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Wynne Government Makes Limited Accessibility Amendments to 11 of Ontario’s 750 Statutes, but Unjustifiably Rejects 11 Additional Accessibility Amendments the NDP Proposed at Our Request

What Are the Wynne Government’s Future Plans to Keep Its Promise to Find and Fix the Accessibility Barriers in All Ontario Laws?

 

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

 

May 9, 2016

 

SUMMARY

 

In April, 2016, the Wynne Government made modest amendments to eleven Ontario laws to address some accessibility barriers in those laws. We encourage you to read the text of the Wynne Government’s actual amendments to 11 Ontario statutes, included in its 2016 Budget bill.

 

We commend the Government for making these changes. However, we are deeply concerned at the snail’s pace for reform, the Government’s failure to screen legislation with sufficient care, and the lack of any announced plans for reviewing Ontario laws for accessibility problems.

 

In the 2007 Ontario election, some nine years ago, Ontario’s Liberal Government promised to review all Ontario laws for accessibility issues and problems. This promise was repeated again in the 2011 and 2014 elections.

 

These were very praiseworthy commitments, for which the Government deserves credit. However, its agonizingly slow and weak action to fulfil those commitments is a matter of deep concern.

 

Below we set out a detailed analysis of progress to date. In summary:

 

* After nine years, the Government has only reviewed a mere 51 of its 750 statutes, passed by the Legislature, for accessibility problems. It has not said it has reviewed any of the many Ontario regulations enacted by Ontario’s Cabinet. This snail’s pace is inexcusable.

 

* This is one of many examples that show why Ontario lags so far behind schedule for reaching full accessibility by 2025. At this rate, it could take the Ontario Government at least a century to review all of the remaining 695 Ontario statutes, and all the many Ontario regulations, for accessibility issues.

 

* Any progress to date has come only after the AODA Alliance has mounted sustained pressure on the Government.

 

* Of the 51 statutes that the Wynne Government has reviewed, it only made changes to a mere eleven of them. That is far too little corrective action. The ARCH Disability Law Centre has documented a troubling number of other accessibility problems in those 51 laws that needed corrective action.

 

* In the eleven laws that the Government did amend, it only found and fixed some, but not all of the accessibility barriers and problems that needed action. To its credit, Ontario’s New Democratic Party proposed a further eleven amendments to the eleven laws that the Wynne Government was prepared to address. To its credit, the Ontario Conservative party supported the NDP amendments.

 

However, the Wynne Government used its majority in the Legislature to defeat all the NDP proposals. It did so for meritless reasons that let a bureaucratic mentality triumph over accessibility.

 

The Wynne Government voted these amendments down even though the Government said in the Legislature that it agreed with the policy goals in most of them. For example, the NDP proposed that the Legislature further amend each of the eleven laws that the Liberals brought before the Legislature, to ensure that documents posted on Government websites are fully accessible to people with disabilities. The Government said it agrees with that policy. Yet the Government has a troubling practice of failing to consistently ensure the accessibility of its web content, even eleven years after the AODA was passed.

 

As a stunning example, the Wynne Government voted down amendments to ensure that online documents regarding Freedom of Information are accessible. Yet Freedom of Information is all about the accessibility of information!

 

* It was the AODA Alliance that got the Ontario Government to commit to review all Ontario laws for accessibility problems. It was the AODA Alliance that has pressed the Government for nine years to keep this promise.

 

In earlier years, the Government commendably accepted the AODA Alliance’s offer to help train public servants to review Ontario laws for accessibility problems. However, over the past year, the Wynne Government unfairly left the AODA Alliance out of any substantive discussions over the past year and a half of which laws to amend of the 51 that it first reviewed, and what amendments to make. This was so despite two successive Liberal Premiers praising the AODA Alliance as a positive partner in its efforts on accessibility.

 

* The Wynne Government has announced no plans on how and when it will complete its promised accessibility review of all other Ontario laws. It is important for the Wynne Government to now make clear its plans for reviewing the remaining 695 Ontario statutes for accessibility issues, as well as all of Ontario’s many regulations. We wrote Premier Wynne to find out her plans, back on March 15, 2016. She has not answered our letter.

 

Below you can find our detailed analysis that supports these conclusions. At the end of this Update are links to key background information.

 

You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at aodafeedback@gmail.com

 

Have you taken part in our “Picture Our Barriers campaign? If not, please join in! You can get all the information you need about our “Picture Our Barriers” campaign by visiting www.aodaalliance.org/2016

 

To sign up for, or unsubscribe from AODA Alliance e-mail updates, write to: aodafeedback@gmail.com

 

We encourage you to use the Government’s toll-free number for reporting AODA violations. We fought long and hard to get the Government to promise this, and later to deliver on that promise. If you encounter any accessibility problems at any large retail establishments, it will be especially important to report them to the Government via that toll-free number. Call 1-866-515-2025.

 

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Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting the AODA Alliance website.

 

Please also join the campaign for a strong and effective Canadians with Disabilities Act, spearheaded by Barrier-Free Canada. The AODA Alliance is proud to be the Ontario affiliate of Barrier-Free Canada. Sign up for Barrier-Free Canada updates by emailing info@BarrierFreeCanada.org

 

MORE DETAILS

Our Reflections on the Wynne Government’s Limited, Slow and Insufficient Action on its Nine-Year-Old Election Promise to Review All Ontario Laws for Accessibility Barriers

 

The March 16, 2016 AODA Alliance Update reported that in the Wynne Government’s February 25, 2016 Budget bill, were proposed amendments to 11 of the 51 Ontario statutes that the Government has checked to date for accessibility problems. The Ontario Legislature has now passed the Wynne Government’s 2016 Budget bill. It did so on April 13, 2016.

 

Thus, the Government’s proposed accessibility amendments to eleven Ontario statutes were passed. However, the Wynne Government used its majority in the Legislature to defeat 11 additional accessibility amendments that the opposition New Democratic Party proposed. The opposition Progressive Conservative Party supported the NDP’s proposed amendments. The AODA Alliance supported the NDP’s proposed amendments that the Wynne Government defeated.

 

What does this mean for our non-partisan campaign to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility for all people with disabilities by 2025, the AODA’s deadline? Here are several important reflections.

 

1. Three Successive Election Promises to Review All Ontario Laws for Accessibility Problems

 

We have had to repeatedly mount extraordinary pressure on the Ontario Government to act on its 2007 election promise to review all Ontario Laws for accessibility problems

 

The road to this point for Ontarians with disabilities has been a slow, uphill and frustrating one. Nine years ago, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty made a very commendable written election promise to 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities, and all other Ontarians who will get a disability later. In response to a request from the AODA Alliance, his Government promised to review all Ontario laws for accessibility problems and to fix those laws. In his September 14, 2007 letter to the AODA Alliance, Premier McGuinty pledged:

 

“Review all Ontario laws to find any disability accessibility barriers that need to be removed.

 

The Ontario Liberal government believes this is the next step toward our goal of a fully accessible Ontario. Building on our work of the past four years, we will continue to be a leader in Canada on accessibility issues. For Ontario to be fully accessible, we must ensure no law directly or indirectly discriminates against those with disabilities. To make that happen, we commit to reviewing all Ontario laws to find any disability barriers that need to be removed.”

 

Nine years later, the Ontario Government has only said that it has reviewed 51 of Ontario’s statutes. It has not said that it has reviewed any of its many regulations, which are also “laws.” When the Legislature passes a law, it is called an “Act” or a “statute.” When the Cabinet makes a law, it is called a “regulation.” Many statutes give Cabinet power to make specific kinds of regulations to add specifics to a statute.

 

For several years, from 2007 to late 2010, we tried with little or no success to find out who was responsible for conducting this review, and what was being done about it. Eight years ago, in 2008, the Government said it was developing a tool for screening laws for accessibility barriers. By 2010 the Government said it had a screening tool developed.

 

Over five years ago, on April 4, 2011, the Government held a training session for public servants who would, as of that time, be involved in conducting all or part of this accessibility review of Ontario laws. We were happy that AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky was invited to give a speech as part of that training session.

 

The Government there announced that its target for completing the review of all legislation was 2015, and for the review of all regulations was 2020. We quickly objected that those time lines were far too long. Five years later, the Government has not come even close to meeting them.

 

In his August 19, 2011 letter to us, setting out the Ontario Liberal Party’s 2011 disability election commitments, Premier Dalton McGuinty made a second election commitment regarding the review of all Ontario laws for accessibility problems. He promised:

 

“We are committed to completing our review of all legislation for accessibility barriers and, through the work of a central team, we will ask ministries to report on their progress as part of their annual performance plans. We will also pursue strategies to address defined barriers in an efficient and suitable manner.”

 

On January 18, 2012, Government Services minister Takhar wrote to the AODA Alliance, stating in part:

 

“The government is also committed to ensuring that no Ontario law creates accessibility barriers to people with disabilities. As such, we have committed to reviewing all of our legislation and regulations to identify and remove any such barriers. In April 2011, all ministries participated in training for multidisciplinary teams on how to use the OPS Inclusion Lens to review laws for accessibility barriers. Ontario has over 750 acts and more than 1500 regulations. We recognize the desire to proceed promptly, and we are committed to conducting a review of all legislation. Currently, the OPS Diversity Office and the Ministry of the Attorney General are working together to support a co-ordinated approach to this legislative review. Timelines for this review will be established early in the new year, following joint meetings of my ministry and the Ministry of the Attorney General.”

 

Almost six years after Premier McGuinty’s 2007 promise was first made, on March 21, 2013 Deputy Minister of Government Services Kevin Costante wrote us, to provide the most thorough report on progress. He wrote:

 

“I understand that you have concerns about the timelines for this review and that you would like to see progress sooner. We are moving forward with a focused approach that we feel will have the greatest and most immediate impact on the lives of people with disabilities by prioritizing the review of high impact legislation. I have spoken to the Deputy Attorney General, and he, like me, is committed to completing this phase of the review by December 2014.

 

The Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG) has the lead for this phase of the review under the leadership of the Director of the Justice Policy Development Branch. MAG has fine-tuned the tools and will provide training to ministry legal counsel and accessibility leads on the revised tools and process beginning in early April 2013. Following the review of their legislation, ministries and/or MAG will seek to introduce amending legislation in the Legislative Assembly by December 2014, if necessary. It is important that responses to similar barriers be addressed in a consistent fashion and that is why the review is being coordinated in this way.”

 

In her May 14, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out the Liberal Party’s 2014 election’s accessibility pledges, Premier Kathleen Wynne addressed this issue for the third election in a row. She wrote in material part:

 

“In addition to the review of the AODA, the government is currently conducting a legislative review with the goal of identifying and considering steps to remove any potential barriers in Ontario statutes. In the current phase of the review, 13 ministries are reviewing 51 high impact statutes. The list of high impact statutes includes statutes that affect persons with disabilities directly, provide for the delivery of services to a large group, provide benefits or protections or affect democratic or civil rights. This phase of the review will be complete by the end of 2014. We commit to addressing the findings of the review and continuing to review additional Ontario statutes to remove any potential barriers.

 

  1. We commit to making amendments to regulations to remove accessibility barriers as required based on the findings of the current review and the review of additional Ontario statutes going forward.”

2. Far Too Little Government Action Over the Past Nine Years on the Liberal Government’s Accessible Legislation Pledge

 

Premier Dalton McGuinty was absolutely correct when he declared nine years ago that reviewing all Ontario laws for accessibility problems was the next step for progressing to the goal of full accessibility for people with disabilities in Ontario. Kathleen Wynne was similarly right to commit to the AODA Alliance in her December 3, 2012 letter, while she was running for the Ontario Liberal Party leadership, that she would keep all the McGuinty Government’s earlier accessibility promises, and that she would ensure that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility by 2025.

 

The Government has now had fully nine years to work on its promised accessibility review of all Ontario laws.  Yet the Ontario Government has only reviewed 51 of Ontario’s 750 statutes in the past nine years. It has only made accessibility amendments to 11 of those 51 statutes. This shows that the Government has not given its promised accessibility review of all Ontario laws the priority and attention it deserves.

 

This is one of many examples that show why Ontario lags so far behind schedule for reaching full accessibility by 2025. At this rate, it could take the Ontario Government at least a century to review all of the remaining 695 Ontario statutes, and all the many Ontario regulations, for accessibility issues. Yet less than nine years remain before the 2025 deadline for full accessibility.  Ontarians need Premier Wynne to take charge of this issue, show strong leadership, and pull her Government out of the ditch where it has been languishing on this issue.

 

3. Insufficient Care in Looking for Accessibility Barriers in the Laws the Wynne Government did Examine

 

It is good that the Wynne Government fixed some accessibility barriers in the eleven statutes it has amended. Yet its accessibility review of the 51 statutes was clearly inadequate. It was insufficiently careful and thorough.

 

Readily available to the Wynne Government were good resources to assist. In the Ministry of the Attorney General is a Constitutional Law Branch. It has recognized expertise in constitutional rights, including equality rights. The Government also had an article on rooting out accessibility barriers in legislation, co-authored by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky and University of Western Ontario law professor Dr. Randal Graham, entitled “Universal Design in Legislative Drafting – How to Ensure Legislation is Barrier-Free for People with Disabilities.” It is published in the National Journal of Constitutional Law.

 

Adding to those resources, on September 8, 2015, the ARCH Disability Law Centre sent the Wynne Government an excellent, detailed 19 page legal analysis of the laws that had been under Government review. ARCH identified a number of troubling accessibility barriers in the statutes that the Government had been studying, and which the Government’s review appears to have missed.

 

Despite this, the Government’s limited amendments left many important accessibility problems intact. The Wynne Government has given no reason for rejecting ARCH’s call for those legislated accessibility problems to be fixed. It is informative to read ARCH’s September 8, 2015 letter to the Wynne Government.

 

4. Wynne Government Blocked Eleven NDP Proposals to Address Accessibility Barriers that the Government Had Missed

 

During legislative debates over the Government’s 2016 Budget bill, the Wynne Government     blocked commendable NDP efforts to fix more accessibility barriers in the legislation that the Government had reviewed. During clause-by-clause debate on the Government’s 2016 Budget bill at the Legislature’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, the NDP proposed further amendments to the 11 Ontario statutes that the Government addressed in that bill. The NDP proposals would fix accessibility barriers that the Government’s amendments did not fix. The Ontario Conservatives commendably supported the NDP’s proposed amendments.

 

The Wynne Government opposed and defeated every one of the NDP’s proposed amendments. The NDP proposals included obvious helpful measures – measures to which no one could credibly take exception. Thus, the Wynne Liberals, who publicly applaud themselves as global leaders on accessibility, stood alone as the opponents to further progress here. The Wynne Government gave troubling and meritless reasons at the Standing Committee for opposing these amendments. Its bureaucratic reasons cast about for excuses for a lack of boldness on accessibility. It is disturbing to read the passages of the clause-by-clause debates on April 6, 2016 at the Legislature’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, where these amendments were discussed.

 

The NDP proposed amendments to eleven laws, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Education Act, the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Homemakers and Nurses Services Act, the Ontario Guaranteed Annual Income Act, the Public Hospitals Act, the Public Vehicles Act and the Substitute Decisions Act. In each case, the NDP proposed an amendment that would provide:

 

“All documents available on a website for the information and use of the public under this act, including information directives and forms, must be available in a format that can be made accessible by any person and, as a minimum requirement, in a format that can be read by a screen text reader or can be modified by any person so that it can be read by a screen text reader.”

 

The proposed NDP amendments also provided that “…a document in portable document format does not satisfy subsection (1).’”

 

The Ontario Government has a poor record on ensuring full accessibility of its websites. Improvements have been too slow. For example, in 2015, the inaccessibility of the Government’s website for the Pan/ParaPan American Games, including its iPhone app, was a top news story.

 

As well, too many important documents are still posted on the Government’s websites in inaccessible PDF format, without also having them posted in an accessible alternate format. Stunning examples until we objected, included the 2014 Final Report of the Mayo Moran Independent Review of the AODA, the 2012 final report of the Andrew Pinto Independent Review of Ontario’s human rights enforcement system, and the much-publicized 2008 Ontario Government anti-poverty strategy.

 

Of the many important NDP amendments, one that sticks out was its proposed amendment to the Education Act. The Ministry of Education has a long practice of not ensuring equal access to important online documents in an accessible format.

 

Liberal MPP Yvan Baker was the Government’s lead spokesperson on the Standing Committee. No doubt he was reading instructions that the Government gave him, as is the standard practice at Standing Committees of the Legislature, no matter which party is in power.

 

Mr. Baker gave the Government’s reasons for voting down all of these proposed amendments. He gave this reason for opposing the first NDP motion on document accessibility, and the subsequent NDP motions to the same effect:

 

“Okay. As far as the motion goes, I think it creates an unneeded section in the AODA, because the AODA already grants regulation-making authority for the government to set accessibility standards regarding web content.

 

Through the AODA, the government has shown leadership in developing these standards as regulations and already includes detailed rules and timelines for the accessibility of web content. These standards are actually reviewed every five years by a standards development committee, as required by the AODA. So…

 

…That review is coming up in the coming year. In my view, updates and revisions are best made through this process.”

 

Speaking against a similar amendment later, MPP Baker said:

 

“Again, I recommend voting against this motion. It creates an unnecessary section in the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act. Per earlier discussion, the AODA already grants the government the regulation-making authority to set accessibility standards regarding web content. These standards, like I said earlier, are reviewed every five years. That next review is due this coming year, and that allows the government to review the latest technologies on an ongoing basis and make sure it is taking the appropriate steps.

 

I understand the policy intent and we are supportive of the intent. My disagreement with this is really based around the fact that I do not think this is the right mechanism to do that.”

 

When speaking against the website accessibility amendment that the NDP proposed to the Education Act, Liberal MPP Yvan Baker argued:

 

“Again, I think this creates an unneeded section in the Education Act. We already have the regulation-making authority to set accessibility standards regarding government web content. These standards are reviewed every five years. That review is coming up this year. That’s required by the AODA, so that review is enshrined in legislation already. My view is that updates or revisions are best made through that ongoing process. It allows us to be flexible.

 

It also allows us to be consistent. Each of the motions that you’ve brought forward touches on different acts. What the review allows government to do is to look across government at all applications and make sure that there’s a consistent approach across as well. Doing this selectively is also not the right approach.”

 

Liberal MPP Yvan Baker later added:

 

“The other thing I would clarify is that the information and communication standard under the AODA does not specify specific formats or software, like those offered by Microsoft or Adobe. Instead, it requires organizations, upon request, to provide accessible formats in a timely manner that takes into account the person’s accessibility needs due to disability and to consult with them. It doesn’t say that one format is more or less accessible than another, but instead enables flexibility in format depending on the needs of the person with the disability. What is considered accessible for a person is dependent on what that person requires.

 

The current regulation is set up in such a way that it be flexible and adaptive to people’s needs. That’s the way it’s currently set up. But again, that could be reviewed, and it’s part of this ongoing review that’s the purpose of that ongoing review which is required by the AODA as well. I think what we’re debating is not the policy intent; what we’re debating is: What’s the right mechanism to consider such a change and implement such a change? What I’m saying is that the review, which includes the appropriate stakeholders, we believe is the right way to approach something like this.”

 

Liberal MPP Baker’s arguments will read to many as insensitive, evasive and bureaucratic. They reflect an impoverished approach to disability accessibility and equality. The Government had commendably agreed in 2007 to fix accessibility problems in legislation. The Government far too often posts information in PDF format. The AODA’s accessibility standards have not stopped the Government from doing this. Whether those standards name a particular format or not does not take away from these Government-created barriers.

 

Later Liberal MPP Baker added:

 

“The first thing I’ll say is that, under the existing regulation that is already in place under the information and communication standards under the AODA, again, it doesn’t specify specific formats or software such as Microsoft or Adobe or PDF, but it does require organizations, upon request, to provide accessible formats in a timely manner that takes into account a person’s accessibility needs due to disability and to consult with them. This enables flexibility in format depending on what the needs are of the person with the disability. Of course, what is considered accessible for one person may be different for another person. For example, Adobe Reader PDFs might be perfectly accessible for someone with low vision whereas Word might be the preferred format for a person whose screen reader can’t read PDFs. Persons who don’t prefer screen readers may prefer non-electronic Braille documents, etc. Additionally, accessibility often depends on the way information is structured in a document.

 

The current regulation also refers to WCAG 2.0, which is an international standard for the accessibility of web-based content. I think that’s important to note, and that’s, again, in section 14 of the existing reg. The current process that the government has in place under the AODA grants the government regulation-setting authority to address these kinds of issues. These standards are reviewed every five years by a standards development committee required by the AODA. Half of the people on this committee are persons with disabilities.

 

The NDP amendment, first of all, doesn’t belong in legislation; this is something that belongs in regulation. At best, it would be a Band-Aid. Also, I don’t think we should presuppose the outcome of a review done by the standards development committee, which, again, is composed of persons with disabilities. They are the folks, I think, who are best equipped to consult and advise and address these standards and develop these standards, not those of us sitting here as MPPs without consultation from them.”

 

Liberal MPP Yvan Baker’s arguments let bureaucracy triumph over accessibility. There is no reason why this amendment should not be enshrined in legislation. As well, whether a PDF is accessible for some does not take away from the fact that a number of Government-created PDFS on its websites were not.

 

Moreover, it is no defense to argue that people with disabilities can always ask for an accessible format document. Why should they have to, when the Government can easily post a document on its website in both a PDF and in a fully accessible alternate format. That would let people with disabilities have as quick access to these documents as do all others.

 

NDP MPP Catherine Fife commendably argued that people with disabilities should not have to wait until the accessibility standards are reviewed, for the Government to fix this problem.

 

“We have the ability; we have the capacity, to at least ensure that accessibility is at the heart of a proceeding that would relate to compensation for victims of crimes. I do not understand, genuinely so, why the government would not use the tools that are at your disposal to make a piece of legislation and take an opportunity to at least signal to those people in the province of Ontario with disabilities that we are willing to be more flexible, because we’re asking them to be flexible every single day.”

 

Further explaining why Ontario needs the website accessibility amendments that the NDP was proposing, NDP MPP Catherine fife quoted an AODA Alliance Update, which stated:

 

“Several amendments propose to require an organization to post a notice on the organization’s website, in order to ensure that the notice is accessible to people with disabilities. However, this summary does not show that the amendments require that the website itself be accessible, and that the notice be posted in an accessible format. Too many organizations, including the … government itself, have failed to ensure full accessibility of their websites. Moreover, the timelines for website accessibility are too long, while exceptions and exemptions are too broad.”

 

NDP MPP Fife further argued:

 

“Just to be clear, there’s no cost. It’s just a shift in policy, that the government not post important pieces of legislation in PDF form, so that those at home who are trying to access the information can use those screen text readers.

 

There may be people who don’t have that technology. People obviously should have it. But for the member opposite to say that they agree with the intent is quite frustrating. If you go back to 2007, the Liberals then promised that the government would review all of Ontario’s laws for accessibility barriers. This is 2016; it’s nine years later. And this included the 750 statutes and a number of regulations. Nine years later, the government has only reviewed 51 of the 750 Ontario statutes. I don’t think the citizens of this province who can’t read through PDF form should have to wait for the AODA review to say to the government, “You should have been doing this back in 2007.” We could do this now. It’s a simple amendment that the government can support.”

 

The Liberal Standing Committee chair ruled three of the proposed NDP amendments out of order. Even though the NDP and Conservatives were supportive, the NDP could not get unanimous consent to debate and consider the three proposals which the chair ruled out of order.

 

Two of the proposed amendments were to the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act. First, the NDP proposed that it be revised to require that the board that decides on requests for compensation for crime victims be required to take specified accessibility training within six months, as follows:

 

“Every member of the board, including the chair, upon their appointment, shall undergo training, as specified by the chair, in capacity law and autonomy rights, including training in the Substitute Decisions Act, 1992, the Mental Health Act, the Human Rights Code, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 and article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

 

NDP MPP Catherin Fife explained: “This amendment minimizes arbitrary findings of incapacity.”

 

Second, the Committee chair ruled out of order the NDP’s proposed amendment to alter the range of persons to whom a compensation payment can be paid if the crime victim is incapable under the Substitute Decisions Act.

 

The third proposal that was ruled out of order related to website accessibility.

 

5. AODA Alliance Was Left Out of Any Government Discussions over What Amendments to the 51 Reviewed Laws Pass

 

The Wynne Government chose not to seriously engage the AODA Alliance in important recent discussions of which barriers need to be fixed in the 51 laws it first reviewed.

 

Early on, the Government commendably invited AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to make a presentation in April 2011 (five years ago) to a meeting of public officials, who were then tasked with working on this accessibility legislative review. After nothing appeared to come from that effort in the way of changes to any laws, the Government accepted AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s offer to give training on this issue to Ontario’s Office of Legislative Counsel (the Government lawyers who actually compose Ontario’s statutes and regulations). It was evident that they had never before received any training on this topic.

 

In 2013, the Government also commendably accepted his offer to give this training to a new team of officials from the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Ministry of Government Services, who would review the 51 statutes that the Government decided in 2013 to first examine. It seems that the Government had re-started this whole process from scratch when it embarked on its review of the first 51 statutes. We appreciated these chances for early input.

 

However, that willingness to engage in direct discussions over the substance of this review, including over what barriers to fix, petered out after this. The Government said it was to complete its review of those 51 statutes by the end of 2014. Since then, the Government did not sit down with the AODA Alliance, or to our knowledge, with any other disability community representatives, to discuss which barriers needed legislative amendments to effectively fix. As part of the Government’s June 3, 2015 announcements to mark the AODA’s 10th anniversary, the Government announced its intention to make a very limited range of amendments to Ontario legislation. Its June 3, 2015 announcement included:

 

“Introduce legislation addressing barriers to accessibility identified through a government-wide review of high-impact legislation, ensuring that government documents and appeals processes are accessible for people with disabilities.”

 

Our June 3, 2015 AODA Alliance Update responded to this announcement as follows:

 

“It is good that the Government plans to introduce legislation to fix barriers it discovered. However, if those amendments are limited to “…ensuring that government documents and appeals processes are accessible for people with disabilities,” that will disregard the vast majority of potential barriers in those laws.

 

Moreover, this Plan says nothing about reviewing the other 700 Ontario statutes and all of Ontario’s regulations for accessibility barriers. A Plan to ensure full accessibility by 2025 requires prompt and effective action on all barriers in Ontario laws.”

 

It was after that Government announcement that the ARCH Disability Law Centre sent the Government its September 8, 2015 submission, referred to above. It showed that the 51 statutes that the Government had reviewed, had far more barriers needing legislative fixes than the ones the Government’s June 3, 2015 announcement addressed. After that, the Wynne Government again did not sit down with the AODA Alliance, or to our knowledge, with anyone else from the disability community, to see whether it should expand the range of legislative barriers it would fix in those 51 laws.

