ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Two of Four Ontario Liberal Leadership Candidates, Nate Erskine-Smith and Bonnie Crombie, Make Commitments on Accessibility for 2.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities – Still Waiting to Hear From Yasir Naqvi and Ted Hsu
November 17, 2023 Toronto: Two of the four candidates for leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, Nate Erskine Smith and Bonnie Crombie, have made written commitments to the non-partisan AODA Alliance on what they will do to make Ontario become accessible to 2.9 million Ontarians with disabilities. Their letters are set out below in the order they were received.
In its September 28, 2023 letter to all the Ontario Liberal leadership candidates, the AODA Alliance sought strong commitments on leading Ontario to become disability accessible. The other two remaining candidates, Yasir Naqvi and Ted Hsu, have not yet responded to the AODA Alliance. We will make public any responses we receive from them.
On November 25 and 26, 2023, the Ontario Liberal Party will vote for its next leader. The outcome will be announced on December 2, 2023. As a non-partisan grass roots coalition, the AODA Alliance does not endorse, support or oppose any leadership candidate or political party. Its non-partisan goal is to get strong commitments and action from all leadership candidates and all parties.
In the last two races for leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party and in the last two leadership races within Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party, the AODA Alliance sought commitments on the accessibility issue.
This issue is especially important since there are only 411 days until 2025, the deadline that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act sets for the Ontario Government to have led this province to become accessible to people with disabilities. The January 2019 final report of the 3rd Government-appointed Independent Review of the AODA conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley and the March 2023 interim report of the 4th AODA Independent Review conducted by Rich Donovan each concluded that progress on accessibility has been far too slow to meet that deadline. Last week, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky had to resort to a Freedom of Information application in an effort to force Premier Doug Ford to make public the June 6, 2023 final report of Rich Donovan’s 4th AODA Independent Review. The Ford Government is required by law to make that report public.
The AODA Alliance thanks Bonnie Crombie and Nate Erskine Smith for making commitments on accessibility and hope that all Liberal leadership candidates will do so.
For background, read:
- The AODA Alliance’s September 28, 2023 letter to Ontario Liberal leadership candidates, listing the commitments on disability accessibility that this coalition seeks, and
- AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s November 11, 2023 Freedom of Information application which seeks to get the Ford Government to fulfil its duty under Section 41(4) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to make public the final report of Rich Donovan’s 4th Independent Review of the AODA.
- The AODA Alliance website, which documents its efforts since 2005 to get the Ontario Government to effectively implement and enforce the AODA.
- The March 1, 2023 Interim Report of the Rich Donovan 4th AODA Independent Review
- The January 31, 2019 Final Report of the David Onley 3rd AODA Independent Review
Text of the November 15, 2023 Letter from Nate Erskine-Smith to the AODA Alliance
Dear Mr. Lepofsky,
First of all, thank you for your long standing advocacy on behalf of Ontarians with disabilities. I know that your predecessor coalition, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, was instrumental in pushing for the enactment of the AODA and the AODA Alliance has continued to do important work to educate governments and hold political leaders of all stripes accountable for their accessibility progress.
To that end, our team appreciated you taking the time to brief them on your work and your policy priorities. A central part of my leadership campaign has been committing to a more substantive form of politics that listens to and benefits from external guidance. I want to hear from a diverse range of perspectives on every issue affecting Ontarians.
I can unequivocally commit that I would welcome the chance to meet with you within 60 days of my election as party leader. I would be thrilled to continue with regular meetings if I am elected as premier and would encourage relevant cabinet ministers to do the same. I don’t see this as a concession – rather it’s the only way that our leadership can rebuild trust with Ontarians.
If elected, I pledge to work closely with disability advocates and organizations to establish a comprehensive plan and set a new achievable deadline for an accessible Ontario. I understand that this is not a priority that can be delegated to lower rungs of the public service – it requires sustained attention from political leadership.
