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AODA Alliance Makes Public an Open Letter to All Candidates for Leadership of Ontario’s Liberal Party, Seeking Commitments on Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities

November 1, 2012

SUMMARY

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty recently announced that he will step down as leader of the Ontario Liberal Party. The Ontario Liberals are now holding a leadership race to replace Mr. McGuinty. Whoever wins that race at the January 25, 2013 Ontario Leadership Convention will immediately become Ontario’s next premier.

In the spirit of non-partisanship that is core to all our activities, we are releasing an open letter to anyone who chooses to run for leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party. That letter is set out below. It explains who we are, and asks each candidate to make commitments on our agenda for achieving a fully accessible Ontario for all persons with disabilities.

We ask each candidate to commit to the AODA’s goals, to ensure Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility by 2025, to maintain and not cut back on any gains made to date, to keep all the Liberal Party’s prior commitments to us, to meet with us if they become premier, and to continue the Liberal Party’s practice in each Ontario election since 1995 of making disability accessibility election commitments in letters to us.

We will make public any responses we receive. We will not endorse any candidate for Liberal Party leader. We are seeking through this effort to help keep our long term campaign for an accessible Ontario moving forward.

We encourage you to:

* Circulate this open letter to friends, family and your local media.

* Help us obtain positive answers from any candidates who run for leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party.

Send your feedback to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

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Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org

*****

AN OPEN LETTER

TO: ALL CANDIDATES FOR LEADERSHIP OF THE ONTARIO LIBERAL PARTY

FROM: THE ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

November 1, 2012

WHO ARE WE?

We, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, are a non-partisan voluntary community coalition. We are united to achieve a fully accessible Ontario for over 1.7 million Ontarians with disabilities, through the prompt and effective implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. (AODA) Our supporters include persons with disabilities, people who have not yet gotten a disability, and community organizations concerned with the rights of persons with disabilities in Ontario.

Our predecessor coalition was the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. From 1994 to 2005, the ODA Committee spearheaded a province-wide accessibility campaign. It led to the enactment of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 (passed by the Harris Government), and later, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005 (passed by the McGuinty Government).

We, as well as our predecessor coalition, have been widely recognized by all parties in the Legislature, as well as the media, as a leading non-partisan voice in Ontario, advocating to make Ontario a fully accessible province. We have worked very extensively with the McGuinty Government since 2003 on the development of, and later the implementation of, the AODA.

We are now asking each candidate for the leadership of Ontario’s Liberal Party, a short list of important questions. These aim at ensuring that Ontario achieves the goal of full accessibility on or before 2025, the end date that the AODA requires. As a non-partisan community coalition, we do not seek to get any party or candidate elected. We do not endorse any candidate for leadership of any party. We will make public all responses we receive to this open letter from any candidate for the Ontario Liberal Party leadership.

Our predecessor coalition, the ODA Committee, took similar action during the Ontario Liberal Party’s last leadership campaign. As well, during each of the last five provincial elections, starting in 1995, the ODA Committee, and after it wound up in 2005, the AODA Alliance, have solicited election commitments from Ontario’s major parties, on the issue of accessibility for persons with disabilities.

THE ONTARIO LIBERAL PARTY’S PAST COMMITMENTS ON ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES

Starting in 1995, the Ontario Liberal Party has made written election commitments on accessibility legislation for persons with disabilities, in each of the past five Ontario general elections. These commitments have been set out in letters from the leader of the Ontario Liberal Party to the ODA Committee in the 1995, 1999, and 2003 elections. After the ODA Committee wound up in 2005 with the passage of the AODA in that year, the Ontario Liberal leader made these commitments in letters to the AODA Alliance in the 2007 and 2011 Ontario general elections. These commitments were signed in the 1995 Ontario election by Liberal leader Lynn McLeod, and in the following four Ontario general elections by Dalton McGuinty.

Fourteen years ago, on October 29, 1998, the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed a resolution setting out eleven important principles that a strong and effective Disabilities Act should fulfil. That resolution was introduced into the Legislature by Liberal MPP Dwight Duncan, at the request of our predecessor coalition, the ODA Committee. Right after that resolution was passed, Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty took part in a joint Queen’s Park news conference with ODA Committee Chair David Lepofsky. At that news conference, Mr. McGuinty, then Ontario’s Opposition leader, committed that a Liberal Government would implement a Disabilities Act that fulfilled that resolution.

In 2005, all the three Ontario parties in the Legislature voted unanimously for the Liberal Government’s AODA. In the 2007 and 2011 Ontario elections, at least some of the major parties, including the Liberal Party, committed to strengthen the AODA’s implementation.
To see the 2007 Ontario Liberal Party’s election commitments on disability accessibility, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/10012007.asp

To see the Ontario Liberal Party’s 2011 Ontario election commitments on disability accessibility, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/090220115.asp

WHAT WE ASK OF YOU

We have made progress over the past years. Yet there is still a great deal to be done to achieve the goal of full accessibility by 2025 that your Government’s AODA requires of us all. We are eager to ensure that the next Ontario Liberal Party leader (who immediately becomes Ontario’s next premier) will fully maintain your Party’s past commitments on disability accessibility, and will build on those commitments and on actions taken to date. In that spirit, we ask you the following:

1. Under your leadership, will the Liberal Party fully maintain the implementation of the AODA 2005 and the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, and not weaken or reduce any provisions or protections in that legislation or regulations enacted under them, or any policies, practices, strategies or initiatives of or within the Ontario Government that exist to implement them or achieve their objectives?

2. Will you stand by and fully honour the past commitments that your Party has made to Ontarians with disabilities regarding disability accessibility?

3. Will you ensure that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility for persons with disabilities no later than 2025, the deadline that your Government’s AODA requires?

4. In Ontario elections, will you continue the practice of the last two Ontario Liberal Party leaders, of making specific election commitments to us on the issue of achieving a fully accessible province for persons with disabilities, in letters to us?

5. Among other commitments, Premier Dalton McGuinty agreed to meetings with us to address accessibility issues (in addition to meetings we have had with several cabinet ministers). Will you agree to maintain this practice, of being agreeable to personally meet with us to discuss accessibility issues, in addition to our meetings with your appropriate cabinet ministers?

The Ontario Liberal Party’s leadership race is unfolding very quickly. It concludes on January 25, 2013. We would very much appreciate a response to these questions by December 31, 2012. We would be delighted to give you any background information on this issue that you request. You can email us at: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Our coalition’s mandate is to address disability accessibility issues in Ontario. We do not wish to leave any impression that accessibility is the only disability issue that will require the attention of Ontario’s next premier.

We look forward to working with the leaders of all parties now and in the future on the shared goal that all the major parties have endorsed, of achieving a fully accessible Ontario on or before 2025.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont,
Chair AODA Alliance

Learn more about progress to date on achieving the AODA’s goals, by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org
Follow us on Twitter at @AODAAlliance

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