ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE
Premier Wynne’s Mandate Letter to Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid Downplays His Duty to Implement and Enforce Ontario’s Disabilities Act Among A Blizzard of Other Ministry Priorities
October 9, 2014
Brad Duguid, the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, is the newest Ontario Cabinet Minister with lead responsibility for implementing and enforcing the AODA. He is, for example, responsible for leading the development of new accessibility standards under the AODA, and for enforcing any accessibility standards that have already been enacted.
On September 25, 2015, Premier Wynne sent Minister Duguid, along with all other Ontario Cabinet Ministers, a “Mandate Letter” to list his priorities for action. Among his many responsibilities as the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, where do his responsibilities to implement and enforce the AODA fit in? Are they a “top priority” for him and the Government, as the last Minister responsible for the AODA, Eric Hoskins, repeatedly said?
For over 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities, the message that leaps from the Premier’s Mandate Letter to Minister Duguid is deeply troubling. His assigned tasks on accessibility leave out most of the key priorities we sought. They include absolutely nothing on ramping up the AODA’s enforcement, despite the fact that the AODA makes him that legislation’s enforcer-in-chief. In the important area of developing new accessibility standards, the Premier dilute and back-tracks on commitments made in the recent 2014 Ontario election.
In this Mandate Letter, this Minister is assigned a blizzard of other priorities. His disability accessibility priorities from the Premier are few in number, and are overwhelmingly eclipsed by his many other duties. His few accessibility priorities are not positioned with any ascendancy or priority among the many other tasks to which the Premier has told him to devote his time.
On October 7, 2014 we made public a 32-page detailed analysis of all Premier Wynne’s Mandate Letters. That Analysis shows that the Government has systematically left out many if not most of its disability accessibility commitments from its Mandate Letters to the Ontario Cabinet. In this Update, we focus specific attention on the marching orders that the Premier gave to Minister Duguid, because of his pivotal role under the AODA.
Below we list what we asked the Government to set as priorities on disability accessibility for him in our August 14, 2014 letter to Minister Duguid. We then quote the few short sentences from the Premier’s long Mandate Letter on disability accessibility, which are found near the end of that letter. We offer our detailed comments. All of that discussion is taken right from our October 7, 2014 Analysis of the Premier’s Mandate Letters.
. After that, we set out below the October 8, 2014 news release which the Ontario New Democratic Party issued, supporting our objection to the fact that the Premier’s Mandate Letters systematically omit many if not most of the Government’s disability accessibility commitments. We appreciate the NDP’s support on this issue. Finally, we set out the text of Premier Wynne’s 6-page Mandate Letter to Brad Duguid, so you can read it and form your own view.
To read the AODA Alliance’s August 14, 2014 letter to Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure Brad Duguid, listing our proposed disability accessibility priorities for his Ministry
While we’re at it, let's again check in with the accessibility clock. A disturbing 325 days have now passed since we revealed that the Ontario Government was not enforcing the AODA, and that there have been rampant AODA violations in the private sector. The Government still has not made public its promised plan for the AODA's effective enforcement. Two hundred and thirty-one 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." One hundred and forty-eight days 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.
As well, 407 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 274 days remain until the 2015 Games begin. Time is running out!
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1. What We Asked the Minister to Do Regarding Disability Accessibility
This minister is responsible for the effective implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. In our August 14, 2014 letter to the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure Brad Duguid, we asked him to:
- immediately announce, implement and account to the public on a strong, detailed plan for effectively enforcing the AODA
- develop and promptly enact the next accessibility standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
- effectively ensure that in any government infrastructure spending, no barriers against Ontarians with disabilities are created or perpetuated
- incorporate disability accessibility in all his ministry’s economic development and employment strategies, programs and initiatives
- ensure that the 2015 Toronto Pan/Parapan American games leave behind a substantial legacy of disability accessibility
- launch an effective public education campaign on disability accessibility and the AODA’s requirements
- promptly make public and respond to the forthcoming report of the Moran AODA independent review.
2. The Mandate Letter’s Key Directions to View from a Disability Accessibility Perspective
Premier Wynne’s September 25, 2014 Mandate Letter to the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure included, as specific priorities, the following, among other things:
* "Continuing to work with partner ministers and industry to explore initiatives to reduce regulatory and administrative burdens, as proposed in the Better Business Climate Act, 2014. If the legislation is passed, I ask that you begin to work with key partners to develop regional cluster plans. Your goal is to adopt smarter regulatory practices without putting public safety at risk….”
