March 21, 2010
On March 24 and 31, 2010, the Legislature’s Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly holds its public hearings on Bill 231. That bill is the McGuinty Government’s proposed legislation for reforming Ontario’s election laws. The AODA Alliance here offers helpful tips on preparing a written or oral presentation to the Standing Committee. These tips will help you whether you are scheduled to make an oral presentation, or are just sending in a written submission, or are doing both.
Everyone is welcome to come to the Ontario Legislature at Queen’s Park to watch the Standing Committee hearings. We encourage you to come. We are especially eager for you to be present when the AODA Alliance presents for 15 minutes on Wednesday, March 31, 2010 starting at 12:30 noon.
The public hearings are in Room 151 at the Legislature. They only run from noon to 3 p.m. on the two days set for the public hearings. If you cannot attend in person, we are told that they may be shown on the following Fridays on the Ontario Legislature TV channel, hopefully available on your local cable TV service.
Remember that even though its too late to book a chance to make an oral presentation if you haven’t booked one already, its certainly not too late to send in a written submission. Those can be sent to the Standing Committee up until March 31, 2010. We encourage you to send in a written submission, even if it’s just a 1-page or even one paragraph short note or email. For example, you might wish to just let the Standing Committee know in writing if you support the AODA Alliance’s brief on Bill 231. If you have time to add any additional ideas or feedback for the Standing Committee, that would be great. You can see or download that brief at:
To see Bill 231: Download 1209 Bill 231 Doc
To send in a written submission to the Standing Committee, whether via email or regular mail, use this contact information.
Ms. Tonia Grannum, Clerk
Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly
Fax (416) 325-3505
Everyone’s contribution matters. This is your most important opportunity to have your say. After the Standing Committee holds these hearings, it will decide what amendments to make to Bill 231.
SUMMARY OF WHAT THE AODA ALLIANCE HAS SAID ABOUT BILL 231
In 2007, Premier McGuinty, the Conservative Party and the NDP each promised us an accessible election action plan. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires a fully accessible Ontario by 2025. That includes fully accessible provincial and municipal elections. 2025 is less than 15 years away.
Bill 231 does not ensure fully accessible elections now or ever. All it does for disability accessibility is:
- Section 23 permits Elections Ontario to use accessible voting machines. It does not require Elections Ontario to ever use these machines. The Government has given no budget for buying these machines. Section 23 seriously restricts what kinds of machines can be used. It would not allow telephone voting.
- Section 32 lets Elections Ontario do research and hold conferences on accessibility. It does not require Elections Ontario to do this. No law is needed for Elections Ontario to do research or hold conferences. We need more than conferences and research. We need accessible polling stations, ballots, all candidate’s debates and campaign information.
- Section 25 allows for “special ballots i.e. mail-in ballots, and home visits by Elections Ontario to a voter who cannot go to a polling station due to disability. This is an improvement. However, the bill does not require the special ballot to be fully accessible, or the use of portable accessible voting machines. We do not know how easy it will be to get Elections Ontario to do a home visit, or if Elections Ontario will have enough staff if many ask for home visits.
- The bill does not require polling stations to be fully accessible. Elections Ontario does not have a stellar record in providing fully accessible polling stations.
- The bill does not provide for adequate monitoring or enforcement, to ensure that Elections Ontario does what it is supposed to do.
- The bill does not require that all-candidates’ debates be accessible to persons with disabilities.
- The bill does not address accessibility of municipal elections, where voters and candidates with disabilities face the same barriers as they face in provincial elections.
The AODA Alliance has called for Bill 231 to be strengthened to:
- Make it effectively ensure the removal and prevention of all barriers impeding voters and candidates with disabilities in provincial elections;
- Make comparable provision requiring removal and prevention of the barriers that impede voters and candidates with disabilities in municipal elections. These are typically the same barriers as arise in provincial elections;
- Provide effective monitoring and enforcement to ensure that there is full compliance with these accessibility requirements.
You can see all our 23 recommendations in Appendix 1 to our brief, at the link above.
TIPS FOR YOUR ORAL AND/OR WRITTEN SUBMISSIONS TO THE LEGISLATURE’S STANDING COMMITTEE ON THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY ON BILL 231
Whether making an oral or written submission or both, consider these tips.
- Public hearings give you a chance to take part in the democratic process of making new laws. This is not an intimidating formal process. It is the avenue for residents of this province to go to a public meeting and share their ideas with their elected politicians. Don’t be nervous. Enjoy it. You can make a real impact!
- Decide what you ultimately want to achieve by your presentation before you prepare it.
- It’s helpful to divide both your written and oral presentation into these parts:
- Explain a bit about who you are, and if you speak for an organization, what the organization does and what expertise it has in the area of disability barriers.
- Let the Standing Committee know what overall you think of Bill 231. Let the Standing Committee know if Bill 231’s disability accessibility provisions, summarized above, will ensure fully accessible provincial and municipal elections for voters and candidates with disabilities by 2025, less than 15 years from now. Let the Standing Committee know if this is enough to be the accessible elections action plan that Premier McGuinty promised us in the 2007 election.
- If you think Bill 231 should be amended to be strengthened, state what your objectives are vis à vis the amendments. Say, for example, “We would like to see this bill strengthened to achieve the following goals.” Think at this point not in terms of the bill’s legal language, but what results you would like the amendments to achieve in the real world.
- Feel free to let the Standing Committee know what you think of the proposals to strengthen Bill 231 in the AODA Alliance’s brief on Bill 231, also summarized above. We are hoping that as many people as possible will support our brief, and of course, will add their own ideas too. You might wish to point out any of the AODA Alliance’s proposals that you think are especially important.
