May 29, 2013
Current issues surrounding the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act came up in the Ontario Legislature on Tuesday, May 28, 2013. Some news is more promising. Some is more frustrating. During Question Period, NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo put questions to Economic Development, Trade and Employment Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins, the new minister responsible for implementing and enforcing the AODA. Later in the day, to mark National Access Awareness Week (which runs from May 26 to June 1, 2013), Minister Hoskins made his most detailed statement since taking on responsibility for implementing and enforcing the AODA. This was followed by responses by Conservative MPP Toby Barrett and NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo.
The Minister had invited some from the disability community to be present for his statement. From his speech, it appears that a handful attended. American Sign Language interpretation was provided for those speeches. Because the Minister’s office issued its invitation under 24 hours before these speeches, people needing accessible transit may not have been able to arrange to attend on such short notice.
Below we set out a transcript of what was said. But first, we give you a summary of the highlights:
1. The Good News
* In his National Access Awareness Week speech, the Minister stated that fulfilling his accessibility mandate is his “top priority.” He stated: “As the minister now leading our government’s efforts to make Ontario more accessible and inclusive, I would like to take this opportunity to state clearly and unequivocally that accessibility is a top priority for me, for my ministry and for our government.”
This is good. However, it is important to consider the other points addressed below, to assess how much this “top priority” has translated into prompt and effective action to obey the law and keep the Government’s accessibility pledges. It will also be important to see whether the Minister’s allocation of time and energy to the accessibility issue reflects this top priority.
* Also very significant in that one sentence quoted above is the fact that Minister Hoskins described himself as “the minister now leading our government’s efforts to make Ontario more accessible and inclusive.” Later in that speech he added: “accessibility can’t be seen as the work of only one minister. We can’t accomplish our goal of full accessibility when we work in silos. So I will be working with my colleagues across government to further the cause of greater accessibility through activities like the social assistance review and the Pan and Parapan Am Games. And within government, we must work to remove any remaining barriers.”
In the past, there has been no one minister with that designation. Instead, we had one minister responsible for implementing and enforcing the AODA (e.g. by developing and implementing accessibility standards). In addition, other responsibilities for accessibility were scattered over many other ministries. No one had lead responsibility for all accessibility.
The 2010 Charles Beer Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation saw that this was a problem. It called for one minister to be designated as having lead responsibility for all accessibility issues across the Government. We endorsed that recommendation. We spent the past three years trying to convince the Ontario Government to implement that recommendation. Until May 28, 2013, we had gotten nowhere.
Minister Hoskins’s describing himself in these terms on the floor of the Legislature on May 28, 2013 is the first time we have seen that recommendation in effect implemented. Better late than never! We will happily take him up on this, and will look to him to play that leadership role regarding accessibility issues across the Government, not merely in the important area of developing, enacting and enforcing AODA accessibility standards.
* It is very good that Minister Hoskins said that he has directed the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment to include accessibility in to all that they do. In his National Access Awareness Week speech, he said: “It means that the goal of greater accessibility must be integrated into all that we do as a ministry, and I have instructed my ministry to do just that.”
This is something we have been urging his Ministry to do since December 2011. On December 2, 2011, we wrote the previous minister to urge this. The previous minister wrote us back, but never specifically responded to that recommendation or said he would act on it. We look forward to the Minister making public the concrete new actions that his ministry implements as a result of this ministerial direction.
The AODA alliance’s December 2, 2011 letter to the former Economic Development and Trade Minister is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12052011.asp
The former Economic Development and Trade Minister’s January 16, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05042012.asp
* It is also good that Minister Hoskins has said that he and his ministry will reach out to the private sector to work on increasing employment for people with disabilities. In his National Access Awareness Week speech, he said: “In our efforts to work with business across the province to create jobs, we must also work to improve the participation rate for people with disabilities in the workforce. It’s the right thing to do, and it makes economic sense, because if our economy is to be vibrant, if we are to thrive and if our society is to be truly fair, all Ontarians must have the opportunity to contribute. Many businesses understand this. There are numerous examples of employers who get the economic case for hiring people with disabilities—an economic and business case that has been demonstrated in study after study.
But as a ministry and as a society, we must do more to help employers understand that business case and to improve access to employment. We must do that in our conversations with business and through robust public education.”
While this is a positive step, it is not really very new. His Government has been saying similar things for years.
Moreover, public education of the private sector is but a small part of what is needed. For example, we need the employment accessibility standard that the Government enacted in June 2011 to be effectively enforced. On that score, the Government remains silent. We also need the Government to develop, enact and enforce a new Education Accessibility Standard, so that more job-ready people with disabilities are available in the workforce. Again, the Government has been silent for years on this proposal of ours.
Minister Hoskins went on in that same speech to say: “Talk is important, but it will only get us so far. We need action. So I have instructed my ministry to develop a strategy for accessible and inclusive employment so that we can all work together to improve the participation rate of Ontarians with disabilities in the workforce.
One way we have started is by ensuring that voices from the accessibility community will be heard at the youth jobs round tables taking place across the province in the coming weeks.
I’m excited to work with employers and the accessibility community, not only to raise the profile of the issue of employment, but to take action and to get results.”
We emphatically agree that talk isn’t enough, and that action and results are needed. However the action needed is for the Government to at last keep all its unkept commitments to us on accessibility, including those regarding effective implementation and enforcement of the AODA itself.
* We commend Minister Hoskins for committing to seize on the opportunity to expand Ontario’s outreach to global markets with accessibility products that are produced in Ontario. This is one of the reasons why we supported the shift of the accessibility portfolio to the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Innovation. In his National Access Awareness speech, he said:
“There are also opportunities that we must seize in the area of business and especially trade. Because of our province’s commitment to accessibility and inclusion, we have a thriving business sector producing goods and services for people with disabilities. I saw this yesterday at the Ontario Centres of Excellence Discovery conference, where I presented awards to young innovators who have come up with new goods and services that will make our communities more inclusive and more accessible.
As we encourage companies to go global with their products, we must do the same for companies producing goods and services focused on accessibility.”
We emphasize that his new and positive effort should not be restricted to accessibility products. He and his ministry and Government should be sure that this strategy extends to all goods and services across Ontario, to ensure that they are designed to be usable by people with disabilities. He should work with Ontario businesses to always produce goods and services for sale in Ontario and around the world that incorporate principles of “universal design” so that everyone can use them.
This needs to go well beyond accessibility products i.e. adaptive technology that is solely targeted at users with disabilities. For example, all consumer electronics should be equipped for use by people with disabilities as well as people without disabilities.
* It is good that both the opposition Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats raised our concerns in their responses to Minister Hoskins’ speech, and that NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo also raised our specific concerns in Question Period. PC MPP Toby Barrett also appeared to draw upon information posted in our recent AODA Alliance updates as he focused on the lack of effective enforcement of the AODA. NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo addressed a range of examples where the Government has fallen short for people with disabilities.
2. The Not-So-Good News
* In Question Period, Ms. DiNovo asked Minister Eric Hoskins when he would be appointing the mandatory Independent Review of the AODA. By law, that Independent Review must be appointed by this Friday, May 31, 2013. On Twitter, we have been running a daily countdown to that mandatory deadline.
Answering Ms. DiNovo’s question, Minister Hoskins did not commit to appointing this Independent Review by the legal deadline. He said: “I look forward to having an announcement in the very near future.” In his detailed speech later in the day to mark National Access Awareness Week, he said nothing about this mandatory Independent Review. He gave no more specifics on whether he would obey the law and appoint this Independent Review by the mandatory May 31, 2013 deadline.
To learn more about why it is so important for this Independent Review of the AODA to be appointed on time, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05242013.asp
* When answering NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo’s questions, Minister Hoskins noted that in the 2010 final report of the last Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by Charles Beer, it was recommended that the upcoming review be extended to four years after the 2010 Beer Report, rather than three years as the AODA now requires. Minister Hoskins stated: “So we’re actually moving faster than his recommendations to do this, to appoint a reviewer, to determine the scope.”
The Minister’s implication that the Government is thereby acting faster than expected and is ahead of the game would be quite incorrect. It is true that in his 2010 final report, Charles Beer recommended that the next Independent Review of the AODA be pushed back to four years after his report, not the AODA’s requirement of three years. However, the Government never accepted that recommendation. Moreover, we strenuously opposed it.
