Published Sept 22, 2011
Richard J. Brennan National Affairs Writer
The Tories are the only mainstream party refusing to commit to advancing the cause of making Ontario a fully accessible province, says a lawyer and disability rights advocate.
In a Sept. 13 letter to Tim Hudak, David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, admonished the Progressive Conservative leader.
“Our non-partisan community coalition asked each party to commit that if elected, it would move Ontario forward, not backward, on the road to becoming fully accessible for over 1.5 million Ontarians with disabilities (by 2025),” Lepofsky wrote.
“Only your party declined to commit to this.
“Please reconsider. In this election, our hard-won gains towards making Ontario fully accessible are at risk.”
Lepofsky told the Star “at the very least we would like a commitment that we won’t lose what we have now.”
Hudak said in a statement to the Star that the party recognizes the challenges Ontarians with disabilities have and has addressed it in its election platform.
“That’s why Changebook commits to streamlining Ontario’s ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) system, which will condense its many different rules for a more effective system. This will make the system fairer for society’s neediest and for all Ontarians.”
The very first question from the alliance asks the parties if they “promise not to cut what we have gained?” Lepofsky said.
“Only PCs didn’t agree not to cut gains we’ve made. Only PCs don’t agree to any steps to strengthen implementation of the 2005 Disabilities Act, and to
effectively enforce that important law,” Lepofsky said in his letter to Hudak.
“We appreciate the PCs saying you’d work with us on our issues. Yet that falls far short of what we’ve requested, and of what other parties promise,” he
said referring to the non-committal response he received from the campaign.
In comparison the Liberal campaign responded: “We will ensure that we maintain and or strengthen the current provisions and protections in the AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) or any regulations enacted under the legislation.”
The New Democrats and the Green Party made similar commitments.
Lepofsky said in his letter he remembered former Tory premier Mike Harris during the 1995 campaign promising to pass a disabilities act in his government’s first term. It was until six years later that it introduced a “weak accessibility law” in 2001 that went nowhere.
It wasn’t until four years later that the Liberal government unanimously passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, “a new, stronger
and enforceable” bill requiring Ontario to be fully accessible by 2025.