Our Campaign for Strong, Effective Implementation of the AODA

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

POINT BY POINT COMPARISON OF THE THREE PARTIES’ COMMITMENTS ON THIS ELECTION’S DISABILITY ACCESSIBILITY ISSUES

October 1, 2007

SUMMARY

Here is an issue by issue comparison of what the three political parties have committed in this election campaign regarding the key disability accessibility issues. This is based on the letters which Dalton McGuinty, John Tory and Howard Hampton sent to the AODA Alliance, setting out their commitments to us.

In summary, all three parties give commitments that would strengthen the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005. Its implementation has been weak and very disappointing to date.

On the AODA’s implementation all three parties agree to have the Ontario Government review all Ontario legislation to identify barriers to disability accessibility. They all agree to develop an action plan to make elections fully accessible to voters with disabilities.

All three parties agree that Standards Development Committees working on new accessibility standards under the AODA should vote on each standard clause by clause, not just on a single all or nothing Basis. There is close to unanimity that disability community representatives should comprise 50% of the membership on Standards Development Committees, that the Government should provide some kind of added financial support for the work of the disability community representatives on the Standards Development Committees, and that there should be some kind of review of the AODA’s implementation. All parties commit to include or to explore including disability issues in school curriculum.

On the other AODA implementation commitments we sought, we got a range of different commitments from the three parties, as explored in detail below.

The McGuinty Government’s widely-criticized Bill 107 privatized enforcement of human rights in Ontario. It forces discrimination victims to investigate their own human rights cases, and to find their own lawyer to prosecute the case for them. It doesn’t fulfill the McGuinty Government’s promise of free lawyers for all discrimination victims. It broke the McGuinty Government’s commitment to the disability community about the Human Rights Commission’s ongoing availability to publicly investigate individual disability discrimination cases and to prosecute them where there’s enough proof.

On our request that Bill 107 be repealed and replaced, the Liberals refused all our requests. The Conservatives and NDP agreed to our request to repeal Bill 107, to hold a public consultation on how to improve our human rights enforcement process, to devote more public funds to human rights enforcement, and to bring forward a new bill to strengthen a public system for enforcing human rights in Ontario. The liberals stand by their Bill 107 and will neither change it nor hold a prompt public consultation on how to improve it.

*****

THE SPECIFICS - WHAT WE ASKED AND WHAT THE PARTIES COMMITTED

Below you will find the specific commitments we asked each party to give, and their responses. The parties’ responses are listed in the order that we received them. Each new item starts with a *.

To see the text of the letter we sent the parties, and their letters setting out these responses, visit:

http://www.aodaalliance.org/election2007/default.asp

REGARDING IMPLEMENTATION OF THE ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT 2005

We asked the parties to commit:

* 1. Make the AODA’s process for developing accessibility standards stronger, more effective, and fairer, so that accessibility standards live up to the 11 principles for disability accessibility the Legislature unanimously passed on October 29, 1998, e.g. by:

NDP: “Ontario’s NDP believes the AODA's process for developing accessibility standards should be stronger, more effective, and fairer, so that accessibility standards live up to the 11 principles for disability accessibility the Legislature passed, with NDP support, on October 29, 1998…”

Conservatives: “In regards to your requests to make the AODA standard development process stronger and more effective, I agree that more has to be done. In fact, I believe that the 2025 target to make Ontario fully accessible is a goal we should be seeking to exceed. Leadership is about setting aggressive targets and devoting resources to ensuring they are met. That was my practice as a business leader and it is the same practice I will continue in the Office of the Premier.”

Liberals: “We will commit to a number of steps to ensure that we continue to build an accessible and inclusive society.”

* a) Ensuring the disability community has equal representation on each Standards Development Committee, and isn’t out-numbered by other sectors’ representatives, by making sure that at least half of each committee’s members are persons self-identified with a disability and who are active in the disabilities community. Now the disability community isn’t ensured this equal representation.

NDP: “Ensuring the disability community has equal representation on each Standards Development Committee, and isn't out-numbered by other sectors' representatives, by making sure that at least half of each committee's members are persons self-identified with a disability and who are active in the disabilities community.”

Conservatives: “I agree that the Standards Development Committees should be constructed and operated in such a way that is fair, open, and transparent. You have suggested that we alter the allotment of representatives, open up the meetings and require public consultations. All of these are reasonable requests and I will commit to raising them as key ways to improve the process.”

Liberals: Ensuring that the membership of the standards development committees is comprised of a 50 per cent representation by the disabled or those representing the disability community. We will also waive the ministries’ official roles as committee members.

* b) Holding Standards Development Committee meetings in the open, not in closed sessions as in the past.

NDP: “Holding Standards Development Committee meetings in the open, not in closed sessions as in the past.”

Conservatives: “I agree that the Standards Development Committees should be constructed and operated in such a way that is fair, open, and transparent. You have suggested that we alter the allotment of representatives, open up the meetings and require public consultations. All of these are reasonable requests and I will commit to raising them as key ways to improve the process.”

Liberals: No specific commitment.