Even more significant, the Government would have had to amend the AODA to extend that deadline. The three year deadline which is reached on May 31, 2013 is required under the AODA itself. It is the law. We have made it clear to the Government for some time that we do not want any AODA provisions for which we campaigned so long and so hard to be re-opened, and we certainly don’t want any weakened.
Still more compelling, for the Government to have amended the AODA to delay the appointment of the next AODA Independent Review for another year would have broken commitments made by Dalton McGuinty, by Kathleen Wynne, and by Dr. Hoskins himself. On August 19, 2011, Dalton McGuinty wrote us while running for re-election. He pledged not to weaken any AODA protections. In her December 3, 2012 letter to us, Kathleen Wynne, campaigning to lead her party, made the same pledge. In his December 19, 2012 email to us, Dr. Hoskins, also campaigning to lead his party, made the same pledge as well.
It is hardly being ahead of the game for the Government to simply not breach promises made to us, and to not break the law.
To read Dalton McGuinty’s August 19, 2011 letter to the AODA Alliance, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/090220111.asp
To read Kathleen Wynne’s December 3, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out her pledges to Ontarians with disabilities, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12032012.asp
To read Dr. Eric Hoskins’ December 19, 2012 email to the AODA Alliance, setting out his pledges to Ontarians with disabilities, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/01072013.asp
* Minister Hoskins also said during Question Period that the Government is now deciding on the scope of the Independent Review of the AODA. He stated: “We’re in the process of determining the scope of that review, again, based on Charles Beer’s recommendations in 2010.”
This admission is a sign of very troubling Government tardiness. That Independent Review must be appointed in the next two days. The Government has had three years to determine the scope of the Review. We wrote Minister Hoskins within days of his taking on this new portfolio to alert him to major accessibility priorities, including the need to appoint the next Independent Review of the AODA by May 31, 2013. To read the AODA Alliance’s February 27, 2013 letter to Dr. Eric Hoskins the new minister responsible for leading the AODA’s implementation, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/02272013.asp
Moreover, the scope of the Independent Review of the AODA is dictated in mandatory, clear and obvious terms by the AODA itself. Section 41(1) of the AODA requires that the Review “…undertake a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of this Act and the regulations and report on his or her findings to the Minister.”
* In Question Period, NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo also asked Minister Hoskins why the minister is not telling the public how many companies with at least 20 employees have filed Accessible Customer Service compliance reports under the AODA, given the Government’s failure to keep its promise to effectively enforce the AODA. The Minister did not answer this question. He also said nothing in his speech on accessibility later in the day about his plans for effectively enforcing the AODA, for which he has lead responsibility.
* In his National Access Awareness Week speech, Minister Hoskins said: “We have developed standards for customer service, information and communications, transportation, employment and the design of public spaces. These standards are now in place. We are developing new ones…” In fact, the only “new ones” now under development is the Built Environment Accessibility Standard. Even then, it is being developed for enactment as an amendment under the Ontario Building Code. We have no commitment that it will also be enacted as an accessibility standard under the AODA with all the attending rights and protections for people with disabilities.
That new accessibility standard is long overdue. In his August 19, 2011 letter to us, Premier Dalton McGuinty promised that that standard would be enacted “promptly.”
We have been asking the Government for over two years to announce the next accessibility standards that it will develop. We have for quite some time urged the Government to develop new accessibility standards for accessible health care, accessible education, and accessible residential accommodation. To date, it has still not done so. We had been hoping Minister Hoskins’ speech would announce the next accessibility standards to be developed. Regrettably, it did not.
* Minister Hoskins announced that he will ask the new Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC) to review the current Customer Service Accessibility Standard. In his National Access Awareness Week speech, Minister Hoskins said: “We will be asking the new combined Accessibility Standards Advisory Council/Standards Development Council to review the customer service standard as a first order of business.”
This is certainly not news. It is the Government’s legal obligation to be doing this now. Getting this underway has been delayed because for the past six months, the Government has inexplicably delayed the appointment of all the members of ASAC. It closed the competition for those positions at the end of last November. It announced in January of this year that the new ASAC would be appointed, but only then announced the selection of its chair, Jim Sanders.