- Let the Standing Committee know what specific areas for improvement of the bill are your top priorities.
- If there is specific wording in the bill you would like to see changed, feel free to point this out. However, don’t be worried if you don’t want to get into that kind of detail. Many people who write to a Standing Committee or who appear before it do not get into that detail.
- Limit your suggestions to things the Ontario Legislature can do. For example, this bill and the Standing Committee can’t deal with issues that are the responsibility of the Federal Government, like federal elections.
- Don’t be afraid to suggest amendments. This bill is not being presented to persons with disabilities as a “take it or leave it” deal i.e. where we must either totally endorse it “as is” or must fear that the Government will withdraw it.
- These hearings are only taking place in Toronto. The Standing Committee will need to hear as much as possible from you about the situation about accessibility of elections outside the province’s biggest city as well.
TIPS FOR YOUR ORAL PRESENTATION
- Ask the Standing Committee Clerk in advance how long you get to speak. We understand that you only get 12 to 15 minutes to present, including time for MPPs to question you. This is VERY SHORT. It goes by very quickly. You should identify in your own mind right away the 3 or 4 key points you want to make. That is all you’ll be able to cover in the short time.
- You might bring along a printed summary of what your organization does, who all the presenters are in your delegation, and what their job titles or backgrounds are. Bring at least 20 copies with you to hand out. By giving out this printed information to the Standing Committee at the start of your presentation, you can let the MPPs quickly read it over to themselves, rather than taking up precious time giving long introductions. You can also fax or email this in advance, and ask the Clerk to give all Committee members copies of your handout.
- Get right to the point. Make your introduction short and to the point. Otherwise you will find that you have spent half of your time just saying who you are, what your organization does etc. Forget the wind-up. Just get to the pitch!
- Don’t spend time belabouring things you know the Standing Committee has heard over and over again. Especially if you are presenting later in the hearings, after the MPPs have heard several presentations, you might wish to quickly state that you agree with certain points that others have repeatedly made, list them quickly, and then get on to addressing the new key points that you want to add. To this end, it is strongly recommended that you get to the hearings as early as possible on the day you are presenting. Watch the presentations that come before you. See what others have said so you don’t eat up your time repeating them.
- Hit the important themes in your oral presentation. You can give more background and detail in your written submission, if you also do a written submission.
- Make concrete suggestions of how to improve the bill. Identify ones that matter the most to you.
- MPPs want to hear about your own personal stories about accessibility or inaccessibility and elections in Ontario. Use these examples to illustrate why the amendments you seek are needed. Show how your proposals would improve the bill, and would help vis à vis the examples of barriers you provide.
- Decide how much of your allotted time you want to spend making your presentation, and how much time you want to leave at the end for MPPs to question you. The MPPs rotate among the three parties in asking questions. Don’t be surprised if an MPP’s questions might be preceded by the MPP giving long introductory remarks. You are not required to leave time for questions from the MPPs. If you use up all your time, they can not ask any questions. Some presenters prefer to use all their time making their presentation, and leaving no time for questions, because some MPP “questions” are more like speeches that eat up all the remaining time. It is up to you whether you want to leave them the chance to do that.
- If an MPP asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, or aren’t sure, remember that this is not a test! Feel free to say that you don’t know. You can also offer to get back to the Standing Committee with an answer afterwards e.g. by sending in a written note to the Standing Committee using the address above.
- Remember your audience at these hearings are elected MPPs. Remind them how important fully accessible elections are to voters like you.
- Make your presentation bring to life the real world experience of persons with disabilities who face barriers in elections as a voter or candidate. Remember that the MPPs will be hearing many presentations, one after the next. To keep their attention, paint a vivid, human picture for them of why we need Bill 231 substantially strengthened and the improvements you support. Let them know why this issue matters to you.
- Don’t assume that before you make your oral presentation, the MPPs have already read your brief if you submitted it in advance. They will be getting many briefs and will be hearing from a number of presenters.
- To prepare for your oral presentation in advance, try to summarize to a family member or friend in literally one minute what you are asking the Standing Committee to do to improve the bill. If you don’t like how it sounded, try again!
- Bring others to accompany you during the presentation. If you are speaking for an organization, bring as many staff, board members and volunteers as you can. As important as the word spoken by the presenters, can be the showing of support by others in the room. You certainly can briefly tell the Standing Committee about the contingent that is there with you.
- If you are doing a presentation as an individual, don’t feel that your message will have less force than presentations made by organizations. During public hearings in the past on disability accessibility legislation, some of the most powerful and memorable presentations were made by individuals speaking for themselves. If you are speaking as an individual, remind the MPPs that you appear before them as symbolic of thousands and thousands of other voters in their ridings.
- If you have a disability that requires you to have more time than the minutes allotted to you, let the Standing Committee know in advance and ask for an extension of time to accommodate your disability.
- Let your local media know in advance of your upcoming presentation, and about the hearings generally. Don’t assume the media knows about these hearings and plans to cover them. Urge them to attend.
ADDITIONAL TIPS FOR YOUR WRITTEN SUBMISSION
These tips are helpful whether you are just sending in a written submission or if you also are making an oral presentation to the Standing Committee.
- There are no formal rules on what your written submission needs to include.
- You can make your submission as short as you wish. Some suggest the shorter submissions are more likely to get thoroughly read. (Of course, you are getting this advice from the AODA Alliance, who has a track record of submitting very long documents, and ironically calling them “briefs!”)
- Be sure to include in the brief your contact information in case the Standing Committee wants to follow up with you or ask further questions.
We hope these tips are helpful. Let us know. Send us your feedback at: