Minister Chris Hodgson announced a
freeze on development on the Oak Ridges Moraine, which won
sweeping praise from environmentalists (and developers), with the
self-effacing observation that: "Sometimes we do get it right
Also, Education Minister Janet Ecker told Blizzard the Tories
plan to ensure flexibility in their new four-year high school
curriculum so that students who want to can complete it in five
years instead, similar to the status quo.
And Health Minister Tony Clement, who from past statements could
have earned the nickname "Two-tier Tony" when it comes to health
care, said he in fact supports a single-tier, universally
Hey. What happened to the guy who said that by the time he was
finished Common Sense Revolutionizing Ontario, he expected every
blade of grass would be trampled by protesters on the lawn of the
Legislature? Oh, yeah. He's quitting.
What all these new initiatives suggest - along with comments by
would-be leadership contenders such as Environment Minister
Elizabeth Witmer about widening the Tory tent - is this. Twenty
points behind the Liberals in the polls, the Tories clearly feel
that post-Walkerton, post-Ipperwash and post-Sept. 11, it's time
for a little tender loving care.
This could make for an interesting leadership race if the
emboldened contenders start to distance themselves from other
aspects of the Tory legacy. (Finance Minister Jim Flaherty
recently reminded everyone that his controversial budget measure
extending partial tax credits to private school tuition was a
government - read cabinet - decision.)
Question is, at what point does softening the Tory image become
abandoning the CSR? And will ministers bound by cabinet
solidarity really feel free to criticize past government policy
when they run for Tory leader/premier?
Or are we in for another boring yet bitter race such as the
Tories last had in 1985 to replace then retiring premier Bill
Davis? It produced few new ideas as competing cabinet ministers
were all compelled to sing from the same hymn book.
That lack of renewal led to the Tories' devastating 1985 election
loss which tossed them from power for a decade.
On the other hand, the public doesn't tend to be impressed by
political leopards who try to change all their spots.
When Bob Rae and the NDP tried to transform into fiscal
conservatives after their disastrous 1991 budget in which they
vowed to spend our way out of the recession, their own unions
fried them, tearing up Rae's social contract and ending up with
(surprise!) Mike Harris, the tax cutter. Good thing, too, as the
province was a basket case at the time.
That said, the Tories today can't afford to tick off their core
vote. In other words, while they can move from revolution to
evolution, they had better not mess with our tax cuts.
Disabled face daily `minefield'
Yonge roadwork puts up barriers, advocate says
Katherine Harding and Laurie Monsebraaten
If motorists think navigating Yonge St. construction is
frustrating, they should try walking the torn-up sidewalks with
The lawyer, who is blind, leads a province-wide group of disabled
people who are pressing Queen's Park to enact legislation to
remove barriers and prevent new ones. He says he has almost been
killed trying to cross the intersection at Yonge and College Sts.
"The entire sidewalk is a minefield for the disabled," Lepofsky
Since 1989, Lepofsky, who works at Bay and Gerrard Sts., has
exited the Yonge St. subway every morning at the southeast corner
of Yonge and College and walked west along College to Bay.
But for the past two weeks, the sidewalk has been reduced to
rubble and there has been only a narrow wooden "gang plank" for
pedestrians to access the intersection, Lepofsky said.
Using the College Park exit on the southwest side of the street
isn't an option for Lepofsky because the maze of underground
walkways is a nightmare for a blind person, he said.
Since Oct. 1, the world's longest street, between Lake Shore
Blvd. and Grosvenor St., has been getting a $3.6 million
makeover. Portions of the road, sidewalks, gutters and curbs are
being replaced. Every day more than 22,000 vehicles travel that
stretch of road. The last time the street was totally rebuilt was
in 1954, during the construction of the Yonge St. subway.
"This is a death trap for me. If I don't twist my ankle on the
gang plank, it sends me right into oncoming traffic," Lepofsky
said. "There's no way a person in a wheelchair or with a balance
issue could travel this corner.
"I'm not saying they shouldn't do construction. But when you do
it, don't tear up an intersection and leave it for two weeks with
just a gang plank," Lepofsky said.
The construction which has been split into two separate
projects is scheduled to wrap up in mid-December, weather
Lepofsky called his local councillor, Michael Walker (Ward 22,
St. Paul's), about the problem early last week and was referred
to downtown Councillor Kyle Rae (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-
Rosedale). Both politicians have been trying to help, with mixed
Rae said his staff contacted the construction company and
improvements were made last week to the intersection. But he
acknowledged it's still not really safe for pedestrians.
"This isn't a barrier to the disabled, it's a construction site,"
Rae said. "None of us are supposed to use it while it is under
Walker said he's been told by city staff that the contractor has
been notified about the access problems at that particular
Eric Jensen, the city's work zone traffic co-ordinator, said
contractors were told at several pre-construction meetings and
subsequent weekly progress meetings about rules to keep the
construction sites safe for all pedestrians.
He even said workers were "instructed to assist in any way
possible with people having problems."
Construction on Yonge St. is progressing more slowly than
scheduled because of rain, Jensen added.
"Things are weather-dependent," he said. "And it might seem like
the work is going on and on and on. But in actual fact, it's
several small steps that are part of the larger product."
Lepofsky said the Yonge St. situation has underscored why Ontario
needs an Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
"This is where the wheelchair hits the road," he said.
Ontario Citizenship Minister Cam Jackson is expected to introduce
legislation in the coming weeks and Lepofsky said he will be
watching to see if it will prevent such a construction "fiasco"
in the future.
"As far as I'm concerned, this is the litmus test," he said.
"Under the new legislation, the city should not be awarding a
contract to a construction company unless it has a plan to
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