Back on May 26, 2013, the Government told us that the rest of the ASAC members would be appointed “soon.” Yet, in the Legislature on May 28, 2013, Minister Hoskins made it clear that that process is not yet completed. In his National Access Awareness Week speech, Minister Hoskins said: “I’m pleased to say that members of the new council have been invited and are enthusiastically signaling their acceptance. We look forward to announcing the committee members very, very shortly.”
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ONTARIO HANSARD MAY 28 2013
ACCESSIBILITY FOR THE DISABLED
Ms. Cheri DiNovo: My question is to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment. Eight years after the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was passed, people with disabilities continue to be denied service at restaurants and stores in cities like Toronto and Windsor. Advocates fear the government is failing to properly implement and enforce the act. In fact, the law requires the minister appoint an independent review panel by May 31 to review implementation of the act and get Ontario back on schedule for full accessibility. Has he done that?
Hon. Eric Hoskins: I thank the member opposite for this very relevant and important question. I know she is as proud as I am of the AODA, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, that was passed in this Legislature in 2005. In fact, Ontario was one of the first jurisdictions, as she knows, in the world to actually go from a complaints-based regime to a more proactive regulatory regime. We reviewed, as was required under the legislation, several years ago—I think the report was presented in 2010. The reviewer at that time was Charles Beer. I’m happy, in the supplementary as well, to talk specifically about what his recommendations were and how we’ve moved on both those and the specific question that the member opposite asked.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?
Ms. Cheri DiNovo: I repeat: The minister is to appoint an independent review panel by May 31 and he has not done that. In effect, this government is breaking its own law. It has in fact also promised to effectively enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and it’s not doing that, either. Companies with more than 20 employees are supposed to have reported their customer service policies to the ministry by now. But the minister won’t say how many companies actually filed these mandatory reports.
Why is the minister refusing to provide this basic information and breaking the law by not setting up the independent review?
Hon. Eric Hoskins: Well, as the member opposite has indicated, the AODA requires a review every three years. When reviewed back in 2010, again, Charles Beer, a very outstanding reviewer, actually recommended strongly that we delay the next review until the spring of 2014. Mr. Speaker, we’re not going to do that. We’ve decided that this is important and that we’re going to review this this year. We’re in the process of determining the scope of that review, again, based on Charles Beer’s recommendations in 2010. So we’re actually moving faster than his recommendations to do this, to appoint a reviewer, to determine the scope.
I look forward to having an announcement in the very near future.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment for a point of order.
Hon. Eric Hoskins: Mr. Speaker, as you’re aware, this week is National Access Awareness Week, and I believe we have unanimous consent that during statements by the ministry and responses today, sign-language interpreters may be present on the floor of the chamber to interpret the proceedings.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The minister is seeking unanimous consent for the interpreters to be on the floor of the Legislature. Do we agree? Agreed.
Thank you, and that is at ministers’ statements time.
ACCESSIBILITY FOR THE DISABLED
Hon. Eric Hoskins: Mr. Speaker, please allow me first to introduce some guests in the House today. Joining us today in the public gallery, I’m pleased to introduce: Dean Walker from the Ontario Association of the Deaf; Lori Archer, also from the Ontario Association of the Deaf; Gordon Ryall, from the Canadian Hearing Society; Gary Malkowski, who you introduced already and who of course is a former MPP, currently with the Canadian Hearing Society; and Mr. John Hendry, who is an author.
I’d also like to welcome all viewers who were not able to attend today but who are watching the broadcast proceedings.
Sunday marked the beginning of National Access Awareness Week. It’s a time for the people of this province to reflect and act on our shared goal of making Ontario truly accessible. And, of course, it’s a time for us to celebrate the work accomplished since this Legislature passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005.
Ontario is one of the first regions in the world to take a proactive approach to accessibility. We have developed standards for customer service, information and communications, transportation, employment and the design of public spaces. These standards are now in place. We are developing new ones, and we are well on our way to achieving an accessible Ontario by 2025.
We have accomplished much, but there is still much more work to be done.
In the speech from the throne, our government announced that we would move the Accessibility Directorate to the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment.
As the minister now leading our government’s efforts to make Ontario more accessible and inclusive, I would like to take this opportunity to state clearly and unequivocally that accessibility is a top priority for me, for my ministry and for our government. We now have an opportunity to begin, in a serious and deliberate way, to look at issues of greater accessibility and inclusion through an employment lens. What does this mean? It means that the goal of greater accessibility must be integrated into all that we do as a ministry, and I have instructed my ministry to do just that. This is something our government is strongly committed to.
