November 20, 2014
When we cannot get the Government to answer important questions on the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, it is unfortunately sometimes necessary to resort to asking opposition parties to put those questions to the Government in the Legislature during Question Period. We very much appreciate that NDP MPP Cindy Forester did just that on November 19, 2014.
In an exchange in the Legislature, Ms. Forster asked Premier Kathleen Wynne why she broke her election promise to instruct her cabinet ministers to keep the Government’s duties and promises on disability accessibility. Ms. Forster confronted the Premier with the AODA Alliance’s review of the Premier’s “Mandate Letters,” set out in our October 7, 2014 AODA Alliance Update. In it we show that Premier Wynn systematically kept out of her Mandate Letters many if not most of the Government’s duties and promises on disability accessibility.
Premier Wynne ducked the question. She just talked vaguely about the Government’s commitment to disability accessibility. She said accessibility standards are being enforced and the Government will be working on new standards.
In a follow-up question, Ms. Forster asked the premier to order the Economic Development minister (who is responsible for the AODA’s enforcement) to effectively enforce the AODA. The Premier had Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid answer. He said: “That order was issued loud and clear when the Premier gave me this file. This is not a side file for my ministry at all; in fact, it’s an absolute necessity, a priority.” He pointed to the Government’s appointing David Onley to be the Government’s special advisor on accessibility.
It is good if, as Minister Duguid said, the Premier ordered him to effectively enforce the AODA, and if the AODA and disability accessibility are “an absolute necessity, a priority.” We are reminded, however, that his predecessor, Eric Hoskins, said over and over that accessibility is a “top priority” for him and the Government. Yet at the same time, Minister Hoskins and his Government were abdicating responsibility to effectively enforce the AODA, even though he and the Government knew there were rampant AODA Violations.
It is hard to understand why the Premier would systematically leave out such an “absolute priority” from her mandate Letter to Minister Duguid. The Premier’s Mandate Letters set out her priorities for each of her ministers. Minister Duguid’s answer covers only one of the many unkept promises on disability accessibility that the Government has made to us, and that were left out of Premier Wynne’s Mandate Letters.
Below we set out the exchange in the Legislature during the November 19, 2014 Question Period, and MPP Cindy Forster’s news release on this. To read the AODA Alliance’s October 7, 2014 analysis of the Premier’s Mandate Letters
We remind one and all that today is the last day to RSVP to attend the AODA Alliance’s celebration from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Queen’s Park on Friday November 28, 2014, of the 20th anniversary of the birth of the grassroots non-partisan campaign for disability accessibility legislation in Ontario. You can RSVP by email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Let’s again inspect the accessibility clock. A disturbing 367 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. This revelation came from a Freedom of Information application last year. The Government still has not made public its promised detailed plan for the AODA’s effective enforcement. The Government’s November 7, 2014 web posting on AODA enforcement includes little new. It does not constitute the promised detail AODA enforcement plan.
Two hundred and seventy-three 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 ninety days have passed 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, 450 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 230 days remain until the 2015 Games begin. Time is running out!
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Ontario Hansard November 19, 2014
Accessibility for the disabled
Ms. Cindy Forster: My question is to the Premier. When the Premier ran for the leadership, she promised 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities that she would make Ontario fully accessible by 2025. During the election, the Premier promised to instruct all ministers on their duties to meet that promise. But the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance reviewed her mandate letters, and they were shocked by the silence on full accessibility.
Why did the Premier say one thing during the election and break her promise to persons with disabilities now?
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I know that the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure is going to want to speak to this because the issues around helping people with disabilities to get into the workforce and making sure that we have an accessible society are very much a part of his mandate.
I just want to be very clear that our commitment to making Ontario accessible is firm. The reason that the accountability rests with the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure is that we know that one of the fundamental challenges for people with disabilities is accessing the labour market, becoming part of the economy, being able to use their skills and their talents. It’s a fundamental part of the work that the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure is doing, and I know that he will want to speak to the specifics.
I understand that the standards that have been put in place are being enacted and being enforced, and that we have more standards that we are going to be working on.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?
Ms. Cindy Forster: The Premier’s mandate letters give ministers their marching orders, but the letter asks the minister to do nothing but explore new standards.
Even the former minister admitted that compliance was unacceptably low; that 70% of private sector companies with 20-plus employees are in violation of the act.
Speaker, accessibility enforcement must be a real priority for this government. Will the Premier now issue an order to the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure to effectively enforce the AODA?
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure.
Hon. Brad Duguid: Mr. Speaker, that order was issued loud and clear when the Premier gave me this file. This is not a side file for my ministry at all; in fact, it’s an absolute necessity, a priority. That’s why we just recently appointed David Onley as a special adviser on accessibility: to be a champion both inside and outside of government for us.
We’re determined to continue to make progress. We’re talking about billions of dollars of economic opportunity that will be there for our private sector, will be there for our taxpayers, will be there for our economy if we’re able to achieve these very ambitious goals that we’ve set out to achieve. We’re the first jurisdiction in the world to set out in a legislative way to move forward in this way.
We still have plenty of work to do. With the help of David Onley, the accessibility community and others, we’re determined to make this happen.
November 19, 2014 News Release by the Ontario New Democratic Party
Originally posted on line at http://www.cindyforster.ca/mpp-forster-to-premier-keep-your-promises-to-ontarians-with-disabilities/
MPP Forster to Premier – “Keep your promises to Ontarians with disabilities”
Queen’s Park –Today, NDP critic for Community and Social Services, Cindy Forster, called on the Premier to keep her election promises to Ontarians with disabilities.
“When the Premier ran for the leadership, she promised 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities that she would make Ontario fully accessible by 2025. And during the election, she promised to instruct all ministers on their duties to deliver that promise,” Forster said. “But the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance reviewed the Premier’s mandate letters and they were shocked by the silence on full accessibility. Why did the Premier say one thing during the election, but break her promise to persons with disabilities now?”
Forster said the Premier’s Mandate Letters give ministers their marching orders, but the letter to the minister responsible for accessibility instructs him to do nothing but “explore” new standards. Forster added that the Liberal government is running way behind in making Ontario fully accessible by 2025, as mandated by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
“Even the former Minister admitted compliance was “unacceptably low” with 70 percent of private sector companies with 20 plus employees in violation of the Act,” Forster said. “Accessibility enforcement must be a real priority for this government. Will the Premier now issue an order to the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure to effectively enforce the AODA Act?”
For information: Laurie Orrett 416-325-7106