* c) Requiring Standards Development Committees to directly consult with the public, including the disability community, e.g. at Standards Development Committee meetings. The Transportation Standards Development Committee refused a request to make a presentation to it on an issue on which the Standards Development Committee was divided, the announcing of all bus route stops.

NDP: “Requiring Standards Development Committees to directly consult with the public, including the disability community, e.g. at Standards Development Committee meetings.”

Conservatives: “I agree that the Standards Development Committees should be constructed and operated in such a way that is fair, open, and transparent. You have suggested that we alter the allotment of representatives, open up the meetings and require public consultations. All of these are reasonable requests and I will commit to raising them as key ways to improve the process.”

Liberals: “Allowing the standard development committees to have presenters come to their meetings.”

* d) Making Standards Development Committee voting fairer by letting the Committee vote on each proposed standard one section at a time, by having majority and minority reports if there are disagreements, and by letting each Standards Development Committee report out a series of proposed standards, not one all-or-nothing proposal.

NDP: “Making Standards Development Committee voting fairer by letting the Committee vote on each proposed standard one section at a time, by having majority and minority reports if there are disagreements, and by letting each Standards Development Committee report out a series of proposed standards, not one all-or-nothing proposal.”

Conservatives: “When Members of Provincial Parliament review a new bill, we go through a process called a 'clause by clause' review. This enables us to review each section of the bill separately and, ultimately, to register our support or our opposition to each section of the bill. I think that this would be a reasonable approach for the respective committees to take when dealing with the development of these important standards.”

Liberals: “Allowing the standard development committees to vote on individual clauses, to be put forward for the proposed standards.”

* e) Provide new financial support to encourage the effective participation of interested parties (especially from the disabilities community) in the work of Standards Development Committees, so they can participate on an equal footing with industry and Government .

NDP: “Provide new financial support to encourage the effective participation of interested parties (especially from the disabilities community) in the work of Standards Development Committees, so they can participate on an equal footing with industry and Government.”

Conservatives: ”I will commit to review the manner by which individuals are compensated for their work with these committees. I cannot commit that new funding might be provided but I agree that it merits a review and we would be pleased to sit down with you and your members to discuss the kinds of supports that would be of help to the members of these committees.”

Liberals: “Hiring a full-time staff member to help bring the disability community’s voice to the table.”

* 2. Promptly review how the Government is implementing the AODA, to ensure that Ontario is making substantial progress towards the AODA’s requirement of full accessibility, e.g. by

* a) Within two months of the election, the Premier would meet with an AODA Alliance delegation.

NDP: “If elected Premier I will meet with the AODA alliance delegation before the end of 2007.”

Conservatives: “I would welcome the opportunity to meet with your group to discuss these issues - including, specifically, your request to have the Ombudsman review the standards development process.”

Liberals: No commitment. Their letter just generally says: “We continue to be open to feedback on how the legislation is working and to be committed to ensuring the AODA fulfills its potential.”

* b) Within 6 months of the election Ontario’s Ombudsman reviewing and making public a report on the effectiveness of the AODA’s implementation, including the Standards Development Committees’ process and work.

NDP: “The Ontario government should promptly review how the Government is implementing the AODA, to ensure that Ontario is making substantial progress towards the AODA's requirement of full accessibility…I believe that within 6 months of the election Ontario's Ombudsman should review and make public a report on the effectiveness of the AODA's implementation, including the Standards Development Committees' process and work.”

Conservatives: “I would welcome the opportunity to meet with your group to discuss these issues - including, specifically, your request to have the Ombudsman review the standards development process. As you may have seen, I am trying to enhance the role of MPPs and I would like to discuss with you using legislators to conduct reviews of this kind.”

Liberals: “An independent review of the implementation of the AODA to ensure substantial progress is being made for Ontario to become fully accessible by 2025.”

They also state: We will also commit to two sets of audits: one following the creation of each of the five standards – and another following their completion. The audits will continue to apply to all future standards.” They don’t say who is to do these audits.

* 3. Direct an internal Government review of all provincial legislation and regulations to screen for any existing barriers against persons with disabilities, and put in place a permanent internal system to screen all new proposed provincial legislation, regulations or programs to ensure that they don’t create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities.

NDP: “The Ontario government should conduct an internal Government review of all provincial legislation and regulations to screen for any existing barriers against persons with disabilities, and put in place a permanent internal system to screen all new proposed provincial legislation, regulations or programs to ensure that they don't create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities.”

Conservatives: “I support your request that the government show leadership by reviewing its own legislation to remove barriers against persons with disabilities…”

Liberals: “Review all Ontario laws to find any disability accessibility barriers that need to be removed.

The Ontario Liberal government believes this is the next step toward our goal of a fully accessible Ontario. Building on our work of the past four years, we will continue to be a leader in Canada on accessibility issues. For Ontario to be fully accessible, we must ensure no law directly or indirectly discriminates against those with disabilities. To make that happen, we commit to reviewing all Ontario laws to find any disability barriers that need to be removed.”

