Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
AODA Alliance Sends an Open Letter to the Candidates for Leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, Seeking Specific Commitments on Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities
January 11, 2020
Happy new year to one and all. Although the new year has scarcely begun, we’re already back at it, sleeves rolled up, plowing ahead with advocacy to tear down the barriers that people with disabilities too often still face. Here is the first news for you in 2020.
At its party convention starting on March 7, 2020, the Ontario Liberal Party will choose its next leader. Today, we wrote an open letter to all the candidates for Ontario Liberal leadership, which we set out below. In it, we ask each candidate to make commitments on making our society accessible for people with disabilities. We will make public any responses that we receive.
We will not endorse, support or oppose any candidate. As always, our non-partisan goal is to get strong commitments from all the leadership candidates, whatever be their party.
This is certainly not the first such leadership race in which we have used this strategy. When the Ontario Liberals last had a leadership race, in 2012-13, we did the same thing. In that leadership race, all six candidates made written commitments to us. During the two leadership races held by the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party since then, we deployed the same strategy. In both of those leadership races, none of the candidates answered our request for commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities.
Stay tuned for lots more news on accessibility issues over the next days, weeks and months. There have now been 345 days, or over eleven months, since the Doug Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has still failed to announce a plan to implement that report. The AODA’s mandatory 2025 deadline for Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities is now less than 5 years away.
In this new year, we welcome your feedback as much as ever! Write us at [email protected] Tweet us at @aodaalliance. Check us out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/
Text of the January 11, 2020 Open Letter from the AODA Alliance to All Candidates for Leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
Email: [email protected]
January 11, 2020
To: Candidates for Leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party
Steven Del Duca
Email: [email protected]
Email: [email protected]
Email: [email protected]
Email: [email protected]
This open letter to all candidates for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal party seeks each candidate’s commitments on disability accessibility. These commitments would aim at ensuring that Ontario achieves the goal of full accessibility for some 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities on or before 2025, the end date that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) requires by law. We will make public all responses we receive to this open letter.
In the last race for leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, back in 2012-2013, all six leadership candidates made written commitments to us on accessibility for people with disabilities. We hope that each candidate in this leadership race will do the same.
Some 2.6 million people with disabilities in Ontario still face too many barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get around in our community, or enjoy the goods, services and facilities that are available to the public. This hurts all Ontarians. Everyone either has a disability now or is bound to get one later as they age. That is why we often say that people with disabilities are the minority of everyone.
The Ontario Liberal Party can be proud that when it formed Government in 2003, it had committed to pass strong new Ontario accessibility legislation, working in consultation with Ontario’s disability community to design it. Ontario’s Liberals can also be proud that in 2005, the Legislature unanimously passed the AODA, and shortly afterwards, got a good start on implementing it.
However, after that, progress slowed. It got mired in the bureaucracy. Since then, Ontario has made some progress on accessibility for people with disabilities. However there is still a great deal to be done to achieve the goal of full accessibility by 2025 that the AODA requires of us all.
Ontario is far behind reaching full accessibility by 2025. One year ago, the final report of the Government-appointed Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, made strong findings about this. Based on public feedback, Mr. Onley found that the pace of change since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” The Onley report found that “…the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” Progress on accessibility under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”
Mr. Onley found “…this province is mostly inaccessible.” The Onley report correctly concluded:
“For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”
The Onley report in substance found that there has been a protracted, troubling lack of Government leadership on this issue, even though two prior Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews called for renewed, strengthened leadership:
“The Premier of Ontario could establish accessibility as a government-wide priority with the stroke of a pen. Our previous two Premiers did not listen to repeated pleas to do this.”
As of this letter’s date, the current Ontario Government under Premier Doug Ford has not strengthened or accelerated the AODA’s implementation or enforcement. It has not shown the new revitalized leadership on this issue that Ontarians with disabilities need. If anything, progress has slowed even more.
What We Ask of You
We are eager to ensure that the next Ontario Liberal Party leader will fully maintain the Liberal Party’s past commitments on disability accessibility, and will build on those commitments. We would be delighted if you could simply give a “yes” answer to the following questions. We realize that in a busy leadership campaign, you may not be in a position to write more extensively than that on these questions:
- We have welcomed face-to-face meetings with the past two Premiers, Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne, to discuss accessibility issues (in addition to face-to-face meetings with different cabinet ministers, successive Secretaries of Cabinet, and other senior government officials).
If you become your Party’s leader, will you maintain the practice of personally meeting with us to discuss accessibility issues, in addition to our meetings with your appropriate caucus members? As part of this, will you meet with us within 60 days of becoming your party’s leader, so that we can brief you on these issues? If your Party is elected to form the Government, will you as Premier agree to periodically meet with us, in addition to our meeting with appropriate cabinet ministers?
- Under your leadership, will your Party make it a priority to press the current Government to keep its commitments and fulfil its duties on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities?
- In Ontario elections, will you continue the practice of the last three Ontario Liberal Party leaders, of making specific election commitments to us on the issue of achieving an accessible province for persons with disabilities, in letters to us?
- Under your leadership, will the Liberal Party fully maintain the implementation of the AODA 2005 and not weaken or reduce any provisions or protections in that legislation or regulations enacted under them, or any Government policies, practices, strategies or initiatives that exist to implement them or achieve their objectives?
- Will you keep the past commitments that your Party has made to Ontarians with disabilities regarding disability accessibility, including e.g. its previous commitments to effectively enforce the AODA? We set out links to those commitments below.