 

Since it took office in 2003, Ontario’s Liberal Government has for the most part, been far more willing than this to include us in serious and substantive discussions leading to the introduction of legislation that bears on disability accessibility. There have been some troubling exceptions, such as the Ontario Government’s 2010 amendments to Ontario’s elections legislation. However, quite often the Government reached out to us, and included us in such discussions before it brought a measure forward that bore on disability accessibility.

 

As a result, Premier Dalton McGuinty wrote this about the AODA Alliance in his August 19, 2011 letter, his letter setting out his Government’s 2011 election promises on accessibility:

 

“Mr. Lepofsky, I want to once again thank you for your work and advocacy. Your ongoing advice has made a tremendous contribution to helping us make Ontario more accessible.”

 

Similarly, in her December 3, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out her accessibility pledges as she ran for leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, Kathleen Wynne wrote:

 

“I look forward to continuing to build and strengthen our relationship with the AODA Alliance. I welcome the opportunity to maintain an open dialogue and meet with you to continue to move accessibility issues forward.”

 

As well, in her May 14, 2016 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out her Government’s 2014 accessibility election pledges for the 2014 election, Premier Wynne wrote:

 

“Our government regards our current relationship with you as one of great importance and sees our partnership as a step towards fostering a more accessible and inclusive province. The Ontario Liberal Party will continue to safeguard the interests of Ontarians with disabilities and ultimately achieve our goal of full accessibility by the year 2025. We see the AODA Alliance as a principal partner in achieving this goal. My office is always happy to meet with you.”

 

Despite these encouraging words from two successive Ontario Premiers, which we very much appreciate, the Government did not engage us in a discussion of the specifics of which barriers in those 51 laws should be amended. Making this worse, we did not get a realistic chance to take part in the Legislature’s Standing Committee hearings on the bill. The Wynne Government only set three days for anyone to make a deputation to the Standing Committee on the bill. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, who has had lead responsibility on this specific issue for the past nine years, was out of town, and could not arrange an alternate date to appear.

 

To prepare for these hearings, it was not realistic to simply read the entire Budget bill. It contained many, many provisions. The disability accessibility clauses were buried in that omnibus bill.

 

We appreciate that at our request, the Government prepared for the AODA Alliance a document that sets out each of the amendments it proposed to make to deal with these accessibility issues. However the Government only gave us a plain language summary of those amendments on March 15, 2016. It only sent us the actual provisions on March 21, 2016, the day before the Standing Committee’s three hearing days.

 

We understand that it took the Government some time to prepare these documents. However, after the Government took nine years to get to this point, it is unfair to expect us to prepare and present a detailed response to proposed changes to eleven laws within a matter of days or hours. As our March 16, 2016 AODA Alliance Update stated:

 

“However, we are not now able to take part in the legislative hearings on this bill. We don’t have all the information we need from the Wynne Government. Until we see the actual amendments’ wording, we are quite limited in what we can do. Only yesterday did we receive the information set out below, including the list of the statutes the Government proposes to amend, and a plain language summary of the proposed amendments.”

 

The AODA Alliance wanted very much to take part in extensive discussions with the Government over what to include in its legislation to address accessibility barriers in these 51 statutes. We would have wanted to make a detailed presentation to the Legislature’s Standing Committee, after having appropriate time to read and analyze them. The Government’s ill-informed reasons, given at the Standing Committee, for rejecting the commendable NDP proposed amendments, showed that the Government would have benefitted from hearing from us.

 

We led the campaign to get the Government to make its election pledge nine years ago to conduct this review of Ontario laws for accessibility. We have led the nine year campaign to get the Government to act on this pledge. We have offered constructive ideas on how to conduct the review.

 

Our being denied a meaningful chance to take part in this most critical stage in the review is deeply troubling. It is not consistent with the kind and encouraging words that premiers McGuinty and Wynne expressed about the AODA Alliance, quoted above.

 

6. The Wynne Government Has Announced No Plans on How and When It Will Complete Its Promised Accessibility Review of All Other Ontario Laws

 

It is important for the Wynne Government to now make clear its plans for reviewing the remaining 695 Ontario statutes for accessibility issues, as well as all of Ontario’s many regulations. Premier McGuinty promised nine years ago that all these laws would be reviewed. In his August 19, 2011 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out his Government’s 2011 disability accessibility legislation, he reaffirmed to review “all” legislation. Premier Wynne echoed this in her May 14, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance, where she set out her 2014 disability accessibility election commitments. She referred to the fact that the Government was then reviewing the first 51 statutes for accessibility issues. She then committed:

 

“In addition to the review of the AODA, the government is currently conducting a legislative review with the goal of identifying and considering steps to remove any potential barriers in Ontario statutes.  In the current phase of the review, 13 ministries are reviewing 51 high impact statutes. The list of high impact statutes includes statutes that affect persons with disabilities directly, provide for the delivery of services to a large group, provide benefits or protections or affect democratic or civil rights.  This phase of the review will be complete by the end of 2014.  We commit to addressing the findings of the review and continuing to review additional Ontario statutes to remove any potential barriers.

 

  1. We commit to making amendments to regulations to remove accessibility barriers as required based on the findings of the current review and the review of additional Ontario statutes going forward.”

 

The 2014 final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review echoed feedback it received, signaling concern at that time about the Government’s slow pace in carrying out this promised disability accessibility review of all Ontario laws. That report included:

 

“A further concern involving the Government of Ontario itself was the slow pace of the Government’s promised review of provincial laws and regulations to identify and then remove accessibility barriers. Premier McGuinty promised this review during the 2007 election campaign and reiterated the commitment during the 2011 campaign.  In 2013 the Government stated that, by the end of 2014, 13 ministries will have reviewed 51 statutes and considered steps to remove any barriers identified.  Disability stakeholders pointed out that this leaves about 700 other statutes, as well as 1,500 regulations, still to be examined.  The Government was urged to complete the review of all legislation by 2015, and all regulations by 2016.”

 

We recently wrote Premier Wynne to find out her future plans. Premier Wynne has not answered our March 15, 2016 letter about this issue. She has had almost two months to do so. Our letter reached out to her in a constructive way to seek a way forward on the promised accessibility legislative review. In that letter, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky asked:

 

“1. Could you please indicate if your Government would be open to consider other amendments needed to address accessibility barriers that those 51 high impact statutes authorize, permit or fail to address, outside the time frame of the Budget bill? There are additional areas of barriers that need to be addressed beyond those which the Government’s proposed amendments cover.

 

  1. May we have an opportunity to make a presentation to a Standing Committee on this bill in mid to late April, after we receive the text of the actual proposed amendments and after we have the time we need to study them and prepare our feedback?

 

  1. Would your Government be open to consult with us and the disability community on other accessibility barriers that need to be addressed in connection with those 51 high impact statutes, and that the budget bill does not address? If so, can you confirm that it is with the Ministry of the Attorney General with whom we should deal.

 

  1. We commend your Government for dealing with this via omnibus legislation, rather than taking forward each bill to be amended piecemeal. To amend each bill piecemeal would take an extraordinary and excessive amount of legislative time.

 

Is your Government open to again use omnibus legislation to address other accessibility barriers, not addressed in the Budget Bill? And

 

  1. What are your Government’s plans and time lines for reviewing the other 700 Ontario statutes for accessibility barriers, and for reviewing all Ontario regulations? It is important for that work to be completed.

 

At an April 4, 2011 training session for public servants who initially were to conduct this legislative accessibility review, at which I was in attendance, a senior Ministry of Government Services official announced that each ministry was requested to complete a review of its own legislation by 2015, and a review of all regulations by 2020. We then voiced a serious concern that those time lines were too long.”

 

Less than 9 years remain until the AODA’s 2025 mandatory deadline for reaching full accessibility in Ontario. We need Premier Wynne to make sure things dramatically speed up on this promised review of all Ontario laws. This is part of the strong leadership on accessibility that the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review urged Premier Wynne to show.

 

We strongly support that recommendation. The ‘Governments snail’s pace in acting on its promise to review all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers is a clear and strong example of a broader and troubling trend that the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review identified. It observed that “(t)he pace of change is seen as agonizingly slow by persons with disabilities…”

 

7. Links to Key Background Information

 

Read the AODA Alliance’s detailed review of the Government’s promises to conduct this accessibility review of all Ontario laws, and the slow progress on it from 2007 to June 30, 2014, in Part 8 of the AODA Alliance’s June 30, 2014 brief to the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review.

 

Read the text of the Wynne Government’s actual amendments to 11 Ontario statutes, included in its 2016 Budget bill.

 

Read the ARCH Disability Law Centre’s excellent September 8, 2015 submission to the Wynne Government, presenting additional accessibility barriers that need to be fixed in the 51 Ontario statutes that the Wynne Government has reviewed to date.

 

Read the motions which the Ontario NDP presented on April 6, 2016 to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, and which the Wynne Government systematically rejected.

 

Read excerpts of the April 6, 2016 proceedings at the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, where the Co

What Are the Wynne Government’s Future Plans to Keep Its Promise to Find and Fix the Accessibility Barriers in All Ontario Laws?

 

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

 

May 9, 2016

 

SUMMARY

 

In April, 2016, the Wynne Government made modest amendments to eleven Ontario laws to address some accessibility barriers in those laws. We encourage you to read the text of the Wynne Government’s actual amendments to 11 Ontario statutes, included in its 2016 Budget bill.

 

We commend the Government for making these changes. However, we are deeply concerned at the snail’s pace for reform, the Government’s failure to screen legislation with sufficient care, and the lack of any announced plans for reviewing Ontario laws for accessibility problems.

 

In the 2007 Ontario election, some nine years ago, Ontario’s Liberal Government promised to review all Ontario laws for accessibility issues and problems. This promise was repeated again in the 2011 and 2014 elections.

 

These were very praiseworthy commitments, for which the Government deserves credit. However, its agonizingly slow and weak action to fulfil those commitments is a matter of deep concern.

 

Below we set out a detailed analysis of progress to date. In summary:

 

* After nine years, the Government has only reviewed a mere 51 of its 750 statutes, passed by the Legislature, for accessibility problems. It has not said it has reviewed any of the many Ontario regulations enacted by Ontario’s Cabinet. This snail’s pace is inexcusable.

 

* This is one of many examples that show why Ontario lags so far behind schedule for reaching full accessibility by 2025. At this rate, it could take the Ontario Government at least a century to review all of the remaining 695 Ontario statutes, and all the many Ontario regulations, for accessibility issues.

 

* Any progress to date has come only after the AODA Alliance has mounted sustained pressure on the Government.

 

* Of the 51 statutes that the Wynne Government has reviewed, it only made changes to a mere eleven of them. That is far too little corrective action. The ARCH Disability Law Centre has documented a troubling number of other accessibility problems in those 51 laws that needed corrective action.

 

* In the eleven laws that the Government did amend, it only found and fixed some, but not all of the accessibility barriers and problems that needed action. To its credit, Ontario’s New Democratic Party proposed a further eleven amendments to the eleven laws that the Wynne Government was prepared to address. To its credit, the Ontario Conservative party supported the NDP amendments.

 

However, the Wynne Government used its majority in the Legislature to defeat all the NDP proposals. It did so for meritless reasons that let a bureaucratic mentality triumph over accessibility.

 

The Wynne Government voted these amendments down even though the Government said in the Legislature that it agreed with the policy goals in most of them. For example, the NDP proposed that the Legislature further amend each of the eleven laws that the Liberals brought before the Legislature, to ensure that documents posted on Government websites are fully accessible to people with disabilities. The Government said it agrees with that policy. Yet the Government has a troubling practice of failing to consistently ensure the accessibility of its web content, even eleven years after the AODA was passed.

 

As a stunning example, the Wynne Government voted down amendments to ensure that online documents regarding Freedom of Information are accessible. Yet Freedom of Information is all about the accessibility of information!

 

* It was the AODA Alliance that got the Ontario Government to commit to review all Ontario laws for accessibility problems. It was the AODA Alliance that has pressed the Government for nine years to keep this promise.

 

In earlier years, the Government commendably accepted the AODA Alliance’s offer to help train public servants to review Ontario laws for accessibility problems. However, over the past year, the Wynne Government unfairly left the AODA Alliance out of any substantive discussions over the past year and a half of which laws to amend of the 51 that it first reviewed, and what amendments to make. This was so despite two successive Liberal Premiers praising the AODA Alliance as a positive partner in its efforts on accessibility.

 

* The Wynne Government has announced no plans on how and when it will complete its promised accessibility review of all other Ontario laws. It is important for the Wynne Government to now make clear its plans for reviewing the remaining 695 Ontario statutes for accessibility issues, as well as all of Ontario’s many regulations. We wrote Premier Wynne to find out her plans, back on March 15, 2016. She has not answered our letter.

 

Below you can find our detailed analysis that supports these conclusions. At the end of this Update are links to key background information.

 

You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at aodafeedback@gmail.com

 

Have you taken part in our “Picture Our Barriers campaign? If not, please join in! You can get all the information you need about our “Picture Our Barriers” campaign by visiting www.aodaalliance.org/2016

 

To sign up for, or unsubscribe from AODA Alliance e-mail updates, write to: aodafeedback@gmail.com

 

We encourage you to use the Government’s toll-free number for reporting AODA violations. We fought long and hard to get the Government to promise this, and later to deliver on that promise. If you encounter any accessibility problems at any large retail establishments, it will be especially important to report them to the Government via that toll-free number. Call 1-866-515-2025.

 

Please pass on our email Updates to your family and friends.

 

Why not subscribe to the AODA Alliance’s YouTube channel, so you can get immediate alerts when we post new videos on our accessibility campaign.

 

Please “like” our Facebook page and share our updates:

 

Follow us on Twitter. Get others to follow us. And please re-tweet our tweets!! @AODAAlliance

 

Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting the AODA Alliance website.

 

Please also join the campaign for a strong and effective Canadians with Disabilities Act, spearheaded by Barrier-Free Canada. The AODA Alliance is proud to be the Ontario affiliate of Barrier-Free Canada. Sign up for Barrier-Free Canada updates by emailing info@BarrierFreeCanada.org

 

MORE DETAILS

Our Reflections on the Wynne Government’s Limited, Slow and Insufficient Action on its Nine-Year-Old Election Promise to Review All Ontario Laws for Accessibility Barriers

 

The March 16, 2016 AODA Alliance Update reported that in the Wynne Government’s February 25, 2016 Budget bill, were proposed amendments to 11 of the 51 Ontario statutes that the Government has checked to date for accessibility problems. The Ontario Legislature has now passed the Wynne Government’s 2016 Budget bill. It did so on April 13, 2016.

 

Thus, the Government’s proposed accessibility amendments to eleven Ontario statutes were passed. However, the Wynne Government used its majority in the Legislature to defeat 11 additional accessibility amendments that the opposition New Democratic Party proposed. The opposition Progressive Conservative Party supported the NDP’s proposed amendments. The AODA Alliance supported the NDP’s proposed amendments that the Wynne Government defeated.

 

What does this mean for our non-partisan campaign to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility for all people with disabilities by 2025, the AODA’s deadline? Here are several important reflections.

 

1. Three Successive Election Promises to Review All Ontario Laws for Accessibility Problems

 

We have had to repeatedly mount extraordinary pressure on the Ontario Government to act on its 2007 election promise to review all Ontario Laws for accessibility problems

 

The road to this point for Ontarians with disabilities has been a slow, uphill and frustrating one. Nine years ago, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty made a very commendable written election promise to 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities, and all other Ontarians who will get a disability later. In response to a request from the AODA Alliance, his Government promised to review all Ontario laws for accessibility problems and to fix those laws. In his September 14, 2007 letter to the AODA Alliance, Premier McGuinty pledged:

 

“Review all Ontario laws to find any disability accessibility barriers that need to be removed.

 

The Ontario Liberal government believes this is the next step toward our goal of a fully accessible Ontario. Building on our work of the past four years, we will continue to be a leader in Canada on accessibility issues. For Ontario to be fully accessible, we must ensure no law directly or indirectly discriminates against those with disabilities. To make that happen, we commit to reviewing all Ontario laws to find any disability barriers that need to be removed.”

 

Nine years later, the Ontario Government has only said that it has reviewed 51 of Ontario’s statutes. It has not said that it has reviewed any of its many regulations, which are also “laws.” When the Legislature passes a law, it is called an “Act” or a “statute.” When the Cabinet makes a law, it is called a “regulation.” Many statutes give Cabinet power to make specific kinds of regulations to add specifics to a statute.

 

For several years, from 2007 to late 2010, we tried with little or no success to find out who was responsible for conducting this review, and what was being done about it. Eight years ago, in 2008, the Government said it was developing a tool for screening laws for accessibility barriers. By 2010 the Government said it had a screening tool developed.

 

Over five years ago, on April 4, 2011, the Government held a training session for public servants who would, as of that time, be involved in conducting all or part of this accessibility review of Ontario laws. We were happy that AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky was invited to give a speech as part of that training session.

 

The Government there announced that its target for completing the review of all legislation was 2015, and for the review of all regulations was 2020. We quickly objected that those time lines were far too long. Five years later, the Government has not come even close to meeting them.

 

In his August 19, 2011 letter to us, setting out the Ontario Liberal Party’s 2011 disability election commitments, Premier Dalton McGuinty made a second election commitment regarding the review of all Ontario laws for accessibility problems. He promised:

 

“We are committed to completing our review of all legislation for accessibility barriers and, through the work of a central team, we will ask ministries to report on their progress as part of their annual performance plans. We will also pursue strategies to address defined barriers in an efficient and suitable manner.”

 

On January 18, 2012, Government Services minister Takhar wrote to the AODA Alliance, stating in part:

 

“The government is also committed to ensuring that no Ontario law creates accessibility barriers to people with disabilities. As such, we have committed to reviewing all of our legislation and regulations to identify and remove any such barriers. In April 2011, all ministries participated in training for multidisciplinary teams on how to use the OPS Inclusion Lens to review laws for accessibility barriers. Ontario has over 750 acts and more than 1500 regulations. We recognize the desire to proceed promptly, and we are committed to conducting a review of all legislation. Currently, the OPS Diversity Office and the Ministry of the Attorney General are working together to support a co-ordinated approach to this legislative review. Timelines for this review will be established early in the new year, following joint meetings of my ministry and the Ministry of the Attorney General.”