* 4. Mandate a permanent program to ensure that students in the school system, and people training in key professions, such as architects, are educated in disability accessibility.

NDP: “Ontario’s NDP would support a permanent program to ensure that students in the school system, and people training in key professions, such as architects, are educated in disability accessibility.”

Conservatives: “While I believe that disability accessibility training for students and those training in 'key professions' could help us to make significant strides in creating the kind of inclusive and accessible Ontario that we aspire to be, I would want the new Minister of Education, appropriate Ministries and key stakeholders, including teachers, to jointly review this policy in advance of making any changes to ensure that it best accomplishes our goal.”

Liberals: “Institute a new program to ensure that students in schools and professional organizations are trained on accessibility issues. We already include awareness of and respect for students with special needs: in every curriculum document there is a front piece on planning programs for students with special education needs. Disability awareness is an expectation in the Grade 12 Social Sciences and Humanities course. Our government also introduced character education.

Character education is about schools reinforcing values shared by the school community – values such as respect, honesty, responsibility and fairness. It is about nurturing universal values, upon which schools and communities can agree. We will ensure that this curriculum includes issues relating to persons with disabilities.

The Government of Ontario does not set the training curriculum for professional bodies such as architects, but we commit to raising this issue with the different professional bodies.”

* 5. Develop an action plan to make all facets of provincial and municipal elections fully accessible to voters with disabilities.

NDP: “Develop an action plan to make all facets of provincial and municipal elections fully accessible to voters with disabilities.”

Conservatives: “I support your request that the government show leadership by reviewing its own legislation to remove barriers against persons with disabilities and by developing an action plan for provincial and municipal elections to be fully accessible to voters with disabilities. In addition, I will ask Elections Ontario to review its practices and regulations with a goal of achieving these positive changes. We will also engage our other stakeholders to pursue this same goal.”

Liberals: “In addition, we will commit to developing an action plan to make elections fully accessible to voters with disabilities. “

REGARDING CORRECTING BILL 107’S PRIVATIZATION OF THE ENFORCEMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN ONTARIO:

Generally, the NDP and Conservatives share our criticisms of Bill 107, and its taking away from discrimination the right to have a public investigation of their human rights complaints by the Human Rights Commission and a public prosecution of the offender where there’s enough proof. The Liberals defend their Bill 107 and won’t commit to making any changes.

We asked the parties to commit:

* 6. Not to proclaim Bill 107 in force, and to repeal that bill. If the current Government proclaims it in force, to overturn that proclamation.

NDP “Ontario’s NDP led the fight against Bill 107 and still oppose it. It should not be proclaimed. It should be repealed.”

Conservatives: “I commit to you, the AODA and to all people with disabilities in Ontario that as Premier, I will overturn Bill 107 that denies justice to Ontarians with disabilities, and, in fact, to all Ontarians who are victims of discrimination.”

Liberals: No Commitment.

* 7. Within six months of taking office, to begin to undertake an open, accessible public consultation on how to effectively reform the human rights process in Ontario.

NDP: “Ontario’s NDP believes that a genuinely open, accessible public consultation on how to effectively reform the Human Rights process in Ontario must take place within six months of the next government and new legislation must be introduced to improve - not privatize - human rights enforcement as soon as possible.”

Conservatives: “Further, while Mr. McGuinty denied Ontarians the opportunity to provide meaningful advice and insight on how our human rights system should function, I will undertake an open and accessible public consultation within six months of taking office.”

Liberals: No Commitment.

* 8. Within 18 months of taking office, to introduce a bill to reform the human rights code process for enforcing human rights in Ontario, to enable discrimination victims to have more expeditious access to effective remedies for the discrimination they have suffered. That reform would be based on the core principle that Ontario should have a public enforcement process. This bill will, at a minimum, not take away from discrimination victims any rights they had been given under the human rights code prior to Bill 107.

NDP: “Without prejudicing the outcome of consultation Ontario’s NDP believes the Human Rights Commission should be restored to its original mandate and given the tools to ensure that human rights complaints can be properly, promptly and thoroughly investigated and remedied. To do this the OHRC must be made truly independent and report directly to the Legislature - not the Attorney General.”

Conservatives: “The AODA Alliance's request that new legislation be introduced within 18 months of taking office is both reasonable and practical. I am pleased to commit to that timeline, as well as to basing reform on the core principle that Ontario should have a public enforcement process.”

Liberals: No Commitment.

* 9. To increase annual funding to the human rights enforcement process by a minimum of $6,000,000 above the funding level for that system in 2006-2007.

NDP: “Furthermore, the government should invest resources to ensure that mediations should be completed within three months, complex investigations should be completed within one year, and Tribunal decisions should be rendered within two years of the filing of the complaint.”

Conservatives: “Finally, I recognize that the funding provided by Dalton McGuinty and his Government amounts to less than 25 per cent of what the Commission received and, as such, virtually guarantees longer waits for justice for the estimated 3,000 complaints expected to come forward each year. I commit to you that we will reduce the backlog of complaint cases by providing meaningful additional annual funding to the Human Rights Commission.”

Liberals: No Commitment.