Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
On the Eve of the International Day for People with Disabilities, the Ford Government Publicly Admits in the Legislature It Needs to Do a Lot More to Lead Ontario to Become Accessible to People with Disabilities
December 3, 2021
On December 2, 2021, Opposition NDP MPP Joel Harden pressed the Ford Government in the Legislature during Question Period on what it plans to do to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires. He did so to mark the next day, December 3, which is the International Day for People with Disabilities. Below we set out what was said in the Legislature.
MPP Harden highlighted the AODA Alliance’s November 22, 2021 letter to Ontario party leaders. It sets out the election commitments that we seek from all the Ontario party leaders in advance of the June 2022 provincial election. It also recognizes that because of years of Government foot-dragging and broken promises, Ontario will fail to become accessible by the AODA’s 2025 deadline.
Premier Ford was not in the Legislature to answer MPP Harden’s questions. The Government House leader, Paul Kalandra answered on behalf of the Government. Kalandra has no involvement in the AODA’s implementation.
MPP Kalandra admitted that the Government needs to do a lot more. He committed that the Government will come forward “very soon” to announce what more it would do. He gave no indication of when that might be.
In the meantime, as of today, the International Day for People with Disabilities, an inexcusable 1037 days have passed since the Ford Government received the blistering final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has still announced no comprehensive plan of action to implement the Onley Report.
Ontario Hansard December 2, 2021
ACCESSIBILITY FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
Mr. Joel Harden: My questions is for the Premier. Tomorrow marks International Day for Persons with Disabilities. It’s a time to celebrate the contribution that people with disabilities and the disability rights movement have made to this province, but there is a painful sadness this year. For the first time in a letter to the leaders of Ontario’s political parties, the AODA Alliance has acknowledged with frustration that the Ontario government will fail to meet its obligation to ensure that Ontario becomes fully accessible to the 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, which is what the statute here requires. This is due to years of stalling and broken promises by Liberal and Conservative governments since the Legislature unanimously passed the AODA in 2005.
My question to the Premier, Speaker, through you: Will this government lay out what specific steps this government is prepared to take during its last remaining months in office to fulfill its duty to make Ontario accessible to people with disabilities?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): To reply for the government, the government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: I do appreciate the question from the member opposite. I know he has been a very powerful critic in the role and also, in many instances, a partner with the minister in helping him understand issues of importance to the community.
Look, I acknowledge that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done across the province of Ontario, and we are continuing to work on that. There are a number of reports that have highlighted that, I would suggest both federally and provincially and with our municipal partners.
Look, there’s a lot of work that has to be done. I suspect it’s something that we will continue to focus on here at home in our own Legislature over the next little while, but I don’t want to give the member an answer that doesn’t befit how important this issue is. It is very important to the minister. It is something that we are working on, and I do appreciate the urgency of it.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.
Mr. Joel Harden: I appreciate that answer, but acknowledging that we’re falling short on accessibility for 2.6 million people in this province and that we won’t hit the target we’re required to hit by 2025, I’m just going to say to this government, to any government that comes after, that doesn’t mean we shrug our shoulders and give up. This acknowledgment that the AODA Alliance has made does not mean we can’t stop pursuing vigorously the things we need to pursue.
The Hon. David Onley gave this government a report 1,000 days ago, more than 1,000 days ago, and in this report Mr. Onley describes soul-crushing barriers facing people with disabilities in Ontario in health care, in school, in employment, in their usage of public space.
We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Onley and people before him have shown us the way. What we need is a plan in the last six months of this Parliament. I’ve risen in this space, as the House leader mentioned, and I’ve offered my own plan.
My question is, will you embrace it or will you propose your own? That’s what people with disabilities and their families want, and we need an answer.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: Speaker, again I do appreciate that. We have started obviously with aging in place and ensuring that, at home, people can make retrofits to their own homes that will allow persons with disabilities or persons who need assistance at home can make the retrofits at home, so we can start there.
I know the minister in charge of the Ontario Trillium Foundation is also ensuring there’s significant investments that go to community organizations across the province. The minister responsible for seniors and disability has also a number of programs to help kick-start in a number of ways this very important work.
But as I said, look, I acknowledge there is more work to be done. Many of the new long-term cares—obviously all of the new long-term care homes that we are bringing into the province are going to be completely accessible, are going to have all of the features that you would have expected many years ago.
I acknowledge there is more work to be done. The Onley report highlighted it. Our minister responsible is getting that work done, and I’m sure we’ll have more to say very soon.