* “Increasing the number of employment opportunities for Ontarians of all abilities by establishing new partnerships with business and persons with disabilities.”
* “Working with partners to build an accessible Ontario by 2025. I ask that you explore options to develop new accessibility standards in the education or health sector.”
3. Our Comments
This lengthy, detailed mandate letter is especially troubling for people with disabilities. The Premier did not direct this Minister to ensure that all needed steps are taken to ensure that Ontario gets back on schedule for full accessibility by 2025, as the AODA requires.
The Premier gave the Minister no directions whatsoever to enforce the AODA. This is a key priority for Ontarians with disabilities. For example, the Premier did not direct this Minister to immediately make public a plan for the AODA’s enforcement, and to report to the public on progress, as the Government promised in the 2014 election. The Premier did not direct this Minister to establish a toll-free phone line for the public to report disability accessibility barriers, as the Government also promised in the 2014 election.
This glaring omission is especially troubling since we revealed almost a year ago, on November 18, 2013, that the Government had failed in its duty to effectively enforce the AODA, despite the Government knowing of rampant AODA violations in the private sector. To learn more about our November 18, 2013 revelation of the fact that the Government was not effectively enforcing the AODA despite knowing that 70% of private sector organizations with at least 20 employees were in violation of the AODA.
The Government has promised several times to effectively enforce the AODA. To see the Government’s commitments on the AODA’s effective enforcement on the day the AODA passed Third Reading in the Ontario Legislature.
In this Mandate Letter, the Premier cuts back on the Government’s earlier commitments on the development of new accessibility standards. We have asked the Government to develop new accessibility standards next to address barriers in education, in health care, and in residential housing.
In July 2009, the Government promised to address barriers in residential housing through the standards development process, once the Government finished creating its initial Built Environment Accessibility Standard to address barriers in new construction and major renovations. That project was completed, according to the Government, in December 2013. Yet despite this, the Government has not embarked on addressing barriers in residential housing through the AODA standards development process.
As for addressing the areas of education and health in AODA accessibility standards, Premier Wynne initially promised during the spring 2014 Election that the next AODA accessibility standard would address education and/or health. In her May 14, 2014 letter to us, setting out the Government’s accessibility pledges in the 2014 election, Premier Wynne wrote:
“The next accessibility standard we will develop will focus on education and/or health.”
Two weeks after the Premier wrote us during the election campaign, we received a stronger election commitment from the Liberal Party. On May 31, 2014, we received two tweets from Ontario Liberal candidate, Cabinet minister, and former president of the Ontario Liberal Party, Yasir Naqvi. He said that a Liberal Government, if re-elected, would create a standard for both health care and education. His two May 31, 2014 tweets, separately sent to both the AODA Alliance and to its chair, David Lepofsky, stated:
"Yasir Naqvi: @DavidLepofsky Yes, the next accessibility standard a re-elected @OntLiberal will develop will focus on education and health standards."
"Yasir Naqvi: @aodaalliance Yes, the next accessibility standard a re-elected @OntLiberal will develop will focus on education & health standards."
We immediately made this public. We announced this development on Twitter and in our May 31, 2014 AODA Alliance Update. We stated:
"Tweets are on the public record. We will hold the Liberal Party to this new, strengthened commitment. We know the parties track Twitter activity on the election, including ours."
We immediately and repeatedly tweeted back to confirm this both to Mr. Naqvi and to Premier Wynne. No one denied or tried to walk back this stronger commitment. We hold the Government to it.
Now, in this Mandate Letter, Premier Wynne back-tracks. She directs the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure to select either health care or education. That cuts back on what the Premier wrote us during the 2014 election. It is less than what Minister Naqvi tweeted us on behalf of the Government. People with disabilities should not have to face a cruel choice between access to education but not health care, or access to health care but not education.
It is worrisome that in imposing a duty on the Minister to lead efforts at reducing regulations on business, this Mandate Letter does not direct that accessibility regulations, such as those enacted under the AODA, are to be exempted from any cuts, to keep the Government’s promise to not cut any accessibility gains we have made to date.
4. Text of Ontario New Democratic Party’s News Release on Premier Wynne’s Leaving Many if Not Most of Her Government’s Disability Accessibility Pledges out of Her Mandate Letters to Each Ontario Cabinet Minister
NDP statement on improved access for Ontarians with disabilities
“Accessibility cannot be an afterthought for a government. But by failing to include many key promises on accessibility in Ministers’ mandate letters, this Liberal government has sent the wrong message. Rather than being a promise by Premier Wynne and the Liberal government only in election speeches, accessibility must be a real priority for this government because it means a world of difference in people’s lives. Achieving accessibility creates an inclusive society for all. Each Ministry needs to do their part if we are to reach full accessibility by the 2025 deadline, while ensuring that public money is never used to create new barriers,” said Cindy Forster, NDP critic for Community and Social Services.
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5. Mandate Letter for the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure
September 25, 2014
The Honourable Brad Duguid
Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure
Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure
Eighth Floor, Hearst Block
900 Bay Street
Dear Minister Duguid:
I am honoured to welcome you to your role as Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure. We have a strong Cabinet in place, and I am confident that together we will build Ontario up, create new opportunities and champion a secure future for people across our province. The people of Ontario have entrusted their government to be a force for good, and we will reward that trust by working every day in the best interests of every person in this province.
As we implement a balanced and comprehensive plan for Ontario, we will lead from the activist centre. We will place emphasis on partnerships with businesses, communities and people to help foster continued economic growth and make a positive impact on the lives of every Ontarian. This collaborative approach will shape all the work we do. It will ensure we engage people on the issues that matter the most to them, and that we implement meaningful solutions to our shared challenges.
Our government’s most recent Speech from the Throne outlined a number of key priorities that will guide your work as minister. Growing the economy and helping to create good jobs are fundamental to building more opportunity and security, now and in the future. That critical priority is supported by strategic investments in the talent and skills of our people, from childhood to retirement. It is supported through the building of modern infrastructure, transit and a seamless transportation network. It is supported by a dynamic business climate that thrives on innovation, creativity and partnerships to foster greater prosperity. And it is reflected across all of our government, in every area, and will extensively inform our programs and policies.
As we move forward with our plan to grow the economy and create jobs, we will do so through the lens of fiscal prudence. Our 2014 Budget reinforces our commitment to balancing the budget by 2017-18; it is essential that every area adhere to the program-spending objectives established in it. We will choose to invest wisely in initiatives that strengthen Ontario’s competitive advantage, create jobs and provide vital public services to our families. The President of the Treasury Board, collaborating with the Minister of Finance, will work closely with you and your fellow Cabinet members to ensure that our government meets its fiscal targets. The President of the Treasury Board will also lead the government’s efforts on accountability, openness and modernization as we implement new accountability measures across government.
As Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, you will help to build a strong, diversified and globally competitive economy that will provide jobs, increase productivity and result in more prosperity for all Ontarians. You will ensure that our economic recovery is being felt in all areas of the province, and by all our people — including our youth. You will support a dynamic business climate — supported and enhanced by an innovative health care sector and a dynamic education system — that will help the province continue to attract new businesses to Ontario and compete globally for jobs and investment. You will co-ordinate the province’s investments in world-class infrastructure — fostering economic growth and prosperity throughout the province.
Your ministry’s specific priorities include:
Supporting a Dynamic Business Climate on a Foundation of Fiscal Responsibility
Promoting Ontario’s existing strengths and enhancing its reputation as a destination of choice for foreign and domestic private sector investments. You will create partnerships with business through new initiatives, such as the 10-year, $2.5-billion Jobs and Prosperity Fund — and continue existing initiatives, such as the Eastern and Southwestern Ontario Development funds, and — working with the Minister of Northern Development and Mines — the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund.
Collaborating with the Minister of Finance, the President of the Treasury Board and partner ministers to develop a framework to identify and evaluate optimal partnership investments. Your goal is to strengthen the province’s approach to business supports while balancing the government’s commitment to fiscal sustainability.
Developing strategies for key-growth sectors, such as advanced manufacturing and automotive, agri-food, cleantech, financial services, information and communications technology, natural resources, tourism, media and culture. Together, these strategies will represent the government’s broader economic policy objectives and will support investment and job creation. I ask that you work in co-operation with partner ministers, industry, postsecondary institutions and the not-for-profit sector to develop these strategies.
Leading work, as the minister responsible for trade policy — in co-operation with the federal government and Canada’s provinces and territories — to find ways of reducing trade barriers and increasing exports nationally and internationally.
Partnering with the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade to increase Ontario exports and promote Ontario-made goods and services.
Working with the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade to establish a ministerial working group. You and the minister will co-chair the group, which will include the ministers of: Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs; Education; Energy; Health and Long-Term Care; Northern Development and Mines; Research and Innovation/Training, Colleges and Universities; Tourism, Culture and Sport and other ministers, as appropriate. The committee’s objective is to ensure strong collaboration and information-sharing — and maximize international trade and foreign investment opportunities.
Expanding the reach of Ontario’s exports — particularly to fast-growing emerging markets — in partnership with the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade. You will jointly pursue initiatives that expand the opportunity for Ontario firms to connect with foreign buyers and investors, showcase innovative goods and services, and find new markets.
Providing support to communities that are still recovering from the global recession, with particular focus on Southwestern and Northern Ontario. You will work with partner ministers to develop strategies to attract new investment and jobs — and connect the demand for jobs with our highly trained workforce in these areas.
Working in partnership with business and entrepreneurs to build on our existing commitment to create a strong social enterprise market in Ontario.
Continuing to work with partner ministers and industry to explore initiatives to reduce regulatory and administrative burdens, as proposed in the Better Business Climate Act, 2014. If the legislation is passed, I ask that you begin to work with key partners to develop regional cluster plans. Your goal is to adopt smarter regulatory practices without putting public safety at risk.
Continuing to implement the Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy, in partnership with the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. The strategy aims to address the youth unemployment rate by investing $295 million in measures to connect young people with promising careers — and increase opportunities for youth across the province.
Increasing the number of employment opportunities for Ontarians of all abilities by establishing new partnerships with business and persons with disabilities.
Working with partners to build an accessible Ontario by 2025. I ask that you explore options to develop new accessibility standards in the education or health sector.
Building Modern Infrastructure
Working with your colleagues in the legislature to seek the passage of Bill 6, the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act, which would establish the requirements for long-term infrastructure planning.
Leading the development of the province’s long-term infrastructure plan. You will collaborate with partner ministers to identify the government’s strategic priorities for infrastructure investment.
Prioritizing the government’s infrastructure investments — in partnership with the President of the Treasury Board — to ensure alignment with Ontario’s economic development priorities.
Continuing to support strong communities across Ontario by launching the new permanent Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund. The initiative will provide $100 million per year for investment in roads, highways and water infrastructure projects in Ontario’s small and mid-sized communities.
Developing Infrastructure Investment Strategies
Seeking opportunities to further refine our capital investment strategies for infrastructure. Your goal is to align these strategies with asset management planning, growth planning, our economic goals, environmental priorities and the needs of Ontarians.
Embracing opportunities to encourage the adoption of innovative technologies that support economic growth and long-term savings. I ask that you ensure that public infrastructure investments encourage the adoption of approaches that maximize the value of our infrastructure dollars and minimize the long-term cost of maintaining infrastructure assets — including ensuring resiliency to the impact of climate change.
Implementing the proposed Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act, 2014, if passed. The act would enshrine evidence-based, long-term infrastructure planning in Ontario and support opportunities for apprenticeships, at-risk youth and local communities.
Maintaining Models of Alternative Financing and Procurement
Continuing to refine the approach to delivering Ontario’s highly effective Alternative Financing and Procurement (AFP) model — learning from the experience of past projects and current best practices. Your goal is to ensure that AFP remains the best system possible to deliver transit and other infrastructure projects on time, on budget and to specification.
Extending Access to Natural Gas
Fulfilling our government’s commitment to create a new Natural Gas Access Loan — which will provide up to $200 million over two years to help communities partner with utilities to extend access to natural gas supplies. I also ask that you establish a $30-million Natural Gas Economic Development Grant to accelerate projects with clear economic development potential. Your goal is to provide consumers in underserved communities more energy choices, make commercial transportation more affordable, attract new industry to Ontario, and benefit our agricultural producers.
We have an ambitious agenda for the next four years. I know that, by working together in partnership, we can be successful. The above list of priority initiatives is not meant to be exhaustive, as there are many other responsibilities that you and your ministry will need to carry out. To that end, this mandate letter is to be used by your ministry to develop more detailed plans for implementation of the initiatives above, in addition to other initiatives not highlighted in this letter.
I ask that you continue to build on the strong relationships we have with the Ontario Public Service, the broader public sector, other levels of government, and the private, non-profit and voluntary sectors. We want to be the most open and transparent government in the country. We want to be a government that works for the people of this province — and with them. It is of the utmost importance that we lead responsibly, act with integrity, manage spending wisely and are accountable for every action we take.
I look forward to working together with you in building opportunity today, and securing the future for all Ontarians.
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