While I am still learning and seeking feedback on the most appropriate policy instruments to achieve this goal, I will use the Onley and Donovan reports as a guideline. My immediate commitments include:
- Making accessibility a priority and a responsibility shared by all ministries;
- Ensuring public money is not used to create or perpetuate barriers;
- Leading by example, including by enacting health and education accessibility standards;
- Establishing a complaint system for reporting AODA violations;
- Introducing tax incentives for accessibility retrofits to buildings; and
- Expanding employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
I know that transparency and accountability is an important aspect of this work, and I will restore the practice of publicly accessible mandate letters so that our priorities, including accessibility priorities, can be monitored and assessed by subject matter experts such as yourself.
It’s a great moral failing that Ontario will not meet its stated comment of accessibility by 2025. I hope to work with the disability community to correct for this, breathe new life into the government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA, and build a better future for Ontarians with disabilities.
Candidate for Ontario Liberal Leadership
Text of the November 16, 2023 Letter from Bonnie Crombie to the AODA Alliance
November 16, 2023
Thank you for your advocacy on behalf of people with disabilities. Your effort helps us make Ontario a better place for everyone. I applaud your and your team’s dedication, and am committed to working with you in future as the Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party and hopefully as the Premier of this great province.
People with disabilities hold immense potential. By delaying thorough implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), we are failing to help people with disabilities leverage their potential.
An Ontario Liberal Government under my leadership, will show strong leadership on accessibility issues, and breathe new life into and revitalize the AODA’s implementation. I will maintain the consistent proud practice of each Liberal Party leader over the past two decades of periodically meeting with the AODA Alliance to discuss accessibility issues, and of making election commitments in each Ontario provincial election on achieving an accessible province for persons with disabilities, in partnership with organizations like yours.
Under my leadership, the Ontario Liberal Party will not weaken or reduce any provisions or protections in the AODA, in its regulations, or any Government policies or programs that help achieve the AODA’s objectives. We will not re-open or amend the AODA. We will rather develop and implement a comprehensive plan for full and effective implementation of the AODA. Our plan will be developed in collaboration with the experts, stakeholders, and most importantly the people who live with visible and invisible disabilities.
We will also develop and implement a comprehensive set of regulations under the AODA that will set specific and measurable standards for all sectors, such as, the education and health care systems. AODA is a model piece of legislation that is an Ontario Liberal legacy, and through the comprehensive implementation plan and regulations, we will be able to demonstrate our commitment to proudly preserving it.
Enforcement of the AODA standards are equally important. Under my leadership, an Ontario Liberal government will work collaboratively with businesses, public sector, and non-profit organizations to ensure strong enforcement of the AODA principles and standards. Our effort will also involve imposing penalties for the failure to comply, and ensuring that resources and tools that are necessary for obligated organizations to implement accessibility features are available to facilitate compliance.
An Ontario Liberal government that I lead will operate on prioritizing implementation of universal design principles across the board. Public money must never be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities.
All these principles and a focus on their full implementation, and our other commitments to Ontarians with disabilities, will be clearly laid out as a priority in the mandate letters of all ministers in my cabinet.
While I have these goals that I would like to work on upon being elected as your Premier, I don’t want to stay silent on this issue between now and 2026. As soon as I get elected as the Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, I will start fighting for them. As part of this, I will emphasize the need to create better opportunities for students with disabilities.
We have a labor shortage in this province, and we need to make sure that people with disabilities have a fair shot at participating in the labor market. A person needs a good education to get a good job. I am running in this leadership race because I want to build an Ontario where everyone has access to equal opportunities to succeed in life. To do so, I believe we need major reform in our education system that will ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in and benefit from it. In Ontario, one out of every six students has a form of disability. We cannot build an equitable and prosperous province leaving a large chunk of our population at the sideline. Therefore, I am committed to starting my fight for improving support for students with disabilities, immediately from the moment I get elected as the Leader of the OLP.
Once again, thank you for your passionate advocacy. I look forward to meeting and engaging with AODA Alliance and other stakeholders both as the Leader of the OLP and eventually, the Premier of the province so that collectively we can build a better Ontario.
(Note: Signature of Bonnie Crombie)