 

Almost six years after Premier McGuinty’s 2007 promise was first made, on March 21, 2013 Deputy Minister of Government Services Kevin Costante wrote us, to provide the most thorough report on progress. He wrote:

 

“I understand that you have concerns about the timelines for this review and that you would like to see progress sooner. We are moving forward with a focused approach that we feel will have the greatest and most immediate impact on the lives of people with disabilities by prioritizing the review of high impact legislation. I have spoken to the Deputy Attorney General, and he, like me, is committed to completing this phase of the review by December 2014.

 

The Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG) has the lead for this phase of the review under the leadership of the Director of the Justice Policy Development Branch. MAG has fine-tuned the tools and will provide training to ministry legal counsel and accessibility leads on the revised tools and process beginning in early April 2013. Following the review of their legislation, ministries and/or MAG will seek to introduce amending legislation in the Legislative Assembly by December 2014, if necessary. It is important that responses to similar barriers be addressed in a consistent fashion and that is why the review is being coordinated in this way.”

 

In her May 14, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out the Liberal Party’s 2014 election’s accessibility pledges, Premier Kathleen Wynne addressed this issue for the third election in a row. She wrote in material part:

 

“In addition to the review of the AODA, the government is currently conducting a legislative review with the goal of identifying and considering steps to remove any potential barriers in Ontario statutes. In the current phase of the review, 13 ministries are reviewing 51 high impact statutes. The list of high impact statutes includes statutes that affect persons with disabilities directly, provide for the delivery of services to a large group, provide benefits or protections or affect democratic or civil rights. This phase of the review will be complete by the end of 2014. We commit to addressing the findings of the review and continuing to review additional Ontario statutes to remove any potential barriers.

 

  1. We commit to making amendments to regulations to remove accessibility barriers as required based on the findings of the current review and the review of additional Ontario statutes going forward.”

2. Far Too Little Government Action Over the Past Nine Years on the Liberal Government’s Accessible Legislation Pledge

 

Premier Dalton McGuinty was absolutely correct when he declared nine years ago that reviewing all Ontario laws for accessibility problems was the next step for progressing to the goal of full accessibility for people with disabilities in Ontario. Kathleen Wynne was similarly right to commit to the AODA Alliance in her December 3, 2012 letter, while she was running for the Ontario Liberal Party leadership, that she would keep all the McGuinty Government’s earlier accessibility promises, and that she would ensure that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility by 2025.

 

The Government has now had fully nine years to work on its promised accessibility review of all Ontario laws.  Yet the Ontario Government has only reviewed 51 of Ontario’s 750 statutes in the past nine years. It has only made accessibility amendments to 11 of those 51 statutes. This shows that the Government has not given its promised accessibility review of all Ontario laws the priority and attention it deserves.

 

This is one of many examples that show why Ontario lags so far behind schedule for reaching full accessibility by 2025. At this rate, it could take the Ontario Government at least a century to review all of the remaining 695 Ontario statutes, and all the many Ontario regulations, for accessibility issues. Yet less than nine years remain before the 2025 deadline for full accessibility.  Ontarians need Premier Wynne to take charge of this issue, show strong leadership, and pull her Government out of the ditch where it has been languishing on this issue.

 

3. Insufficient Care in Looking for Accessibility Barriers in the Laws the Wynne Government did Examine

 

It is good that the Wynne Government fixed some accessibility barriers in the eleven statutes it has amended. Yet its accessibility review of the 51 statutes was clearly inadequate. It was insufficiently careful and thorough.

 

Readily available to the Wynne Government were good resources to assist. In the Ministry of the Attorney General is a Constitutional Law Branch. It has recognized expertise in constitutional rights, including equality rights. The Government also had an article on rooting out accessibility barriers in legislation, co-authored by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky and University of Western Ontario law professor Dr. Randal Graham, entitled “Universal Design in Legislative Drafting – How to Ensure Legislation is Barrier-Free for People with Disabilities.” It is published in the National Journal of Constitutional Law.

 

Adding to those resources, on September 8, 2015, the ARCH Disability Law Centre sent the Wynne Government an excellent, detailed 19 page legal analysis of the laws that had been under Government review. ARCH identified a number of troubling accessibility barriers in the statutes that the Government had been studying, and which the Government’s review appears to have missed.

 

Despite this, the Government’s limited amendments left many important accessibility problems intact. The Wynne Government has given no reason for rejecting ARCH’s call for those legislated accessibility problems to be fixed. It is informative to read ARCH’s September 8, 2015 letter to the Wynne Government.

 

4. Wynne Government Blocked Eleven NDP Proposals to Address Accessibility Barriers that the Government Had Missed

 

During legislative debates over the Government’s 2016 Budget bill, the Wynne Government     blocked commendable NDP efforts to fix more accessibility barriers in the legislation that the Government had reviewed. During clause-by-clause debate on the Government’s 2016 Budget bill at the Legislature’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, the NDP proposed further amendments to the 11 Ontario statutes that the Government addressed in that bill. The NDP proposals would fix accessibility barriers that the Government’s amendments did not fix. The Ontario Conservatives commendably supported the NDP’s proposed amendments.

 

The Wynne Government opposed and defeated every one of the NDP’s proposed amendments. The NDP proposals included obvious helpful measures – measures to which no one could credibly take exception. Thus, the Wynne Liberals, who publicly applaud themselves as global leaders on accessibility, stood alone as the opponents to further progress here. The Wynne Government gave troubling and meritless reasons at the Standing Committee for opposing these amendments. Its bureaucratic reasons cast about for excuses for a lack of boldness on accessibility. It is disturbing to read the passages of the clause-by-clause debates on April 6, 2016 at the Legislature’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, where these amendments were discussed.

 

The NDP proposed amendments to eleven laws, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Education Act, the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Homemakers and Nurses Services Act, the Ontario Guaranteed Annual Income Act, the Public Hospitals Act, the Public Vehicles Act and the Substitute Decisions Act. In each case, the NDP proposed an amendment that would provide:

 

“All documents available on a website for the information and use of the public under this act, including information directives and forms, must be available in a format that can be made accessible by any person and, as a minimum requirement, in a format that can be read by a screen text reader or can be modified by any person so that it can be read by a screen text reader.”

 

The proposed NDP amendments also provided that “…a document in portable document format does not satisfy subsection (1).’”

 

The Ontario Government has a poor record on ensuring full accessibility of its websites. Improvements have been too slow. For example, in 2015, the inaccessibility of the Government’s website for the Pan/ParaPan American Games, including its iPhone app, was a top news story.

 

As well, too many important documents are still posted on the Government’s websites in inaccessible PDF format, without also having them posted in an accessible alternate format. Stunning examples until we objected, included the 2014 Final Report of the Mayo Moran Independent Review of the AODA, the 2012 final report of the Andrew Pinto Independent Review of Ontario’s human rights enforcement system, and the much-publicized 2008 Ontario Government anti-poverty strategy.

 

Of the many important NDP amendments, one that sticks out was its proposed amendment to the Education Act. The Ministry of Education has a long practice of not ensuring equal access to important online documents in an accessible format.

 

Liberal MPP Yvan Baker was the Government’s lead spokesperson on the Standing Committee. No doubt he was reading instructions that the Government gave him, as is the standard practice at Standing Committees of the Legislature, no matter which party is in power.

 

Mr. Baker gave the Government’s reasons for voting down all of these proposed amendments. He gave this reason for opposing the first NDP motion on document accessibility, and the subsequent NDP motions to the same effect:

 

“Okay. As far as the motion goes, I think it creates an unneeded section in the AODA, because the AODA already grants regulation-making authority for the government to set accessibility standards regarding web content.

 

Through the AODA, the government has shown leadership in developing these standards as regulations and already includes detailed rules and timelines for the accessibility of web content. These standards are actually reviewed every five years by a standards development committee, as required by the AODA. So…

 

…That review is coming up in the coming year. In my view, updates and revisions are best made through this process.”

 

Speaking against a similar amendment later, MPP Baker said:

 

“Again, I recommend voting against this motion. It creates an unnecessary section in the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act. Per earlier discussion, the AODA already grants the government the regulation-making authority to set accessibility standards regarding web content. These standards, like I said earlier, are reviewed every five years. That next review is due this coming year, and that allows the government to review the latest technologies on an ongoing basis and make sure it is taking the appropriate steps.

 

I understand the policy intent and we are supportive of the intent. My disagreement with this is really based around the fact that I do not think this is the right mechanism to do that.”

 

When speaking against the website accessibility amendment that the NDP proposed to the Education Act, Liberal MPP Yvan Baker argued:

 

“Again, I think this creates an unneeded section in the Education Act. We already have the regulation-making authority to set accessibility standards regarding government web content. These standards are reviewed every five years. That review is coming up this year. That’s required by the AODA, so that review is enshrined in legislation already. My view is that updates or revisions are best made through that ongoing process. It allows us to be flexible.