In our efforts to work with business across the province to create jobs, we must also work to improve the participation rate for people with disabilities in the workforce. It’s the right thing to do, and it makes economic sense, because if our economy is to be vibrant, if we are to thrive and if our society is to be truly fair, all Ontarians must have the opportunity to contribute. Many businesses understand this. There are numerous examples of employers who get the economic case for hiring people with disabilities—an economic and business case that has been demonstrated in study after study.
But as a ministry and as a society, we must do more to help employers understand that business case and to improve access to employment. We must do that in our conversations with business and through robust public education.
Talk is important, but it will only get us so far. We need action. So I have instructed my ministry to develop a strategy for accessible and inclusive employment so that we can all work together to improve the participation rate of Ontarians with disabilities in the workforce.
One way we have started is by ensuring that voices from the accessibility community will be heard at the youth jobs round tables taking place across the province in the coming weeks.
I’m excited to work with employers and the accessibility community, not only to raise the profile of the issue of employment, but to take action and to get results. But if we are to get results, accessibility can’t be seen as the work of only one minister. We can’t accomplish our goal of full accessibility when we work in silos. So I will be working with my colleagues across government to further the cause of greater accessibility through activities like the social assistance review and the Pan and Parapan Am Games. And within government, we must work to remove any remaining barriers.
There are also opportunities that we must seize in the area of business and especially trade. Because of our province’s commitment to accessibility and inclusion, we have a thriving business sector producing goods and services for people with disabilities. I saw this yesterday at the Ontario Centres of Excellence Discovery conference, where I presented awards to young innovators who have come up with new goods and services that will make our communities more inclusive and more accessible.
As we encourage companies to go global with their products, we must do the same for companies producing goods and services focused on accessibility.
Through these and other measures, we will build on the results that we’ve already achieved, including through the five accessibility standards we’ve introduced, but we will also ensure that these standards are having the best possible impact.
We will be asking the new combined Accessibility Standards Advisory Council/Standards Development Council to review the customer service standard as a first order of business. I’m pleased to say that members of the new council have been invited and are enthusiastically signalling their acceptance. We look forward to announcing the committee members very, very shortly.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud of what we have achieved. We should all, as a Legislature and as a province and as a society, be proud of what we have achieved together. I am proud of what we will achieve as we work toward a fully accessible, inclusive Ontario by 2025.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Statements by ministries? Last call for statements by ministries.
It is now time for responses.
Mr. Toby Barrett: As we’ve just heard, it has now been eight years since this Ontario government followed the lead of the PCs with the PC government’s Ontarians with Disabilities Act—in this case, with the passage of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. While in some ways we’ve moved forward, many disabled advocates are wondering if lately we haven’t just been spinning our wheels.
With one in seven in Ontario living with a disability—it’s a number projected to be one in five within the next two decades—there is an understanding among all of the vital need in this case to ensure Ontario’s buildings and services are open and accessible to all residents.
In recent years, we’ve been told of the implementation of the AODA’s customer service standard. We see troubling stories continuing to come to the fore, reinforcing the need to get this plan back on track.
The Windsor Star reported recently of a local retail outlet restricting access to the store by a patron using a motorized chair. As they reported, the store’s staff did not want people in motorized wheelchairs in the store; they were concerned they would damage products that were there for sale.
Just two weeks before that, the Toronto Star reported a Toronto restaurant restricting access to a patron with hearing loss who was using a hearing ear dog. The patron and two friends having lunch were reportedly told they’d have to sit outside or sit upstairs because of this dog that was at work and were also told that either he or the dog could go outside.
So there remains a disconnect, Speaker. Government has talked the game, but when it comes to accessibility, many of the early returns are far from convincing.
For instance, where are we on the compliance of the five standards to support the act? The customer service accessibility standard required organizations and businesses to file reports of their plans—plans for compliance with the standard—as well, a written accessibility policy. All private sector organizations of 20 or more employees were supposed to submit this by December 31 of last year. So questions remain: How many of these have been filed? How many have not? The bottom line? Will there be enforcement of this act or is the act destined to become somewhat of a toothless tiger?
