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Minister Duguid Learns From Neanderthals

November 26, 2014
By Victor Schwartzman

When you last saw him in this column, assuming you read this column, Minister Brad Duguid was transported back in time by Dr. Who. However, he was not transported back to 2007 and 2005, where he intended to modify AODA and its implementation. Dr. Who had moral objections to Minister Duguids plan, and instead transported him back to Neanderthal times.

He and the Tardis disappeared, but thanks to time travel moments later the Tardis reappeared. A newly confident Minister emerged, wearing instead of his suit a bear skin. The journalists for his media conference before he went back in time were still there, so Minister Duguid strode to the microphone, smoothing his thick beard and long hair. I have just returned from living with the Neanderthals, Minister Duguid began, and Im not talking about the Opposition. I learned something from these Neanderthals. Haha.

He beamed as he continued. I was suddenly in the midst of a Neanderthal clan. Dr. Who left me there for weeks. The not quite human in the clan accepted me and taught me a lot. Everyone had to contribute but at the same time everyone was helped. Your life could depend on the next Neanderthal. They taught me we all had to work together.

I traded my clothing, piece by piece, for food, a bear skin and a spear. The clan took pity on me. I was not as big and strong. To them I was not nearly so good looking as I am here today. My forehead was not right and my jaw all wrong. And for the first time ever, no one liked my hair!

They taught me how to hunt. Groups of us went out, men and women, rain or shine. There was no waiting until the last minute or you would starve. They did not know how to grow food, so if you wanted to eat you had to hunt or eat berries. If you waited, you got weaker and then you died. I swore that when I returned I would bring that urgency with me!

I am a new man today! Things must be done tomorrow, and not next week!

Minister Duguid indicated his new sense urgency shortly after, in the Legislature. Premier Wynne stated that on AODA implementation her government was firm (not rock solid or set in concrete but at least firm and not an election promise we will keep.) She then handed further responses to Minister Duguid.

He was asked about the lack of enforcement of AODA, including the failure of businesses to fill out even basic forms and the failure of the Government to do much of anything about it. In the almost half a year hes been Minister, he had done nothing substantial. Was he not ordered to make AODA a priority?

Mr. Speaker, that order was issued loud and clear when the Premier gave me this file. This is not a side file for my ministry at all; in fact, its an absolute necessity, a priority. Thats why we just recently appointed David Onley as a special adviser on accessibility: to be a champion both inside and outside of government for us. Were determined to continue to make progress. Were talking about billions of dollars of economic opportunity that will be there for our private sector, will be there for our taxpayers, will be there for our economy if were able to achieve these very ambitious goals that weve set out to achieve. We still have plenty of work to do. With the help of David Onley, the accessibility community and others, were determined to make this happen.

A journalist then asked a question. Your main responsibility is economic development. Your statement reflected the economic potential of access, with billions of dollars for the private sector and eventually taxpayers. You did not mention people who have disabilities being among the benefiting groups.

“A momentary lapse, Minister Duguid said.

The journalist continued, apparently no longer asking a question: You have likened implementing AODA to massive societal shifts such as wearing seatbelts. If implementing AODA was as easy as changing the law about seatbelts, 70% of Ontario businesses would have filled out the required forms by now. Attitudes have to change, especially when you think halfway through the implementation process is still early. And there are other access issues than working.

Thank you. Actually, I completely agree with you. My background is not in the social services or in human beings. So we brought in David Onley to be an access champion, although Im not clear on what that means.

But I do agree there is more I must learn. To do so, I have brought in another consultant, even though my experience with Dr. Who was not quite what I expected, and we still havent signed The Flash to implement AODA in one day.

I have signed a contract with someone who can teach me the whole wisdom and humanity thing, which I agree is an important part of AODA. Next week, flying in from another galaxy to begin my training, is the Jedi Master, Yoda.

I asked him if I could have a light saber right away, but he said:

Cutting weapon today

Good idea for you not.

Needs of people must you learn

If their hearts you are to earn.

Minister Duguid then noted that he wanted to implement AODA quickly but you cannot Force such things.

Next: November In Vancouver Means Rain.

Victor Schwartzman contributes this weekly column to Accessibility News. Buy the first nine chapters of his current satirical fantasy novel, King Of The Planet, for .99 on Kindle at http://www.amazon.ca/King-The-Planet-Victor-Schwartzman-ebook/dp/B00NE0CCRC or read the earlier drafts and current chapters for free, on the King Of The Planet Facebook page. It has a 4 out of 5 star review already!

His graphic novel The Winnipeg Weakly Herald (where each chapter is one issue of a community newspaper) is serialized on the great Canadian lit site, http://www.redfez.net. He also contributes to http://www.targetaudiencemagazine.com. He has had poetry and short fiction published, has edited novels and hosts two writers circles. His email is vschwartzman@gmail.com.