 

It also allows us to be consistent. Each of the motions that you’ve brought forward touches on different acts. What the review allows government to do is to look across government at all applications and make sure that there’s a consistent approach across as well. Doing this selectively is also not the right approach.”

 

Liberal MPP Yvan Baker later added:

 

“The other thing I would clarify is that the information and communication standard under the AODA does not specify specific formats or software, like those offered by Microsoft or Adobe. Instead, it requires organizations, upon request, to provide accessible formats in a timely manner that takes into account the person’s accessibility needs due to disability and to consult with them. It doesn’t say that one format is more or less accessible than another, but instead enables flexibility in format depending on the needs of the person with the disability. What is considered accessible for a person is dependent on what that person requires.

 

The current regulation is set up in such a way that it be flexible and adaptive to people’s needs. That’s the way it’s currently set up. But again, that could be reviewed, and it’s part of this ongoing review that’s the purpose of that ongoing review which is required by the AODA as well. I think what we’re debating is not the policy intent; what we’re debating is: What’s the right mechanism to consider such a change and implement such a change? What I’m saying is that the review, which includes the appropriate stakeholders, we believe is the right way to approach something like this.”

 

Liberal MPP Baker’s arguments will read to many as insensitive, evasive and bureaucratic. They reflect an impoverished approach to disability accessibility and equality. The Government had commendably agreed in 2007 to fix accessibility problems in legislation. The Government far too often posts information in PDF format. The AODA’s accessibility standards have not stopped the Government from doing this. Whether those standards name a particular format or not does not take away from these Government-created barriers.

 

Later Liberal MPP Baker added:

 

“The first thing I’ll say is that, under the existing regulation that is already in place under the information and communication standards under the AODA, again, it doesn’t specify specific formats or software such as Microsoft or Adobe or PDF, but it does require organizations, upon request, to provide accessible formats in a timely manner that takes into account a person’s accessibility needs due to disability and to consult with them. This enables flexibility in format depending on what the needs are of the person with the disability. Of course, what is considered accessible for one person may be different for another person. For example, Adobe Reader PDFs might be perfectly accessible for someone with low vision whereas Word might be the preferred format for a person whose screen reader can’t read PDFs. Persons who don’t prefer screen readers may prefer non-electronic Braille documents, etc. Additionally, accessibility often depends on the way information is structured in a document.

 

The current regulation also refers to WCAG 2.0, which is an international standard for the accessibility of web-based content. I think that’s important to note, and that’s, again, in section 14 of the existing reg. The current process that the government has in place under the AODA grants the government regulation-setting authority to address these kinds of issues. These standards are reviewed every five years by a standards development committee required by the AODA. Half of the people on this committee are persons with disabilities.

 

The NDP amendment, first of all, doesn’t belong in legislation; this is something that belongs in regulation. At best, it would be a Band-Aid. Also, I don’t think we should presuppose the outcome of a review done by the standards development committee, which, again, is composed of persons with disabilities. They are the folks, I think, who are best equipped to consult and advise and address these standards and develop these standards, not those of us sitting here as MPPs without consultation from them.”

 

Liberal MPP Yvan Baker’s arguments let bureaucracy triumph over accessibility. There is no reason why this amendment should not be enshrined in legislation. As well, whether a PDF is accessible for some does not take away from the fact that a number of Government-created PDFS on its websites were not.

 

Moreover, it is no defense to argue that people with disabilities can always ask for an accessible format document. Why should they have to, when the Government can easily post a document on its website in both a PDF and in a fully accessible alternate format. That would let people with disabilities have as quick access to these documents as do all others.

 

NDP MPP Catherine Fife commendably argued that people with disabilities should not have to wait until the accessibility standards are reviewed, for the Government to fix this problem.

 

“We have the ability; we have the capacity, to at least ensure that accessibility is at the heart of a proceeding that would relate to compensation for victims of crimes. I do not understand, genuinely so, why the government would not use the tools that are at your disposal to make a piece of legislation and take an opportunity to at least signal to those people in the province of Ontario with disabilities that we are willing to be more flexible, because we’re asking them to be flexible every single day.”

 

Further explaining why Ontario needs the website accessibility amendments that the NDP was proposing, NDP MPP Catherine fife quoted an AODA Alliance Update, which stated:

 

“Several amendments propose to require an organization to post a notice on the organization’s website, in order to ensure that the notice is accessible to people with disabilities. However, this summary does not show that the amendments require that the website itself be accessible, and that the notice be posted in an accessible format. Too many organizations, including the … government itself, have failed to ensure full accessibility of their websites. Moreover, the timelines for website accessibility are too long, while exceptions and exemptions are too broad.”

 

NDP MPP Fife further argued:

 

“Just to be clear, there’s no cost. It’s just a shift in policy, that the government not post important pieces of legislation in PDF form, so that those at home who are trying to access the information can use those screen text readers.

 

There may be people who don’t have that technology. People obviously should have it. But for the member opposite to say that they agree with the intent is quite frustrating. If you go back to 2007, the Liberals then promised that the government would review all of Ontario’s laws for accessibility barriers. This is 2016; it’s nine years later. And this included the 750 statutes and a number of regulations. Nine years later, the government has only reviewed 51 of the 750 Ontario statutes. I don’t think the citizens of this province who can’t read through PDF form should have to wait for the AODA review to say to the government, “You should have been doing this back in 2007.” We could do this now. It’s a simple amendment that the government can support.”

 

The Liberal Standing Committee chair ruled three of the proposed NDP amendments out of order. Even though the NDP and Conservatives were supportive, the NDP could not get unanimous consent to debate and consider the three proposals which the chair ruled out of order.

 

Two of the proposed amendments were to the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act. First, the NDP proposed that it be revised to require that the board that decides on requests for compensation for crime victims be required to take specified accessibility training within six months, as follows:

 

“Every member of the board, including the chair, upon their appointment, shall undergo training, as specified by the chair, in capacity law and autonomy rights, including training in the Substitute Decisions Act, 1992, the Mental Health Act, the Human Rights Code, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 and article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

 

NDP MPP Catherin Fife explained: “This amendment minimizes arbitrary findings of incapacity.”

 

Second, the Committee chair ruled out of order the NDP’s proposed amendment to alter the range of persons to whom a compensation payment can be paid if the crime victim is incapable under the Substitute Decisions Act.

 

The third proposal that was ruled out of order related to website accessibility.

 

5. AODA Alliance Was Left Out of Any Government Discussions over What Amendments to the 51 Reviewed Laws Pass

 

The Wynne Government chose not to seriously engage the AODA Alliance in important recent discussions of which barriers need to be fixed in the 51 laws it first reviewed.

 

Early on, the Government commendably invited AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to make a presentation in April 2011 (five years ago) to a meeting of public officials, who were then tasked with working on this accessibility legislative review. After nothing appeared to come from that effort in the way of changes to any laws, the Government accepted AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s offer to give training on this issue to Ontario’s Office of Legislative Counsel (the Government lawyers who actually compose Ontario’s statutes and regulations). It was evident that they had never before received any training on this topic.

 

In 2013, the Government also commendably accepted his offer to give this training to a new team of officials from the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Ministry of Government Services, who would review the 51 statutes that the Government decided in 2013 to first examine. It seems that the Government had re-started this whole process from scratch when it embarked on its review of the first 51 statutes. We appreciated these chances for early input.

 

However, that willingness to engage in direct discussions over the substance of this review, including over what barriers to fix, petered out after this. The Government said it was to complete its review of those 51 statutes by the end of 2014. Since then, the Government did not sit down with the AODA Alliance, or to our knowledge, with any other disability community representatives, to discuss which barriers needed legislative amendments to effectively fix. As part of the Government’s June 3, 2015 announcements to mark the AODA’s 10th anniversary, the Government announced its intention to make a very limited range of amendments to Ontario legislation. Its June 3, 2015 announcement included:

 

“Introduce legislation addressing barriers to accessibility identified through a government-wide review of high-impact legislation, ensuring that government documents and appeals processes are accessible for people with disabilities.”

 

Our June 3, 2015 AODA Alliance Update responded to this announcement as follows:

 

“It is good that the Government plans to introduce legislation to fix barriers it discovered. However, if those amendments are limited to “…ensuring that government documents and appeals processes are accessible for people with disabilities,” that will disregard the vast majority of potential barriers in those laws.

 

Moreover, this Plan says nothing about reviewing the other 700 Ontario statutes and all of Ontario’s regulations for accessibility barriers. A Plan to ensure full accessibility by 2025 requires prompt and effective action on all barriers in Ontario laws.”

 

It was after that Government announcement that the ARCH Disability Law Centre sent the Government its September 8, 2015 submission, referred to above. It showed that the 51 statutes that the Government had reviewed, had far more barriers needing legislative fixes than the ones the Government’s June 3, 2015 announcement addressed. After that, the Wynne Government again did not sit down with the AODA Alliance, or to our knowledge, with anyone else from the disability community, to see whether it should expand the range of legislative barriers it would fix in those 51 laws.