Disability advocates are calling on the government for effective enforcement of the act—for the standard in place now and for anything coming down the road. They’re waiting for government to meet the act’s requirements for mandatory review. Again, when exactly will members be appointed to the mandatory Accessibility Standards Advisory Council, so the mandatory review of the customer service accessibility standard can get under way? When will the appointment be announced for the next independent review of the AODA? Again, government is required to make appointments by May 31. It’s now May 28; time is running out. The concern remains that while days pass by, government’s commitment to accessibility and enforcement to ensure that accessibility seems to be growing weaker.
You know, Speaker, words like “access” and “accessibility” mean much more than just removing barriers. They mean a change in attitude and supports that allow all disabled—all of those with mobility, sensory, non-visible and intellectual disabilities—to be part of community life, and obviously work life. We all understand that required change for accessibility is not going to be brought in overnight, and the truth is, it never will be brought about without the commitment and, importantly, enforcement of government to ensure that these goals are reached.
Speaker, we await progress towards the standards for employment, for transportation, information, communication; it’s so important. We ask government to get on at least with the one standard that is in place and back up the words with action. Get on with the job of creating accessibility for those of us in the province of Ontario who have disabilities.
Ms. Cheri DiNovo: In fact, this government is in breach of the law where their own law is concerned. The review that you heard my colleague speak about that’s due this week, the 31st, when I asked the minister about it in question period this morning, he had no answer. He’s not going to do it. That’s breaking the law—breaking the law where people with disabilities are concerned. That independent review panel was said to be struck and was asked to be struck. It won’t be struck; it’s not happening.
What’s also not happening? The backdrop to these comments: 23,000 people in Ontario—more than anywhere else in Canada—languish on lists waiting for services. A hundred and fifty families, according to the Ombudsman in 2005, and it’s worse since then, had to give up their children—their children—with disabilities because they could not access services. Is this the Ontario that meets the needs of those with disabilities? I say absolutely and categorically no.
Those who exist—and exist they do—in dire poverty on Ontario disability actually make less now: 18% less than they did in 1993, when adjusted for inflation. That is unacceptable. It is actually in contravention of the United Nations, and we are a signatory to the United Nations rights of those with disabilities. It’s also breaking that law.
So here we have an act, unenforced, as you heard my colleague say. In fact, everybody here, I’m sure, has heard from people in their ridings—I certainly have—of people being denied services in businesses, in restaurants, because of their dogs or because of their chairs or because of their needs; that is ongoing.
In fact, I turned out for a wonderful walk that happens every year in High Park, sponsored by the Lions Club, for guide dogs and their owners. All of them came to me with the same complaint and that is if you have a seeing-eye dog, you might be in luck, but if you have a therapy dog, good luck getting that dog access to the places of employment, the places of service, that you need. That is Ontario, and that Ontario is not an Ontario that is truly accessible, not even close.
I could go on. I could talk about the 1,450 parents who are over the age of 70 who are still looking after their children with severe disabilities. What will happen to those folk, those children and adults with disabilities—who need around-the-clock care, in many instances—when their parents or caregivers die? Good question. No answer, in the province of Ontario.
What will happen to families like the Telfords, who, going forward, cannot get help for their children and their family members? This government has no answer.
The $42 million that was in the budget to help with those on the waiting lists for services accounts for 14% only—14% only—of those people on the waiting lists.
I haven’t even talked about the people who work in the field, those people who bravely staff agencies, who are paid slightly over minimum wage, who are not having either pay equity acknowledged or raises acknowledged, who are understaffed, who are chronically—as are most of their agencies, chronically; a third of all agencies in the province—understaffed and in deficit.
This is not the province that is accessible and that is positive towards those who live with disabilities.
So, just to sum up, what have we done? The answer: Something. Not much, perhaps. Where do we need to go? A long, long way. What do we need to do? A whole lot more before we’re even in compliance with our own laws, never mind the lofty goals of the United Nations and all of those who truly care about doing something, and not just spinning something, about rights for those who live with disabilities.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I thank all members for their statements.
I’d like to offer my thanks to the interpreter who has agreed to be on the floor, and we show our appreciation to them. Thank you very much.