- Under the AODA, three Government-appointed mandatory Independent Reviews have examined the Government’s implementation of the AODA. These were conducted in 2009-2010 by Charles Beer, in 2013-2014 by Prof. Mayo Moran and in 2018-2019 by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. All three reports called on the Government to revitalize and breathe new life into the implementation of the AODA, and for the Government to show strong new leadership on this issue. The Moran report and the Onley Report specifically recommended that Ontario’s Premier should show strong new leadership on disability accessibility. (See a quotation later in this letter)
If you become Ontario’s Premier, will you show new, strong leadership on accessibility and breathe new life into and revitalize the Government’s implementation of the AODA?
- Each premier sends Mandate Letters to each of his or her cabinet ministers, setting out their priorities. In your Mandate Letters, will you direct your cabinet ministers, the Secretary of Cabinet and other senior public officials to implement your Government’s duties and commitments on disability accessibility?
- If you become Premier, will you ensure that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility for persons with disabilities by 2025, the deadline that the AODA requires? Should your party form the Government at a time when it is too late to achieve that deadline, will you commit to get Ontario as close to being accessible as reasonably possible by 2025? In that event, will you also commit to work with us and to take any needed action, including passing new legislation, to set a new achievable deadline and to institute measures that will ensure that it is achieved (and that will not weaken or reduce any provisions or policies then in place)?
- The Moran and Onley reports expressed concerns that public money has been used to create new accessibility barriers against people with disabilities. Will you commit that under your leadership, public money will not be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities?
- Ontario voters and candidates with disabilities still face too many barriers in provincial and municipal elections. Under your leadership as premier, will the Government bring forward new measures, including new legislation, to ensure that provincial and municipal elections in Ontario are fully accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities?
Who Are We?
As a volunteer grassroots non-partisan community coalition, the AODA Alliance does not seek to get any party or candidate elected. We do not endorse or oppose any candidate for leadership of any party.
Founded in 2005, we united to achieve a fully accessible Ontario for over 1.7 million Ontarians with disabilities, through the prompt and effective implementation of the AODA. Our supporters include persons with disabilities, people who have not yet gotten a disability, and community organizations concerned with the rights of persons with disabilities in Ontario.
Our predecessor coalition was the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee (ODA Committee). From 1994 to 2005, the ODA Committee spearheaded a province-wide accessibility campaign. It led to the enactment of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 (passed by the Mike Harris Government), and later, the AODA (passed by the Dalton McGuinty Government).
Our leadership on the issue of accessibility for people with disabilities, as well as that of our predecessor coalition, has been repeatedly recognized by all parties in the Ontario Legislature, as well as by the media. We have been recognized as a leading non-partisan grassroots voice in Ontario, that advocates to make Ontario a fully disability-accessible province.
We have also given our input on these issues to the Federal Government, and to those addressing these issues in Manitoba, Nova Scotia and British Columbia. Our input has also been sought from others outside Canada, including in Israel, New Zealand and the European Union.
The Ontario Liberal Party’s Past Commitments on Accessibility For Ontarians With Disabilities
Starting in 1995, the Ontario Liberal Party has made written election commitments on accessibility legislation for persons with disabilities, in each of the past seven Ontario general elections. These commitments were set out in letters from the leader of the Ontario Liberal Party to the ODA Committee in the 1995, 1999, and 2003 elections. After the ODA Committee wound up in 2005 with the passage of the AODA that year, the Ontario Liberal leader made these commitments in letters to its successor coalition, the AODA Alliance, in the 2007, 2011, 2014 and 2018 Ontario general elections.
On October 29, 1998, the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed a landmark and historic resolution setting out eleven important principles that a strong and effective Disabilities Act should fulfil. That resolution was introduced into the Legislature by Liberal MPP Dwight Duncan, at the request of our predecessor coalition, the ODA Committee. Right after that resolution was passed, Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty took part in a joint Queen’s Park news conference with ODA Committee Chair David Lepofsky. At that news conference, Mr. McGuinty, then Ontario’s Opposition leader, committed that a Liberal Government would implement a Disabilities Act that fulfilled that resolution.
To see the Ontario Liberal Party’s election commitments on disability accessibility in the 1999 Ontario election, visit http://www.odacommittee.net/letters/march26-99.html
To see the Ontario Liberal Party’s election commitments on disability accessibility in the 2003 Ontario election, visit http://www.odacommittee.net/news80.html#letter
To see the Ontario Liberal Party’s election commitments on disability accessibility in the 2007 Ontario election, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/newsub2011/liberal-party-writes-aoda-alliance-with-election-commitments-regarding-disability-accessibility/
To see the Ontario Liberal Party’s election commitments on disability accessibility in the 2011 Ontario election, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/new2011/read-the-ontario-liberal-partys-august-19-2011-letter-to-the-aoda-alliance-setting-out-its-2011-election-commitments-on-disability-accessibility/
To see the Ontario Liberal Party’s election commitments on disability accessibility in the 2014 election, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/new2015-whats-new/may-14-2014-letter-from-liberal-party-leader-premier-kathleen-wynne-on-her-partys-2014-disability-accessibility-election-pledges/
To see the Ontario Liberal Party’s election commitments on disability accessibility in the 2018 election, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/read-the-may-14-2018-letter-from-the-liberal-party-to-the-aoda-alliance-setting-out-its-2018-election-commitments-on-accessibility/
The Ontario Liberal Party’s leadership race concludes on March 7, 2020. We would very much appreciate a response to these questions by February 15, 2020. Please send your response by email to [email protected] and please attach it as an accessible MS Word file. Do not send it as a PDF as that format presents accessibility problems. We would be delighted to give you and your team any background information on this issue that you request.
We look forward to working with the leaders and members of all Ontario’s political parties now and in the future on the shared goal that all the major parties have endorsed, of achieving a fully accessible Ontario on or before 2025.
David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont,
Chair AODA Alliance