 

Since it took office in 2003, Ontario’s Liberal Government has for the most part, been far more willing than this to include us in serious and substantive discussions leading to the introduction of legislation that bears on disability accessibility. There have been some troubling exceptions, such as the Ontario Government’s 2010 amendments to Ontario’s elections legislation. However, quite often the Government reached out to us, and included us in such discussions before it brought a measure forward that bore on disability accessibility.

 

As a result, Premier Dalton McGuinty wrote this about the AODA Alliance in his August 19, 2011 letter, his letter setting out his Government’s 2011 election promises on accessibility:

 

“Mr. Lepofsky, I want to once again thank you for your work and advocacy. Your ongoing advice has made a tremendous contribution to helping us make Ontario more accessible.”

 

Similarly, in her December 3, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out her accessibility pledges as she ran for leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, Kathleen Wynne wrote:

 

“I look forward to continuing to build and strengthen our relationship with the AODA Alliance. I welcome the opportunity to maintain an open dialogue and meet with you to continue to move accessibility issues forward.”

 

As well, in her May 14, 2016 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out her Government’s 2014 accessibility election pledges for the 2014 election, Premier Wynne wrote:

 

“Our government regards our current relationship with you as one of great importance and sees our partnership as a step towards fostering a more accessible and inclusive province. The Ontario Liberal Party will continue to safeguard the interests of Ontarians with disabilities and ultimately achieve our goal of full accessibility by the year 2025. We see the AODA Alliance as a principal partner in achieving this goal. My office is always happy to meet with you.”

 

Despite these encouraging words from two successive Ontario Premiers, which we very much appreciate, the Government did not engage us in a discussion of the specifics of which barriers in those 51 laws should be amended. Making this worse, we did not get a realistic chance to take part in the Legislature’s Standing Committee hearings on the bill. The Wynne Government only set three days for anyone to make a deputation to the Standing Committee on the bill. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, who has had lead responsibility on this specific issue for the past nine years, was out of town, and could not arrange an alternate date to appear.

 

To prepare for these hearings, it was not realistic to simply read the entire Budget bill. It contained many, many provisions. The disability accessibility clauses were buried in that omnibus bill.

 

We appreciate that at our request, the Government prepared for the AODA Alliance a document that sets out each of the amendments it proposed to make to deal with these accessibility issues. However the Government only gave us a plain language summary of those amendments on March 15, 2016. It only sent us the actual provisions on March 21, 2016, the day before the Standing Committee’s three hearing days.

 

We understand that it took the Government some time to prepare these documents. However, after the Government took nine years to get to this point, it is unfair to expect us to prepare and present a detailed response to proposed changes to eleven laws within a matter of days or hours. As our March 16, 2016 AODA Alliance Update stated:

 

“However, we are not now able to take part in the legislative hearings on this bill. We don’t have all the information we need from the Wynne Government. Until we see the actual amendments’ wording, we are quite limited in what we can do. Only yesterday did we receive the information set out below, including the list of the statutes the Government proposes to amend, and a plain language summary of the proposed amendments.”

 

The AODA Alliance wanted very much to take part in extensive discussions with the Government over what to include in its legislation to address accessibility barriers in these 51 statutes. We would have wanted to make a detailed presentation to the Legislature’s Standing Committee, after having appropriate time to read and analyze them. The Government’s ill-informed reasons, given at the Standing Committee, for rejecting the commendable NDP proposed amendments, showed that the Government would have benefitted from hearing from us.

 

We led the campaign to get the Government to make its election pledge nine years ago to conduct this review of Ontario laws for accessibility. We have led the nine year campaign to get the Government to act on this pledge. We have offered constructive ideas on how to conduct the review.

 

Our being denied a meaningful chance to take part in this most critical stage in the review is deeply troubling. It is not consistent with the kind and encouraging words that premiers McGuinty and Wynne expressed about the AODA Alliance, quoted above.

 

6. The Wynne Government Has Announced No Plans on How and When It Will Complete Its Promised Accessibility Review of All Other Ontario Laws

 

It is important for the Wynne Government to now make clear its plans for reviewing the remaining 695 Ontario statutes for accessibility issues, as well as all of Ontario’s many regulations. Premier McGuinty promised nine years ago that all these laws would be reviewed. In his August 19, 2011 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out his Government’s 2011 disability accessibility legislation, he reaffirmed to review “all” legislation. Premier Wynne echoed this in her May 14, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance, where she set out her 2014 disability accessibility election commitments. She referred to the fact that the Government was then reviewing the first 51 statutes for accessibility issues. She then committed:

 

“In addition to the review of the AODA, the government is currently conducting a legislative review with the goal of identifying and considering steps to remove any potential barriers in Ontario statutes.  In the current phase of the review, 13 ministries are reviewing 51 high impact statutes. The list of high impact statutes includes statutes that affect persons with disabilities directly, provide for the delivery of services to a large group, provide benefits or protections or affect democratic or civil rights.  This phase of the review will be complete by the end of 2014.  We commit to addressing the findings of the review and continuing to review additional Ontario statutes to remove any potential barriers.

 

  1. We commit to making amendments to regulations to remove accessibility barriers as required based on the findings of the current review and the review of additional Ontario statutes going forward.”

 

The 2014 final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review echoed feedback it received, signaling concern at that time about the Government’s slow pace in carrying out this promised disability accessibility review of all Ontario laws. That report included:

 

“A further concern involving the Government of Ontario itself was the slow pace of the Government’s promised review of provincial laws and regulations to identify and then remove accessibility barriers. Premier McGuinty promised this review during the 2007 election campaign and reiterated the commitment during the 2011 campaign.  In 2013 the Government stated that, by the end of 2014, 13 ministries will have reviewed 51 statutes and considered steps to remove any barriers identified.  Disability stakeholders pointed out that this leaves about 700 other statutes, as well as 1,500 regulations, still to be examined.  The Government was urged to complete the review of all legislation by 2015, and all regulations by 2016.”

 

We recently wrote Premier Wynne to find out her future plans. Premier Wynne has not answered our March 15, 2016 letter about this issue. She has had almost two months to do so. Our letter reached out to her in a constructive way to seek a way forward on the promised accessibility legislative review. In that letter, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky asked:

 

“1. Could you please indicate if your Government would be open to consider other amendments needed to address accessibility barriers that those 51 high impact statutes authorize, permit or fail to address, outside the time frame of the Budget bill? There are additional areas of barriers that need to be addressed beyond those which the Government’s proposed amendments cover.

 

  1. May we have an opportunity to make a presentation to a Standing Committee on this bill in mid to late April, after we receive the text of the actual proposed amendments and after we have the time we need to study them and prepare our feedback?

 

  1. Would your Government be open to consult with us and the disability community on other accessibility barriers that need to be addressed in connection with those 51 high impact statutes, and that the budget bill does not address? If so, can you confirm that it is with the Ministry of the Attorney General with whom we should deal.

 

  1. We commend your Government for dealing with this via omnibus legislation, rather than taking forward each bill to be amended piecemeal. To amend each bill piecemeal would take an extraordinary and excessive amount of legislative time.

 

Is your Government open to again use omnibus legislation to address other accessibility barriers, not addressed in the Budget Bill? And

 

  1. What are your Government’s plans and time lines for reviewing the other 700 Ontario statutes for accessibility barriers, and for reviewing all Ontario regulations? It is important for that work to be completed.

 

At an April 4, 2011 training session for public servants who initially were to conduct this legislative accessibility review, at which I was in attendance, a senior Ministry of Government Services official announced that each ministry was requested to complete a review of its own legislation by 2015, and a review of all regulations by 2020. We then voiced a serious concern that those time lines were too long.”

 

Less than 9 years remain until the AODA’s 2025 mandatory deadline for reaching full accessibility in Ontario. We need Premier Wynne to make sure things dramatically speed up on this promised review of all Ontario laws. This is part of the strong leadership on accessibility that the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review urged Premier Wynne to show.

 

We strongly support that recommendation. The ‘Governments snail’s pace in acting on its promise to review all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers is a clear and strong example of a broader and troubling trend that the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review identified. It observed that “(t)he pace of change is seen as agonizingly slow by persons with disabilities…”

 

7. Links to Key Background Information

 

Read the AODA Alliance’s detailed review of the Government’s promises to conduct this accessibility review of all Ontario laws, and the slow progress on it from 2007 to June 30, 2014, in Part 8 of the AODA Alliance’s June 30, 2014 brief to the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review.

 

Read the text of the Wynne Government’s actual amendments to 11 Ontario statutes, included in its 2016 Budget bill.

 

Read the ARCH Disability Law Centre’s excellent September 8, 2015 submission to the Wynne Government, presenting additional accessibility barriers that need to be fixed in the 51 Ontario statutes that the Wynne Government has reviewed to date.

 

Read the motions which the Ontario NDP presented on April 6, 2016 to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, and which the Wynne Government systematically rejected.

 

Read excerpts of the April 6, 2016 proceedings at the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, where the Committee considered and rejected the NDP’s proposed amendments.

mmittee considered and rejected the NDP’s proposed amendments.