Wynne Government Ignores Yet another Election Promise to Over 1.8 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

November 7, 2014


The Ontario Government under Premier Wynne has ignored yet another election promise to over 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities. On Thursday, November 6, 2014, the Government appointed a new person to serve as the Assistant Deputy Minister of Government Services for Inclusion and Accessibility. Despite the Government promising three years ago to appoint a fulltime Assistant Deputy Minister for Disability Accessibility in that Ministry, this is NOT a full time disability accessibility position. Helping steer the Ontario Government and Ontario Public Service to becoming fully disability-accessible is only a part of this public official’s responsibility.

“This has become a frustrating recurring theme in our dealings with this Government,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan, grassroots AODA Alliance, which campaigns for accessibility for people with disabilities. “leading the Ontario Government to at last become a disability-accessible employer and service-provider is a full time job, not a part-time job. The Wynne Government is required by law to lead Ontario to become fully accessible for people with disabilities by 2025, but Ontario is still woefully behind schedule.”

In the 2011 Ontario election, Premier Dalton McGuinty promised in writing that his Government would establish a FULL TIME assistant deputy minister at the Government Services Ministry to be responsible for achieving accessibility within the Ontario Government. In his August 19, 2011 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out his Government’s 2011 election disability accessibility pledges, Premier McGuinty wrote:

“•         We will create a full-time Assistant Deputy Minister position in the Ministry of Government Services responsible for accessibility, and we will continue to consider options and advice on how to modernize our government structure to promote accessibility. The ADM will pay particular attention to breaking down the barriers and silos experienced across government when implementing accessibility initiatives.”

Premier McGuinty’s August 19, 2011 letter to the AODA Alliance

Since that time, the Government has never created that promised full time position. Instead, it has remained downgraded as a part-time responsibility, diluted with other important diversity responsibilities such as promoting equality within the Ontario Public Service of other equality-seeking groups.

It is an especially cruel irony that back in 2009, the Government had full time disability accessibility Assistant Deputy Minister to fill that role. When that individual moved on to another job in the 2010 fall, the Government wrongly downgraded it to a part-time responsibility. We immediately made that public, and called for this full time position to be restored. To read our initial revelation of this news on December 1, 2010.

Premier McGuinty’s 2011 election promises to us, including the promise to revive this as a full time position, remain alive to this day. When she was running for leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, Kathleen Wynne pledged to us in writing on December 3, 2012 that she would keep all of her Party’s prior commitments on disability accessibility. Kathleen Wynne’s December 3, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance.

“We brought this specific unkept election promise to the attention of the Minister of Government and Consumer Services some two months ago,” said Lepofsky. “We asked him to ensure that this promise is finally kept.”

In the AODA Alliance’s September 12, 2014 letter to Government and Consumer Services Minister David Orazietti, which remains unanswered, this coalition described this unkept pledge, and then wrote:

“Over three years have passed since that solemn pledge. Yet this position has still not been restored as a full time position. It is only a part time position, part of the duties of the Government’s Chief Diversity Officer. It is important that this immediately be restored as a full time position.

The 2010 Report of the Charles Beer Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act declared that this full time position was “vital.” At present, your Ministry is running a competition for the position of Chief Diversity Officer. We urge you to intervene now to ensure that the promised fulltime disability accessibility position is restored.

The Ontario Public Service is now behind schedule for ensuring that it becomes a fully-accessible service provider and employer on or before 2025. Getting the Ontario Public Service back on schedule is a full time job, not a part time job. Leaving this as a part time job loudly sends the wrong message to the public and the Ontario Public Service at all levels.

We regret that we had to take the unusual step in 2011 of approaching the Premier for an election commitment, to get this full time position restored. It is extremely frustrating that the Minister and Ministry of Government Services have so openly ignored an explicit, clear election commitment of the premier of Ontario, for over three years. You are the minister responsible for ensuring that this unkept promise is at last finally kept.

This position would be considerably more effective if it were not only full time, but if, as well, it was designated as a full deputy minister or at least, as an associate deputy minister. We need this official to be at the table as an equal with all other deputy ministers across Ontario, to help ensure that the Premier’s 2011 pledge is kept, to ensure that accessibility is taken into account as a fundamental principle in all vital decisions taken with the Government that affect the daily lives of Ontarians.”

The AODA Alliance’s September 12, 2014 letter to the Minister of Government and Consumer Services.

The Government had a ready opportunity to keep this three-year-old promise. Over the past weeks, it held a competition for this position. It could have easily acted then to designate this as a full time disability accessibility role. Instead, the Government decided to yet again ignore this election promise to Ontarians with disabilities.

This gets added to the growing pile of unkept promises to Ontarians with disabilities on disability accessibility. For example:

* In the 2014 Ontario election, Premier Wynne promised in writing that she would direct her cabinet ministers to fulfil the Government’s duties and promises on disability accessibility. Yet, her September 25, 2014 Mandate Letters, setting out her marching orders for each cabinet minister, systematically leave out many if not most of the Government’s promises on disability accessibility. For our detailed analysis of Premier Wynne’s September 25, 2014 Mandate Letters, showing that they leave out many if not most of the Government’s disability accessibility pledges.

* In the 2014 Ontario election, Premier Wynne promised to establish a toll-free phone number for members of the public to call to report violations of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Fully 177 days have passed since she made that pledge in her May 14, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance. Yet no toll free number has been announced.

* In the 2014 Ontario election, Premier Wynne promised in writing that public money would not be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities. Yet the AODA Alliance revealed last August that the Government has designed several subway stations on the new Eglinton Crosstown public transit line with accessibility/safety barriers. To learn more about the accessibility/safety issues with the Eglinton Crosstown public transit line, visit http://www.www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/new2015-whats-new/toronto-star-reports-that-metrolinx-designed-underground-eglinton-lrt-stations-with-troubling-and-preventable-barriers-to-disability-accessibility-and-safety-metrolinx-refuses-to-change-these-plans/

Premier Wynne’s May 14, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out the Government’s disability accessibility promises in the 2014 election.

For a detailed documentation of the Ontario Government’s record of breaking promises to Ontarians with disabilities on disability accessibility, read the AODA Alliance’s June 30, 2014 brief to the Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act which the Government appointed University of Toronto’s Dean Mayo Moran to conduct.

Contact: David Lepofsky aodafeedback@gmail.com www.www.aodaalliance.org
Twitter @aodaalliance