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Tim Hudak Says He is Committed to Fulfilling Provisions of the Disabilities Act, But Still Hasn’t Clearly Promised Not to Slash Regulations Enacted Under It

U September 30, 2011

SUMMARY

With just over a week before Election Day, TV Ontario’s veteran affairs journalist Steve Paikin got Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leader Tim Hudak to break his radio silence on this election’s disability accessibility issue. On the Wednesday, September 28, 2011 edition of TV Ontario’s flagship current affairs program “The Agenda,” Steve Paikin asked Tim Hudak why the PCs are Ontario’s only major party that hasn’t given us a commitment to not cut our gains on accessibility to date. We set out the text of the exchange between Steve Paikin and Tim Hudak below. We will soon post the audio of this portion of the interview on our website. If you want us to email you the mp3 clip of this exchange, send your request to aodafeedback@gmail.com You can watch the entire 20-minute interview on Youtube, with the option of automated captioning if needed. This exchange occurs about 15 minutes along into this 20 minute interview. Visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otomF-oNoYw

Mr. Hudak’s answers include some good news. However, his silence or unclarity on a core part of Steve Paikin’s questions leaves at risk important progress we’ve made towards an accessible Ontario.

The good news is that Mr. Hudak clearly told Steve Paikin in this exchange that his party supported the disabilities legislation, and remains committed to fulfilling its provisions – “absolutely.”

Despite this, our work in this election campaign is not done. Although asked about this, Mr. Hudak did not clearly say that he won’t roll back gains we have made under the AODA.

He has committed here not to roll back the AODA, a statute that the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed in 2005. He has not clearly committed that he won’t roll back or repeal accessibility regulations enacted under the AODA. In contrast, the other parties have clearly pledged not to cut or weaken those regulations.

It might be argued that his answer to Steve Paikin’s last question covers provisions of regulations enacted under the AODA, and not just the provisions of the AODA itself. However, we cannot run the risk that Mr. Hudak might later say that that wasn’t what he meant in this exchange. We need a commitment that is clear, comprehensive and not open to interpretation. This last exchange was as follows:

“STEVE PAIKIN: And you are still here tonight to commit to fulfilling the Ontarians with Disabilities Act provisions that will make Ontario truly accessible by 2025.

TIM HUDAK: Absolutely. We supported it. We continue to support it.”

Why do we need to be so concerned about this? Mr. Hudak has elsewhere pledged on the campaign trail that he would slash fully 30% or more of Ontario’s regulations. He has not answered our written request that accessibility regulations, enacted under the AODA, be kept off his chopping block.

Moreover, unlike the other major parties, Mr. Hudak does not make any specific commitments in this exchange on what he will do to implement the AODA. Last July, we asked the parties for specific commitments on this. We offered numerous options. The Liberals, NDP, and Green Party each made specific pledges drawn from the range of ideas we had circulated to all parties. The PCs have not.

It seems from Mr. Hudak’s exchange with Steve Paikin that he still may not personally be fully aware of what specifically we had asked of him. Referring to our request for commitments, Mr. Hudak said: “…Well you know I think this may relate to surveys, and we were focused, because you get all kinds of surveys from all kinds of different groups. Our plan is actually out there. It’s called ChangeBook and we made sure people knew what we’re going to do. But we did support – I’m not sure what the particulars are – but we did support the legislation to ensure that we had greater accessibility in the province. The Ontario PC Party supported that. We support it to this day.”

The PC platform “ChangeBook” like the formal written platforms of the other parties, doesn’t refer to this issue at all. Like the PCs, every party’s campaign is focused on its own major election platform document. Yet that didn’t stop other party leaders from writing us with specific commitments on the AODA that are outside of their major platform documents. It didn’t stop previous PC leaders Mike Harris in 1995 and John Tory in 2007 from making specific commitments on accessibility outside the four corners of their formal platform documents.

It is a long-recognized practice during the period leading up to an election for community groups to send letters to the parties, including questionnaires or surveys of their platform positions on major issues. Any party running to lead the province expects these and gears up for them.

One of Steve Paikin’s questions used the name of the “Ontarians with Disabilities Act,” not the “Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.” However, it is entirely clear from the exchange that Mr. Hudak was referring to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005 that the McGuinty Liberals brought forward- the legislation that requires Ontario to become fully accessible by 2025. It is not unusual at all for the names of these two different laws to get accidentally juggled.

Now that Steve Paikin has gotten Tim Hudak to open the door, we need to use the last week of this campaign to get Mr. Hudak to open it much more, by giving the full and clear commitment we seek. Last week Toronto PC candidate Rocco Rossi, running in the Eglinton-Lawrence Riding, committed to AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky that he would press Tim Hudak to make the commitment we seek. For more on last week’s events on this, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/09222011.asp

In a tweet on Twitter to AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky on September 29, 2011, Mr. Rossi confirmed that he contacted Tim Hudak on this and will continue to press on this issue. We have asked Mr. Rossi in a follow-up tweet to also urge his fellow PC candidates to do the same. Mr. Rossi’s most recent tweet reads:

“As promised, I presented case to @TimHudak & will continue to champion…”

We encourage everyone to take every opportunity to keep pressing this issue over the campaign’s last week. For ideas on how to do this, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/09162011.asp

In addition to those action tips, it would help if you circulate this latest development to your local media and urge them to cover this issue. For more background on this issue, read AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky’s recent guest column in the September 29, 2011 on line edition of the Toronto Star. That column, we emphasize, was written and posted on the Toronto star website before we knew what Tim Hudak said in his interview with Steve Paikin. Our Toronto Star guest column is posted at: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1061506–disturbing-silence-from-hudak-on-accessibility

We express our great appreciation to Steve Paikin and TV Ontario for addressing this important question, first in the September 22, 2011 interview with David Lepofsky and later in the September 28, 2011 interview with Tim Hudak. You can watch Steve Paikin’s September 22, 2011 interview of David Lepofsky, which is the lead-up to this exchange, by visiting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lB3yTuq1ErE

To see the parties’ election commitments to us on our issues, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/090220116.asp

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EXCERPT FROM THE SEPTEMBER 28, 2011 INTERVIEW WITH PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE LEADER TIM HUDAK ON TV ONTARIO’S “THE

AGENDA WITH STEVE PAIKIN”

STEVE PAIKIN: There is an alliance that represents Ontario’s disabled community that went out and got assurances from every party—all the main parties, rather, running in this election – except yours, not to go back on the gains that that community has made in making Ontario truly accessible. How come you won’t give them similar assurances that the other parties are?

TIM HUDAK: Well, you know, I think this may relate to surveys and we were focused, because you get all kinds of surveys from all kinds of different groups. Our plan is actually out there. It’s called ChangeBook and we made sure people knew what we’re going to do. But we did support – I’m not sure what the particulars are – but we did support the legislation to ensure that we had greater accessibility in the province. The Ontario PC Party supported that. We support it to this day.

STEVE PAIKIN: You did vote for it in the …I think everybody voted for it in the Legislature. I think it was …

TIM HUDAK: Pretty Sure.

STEVE PAIKIN: …a unanimous vote.

TIM HUDAK: Yup.

STEVE PAIKIN: And you are still here tonight to commit to fulfilling the Ontarians with Disabilities Act provisions that will make Ontario truly accessible by 2025.

TIM HUDAK: Absolutely. We supported it. We continue to support it.

STEVE PAIKIN: Okay….
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