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Will the McGuinty Government Restore as a Full-Time Position the Vital Post of Assistant Deputy Minister of Government Services for Accessibility?

December 1, 2010

SUMMARY

Last year, to its credit, the McGuinty Government created the new full-time position of Assistant Deputy Minister of Government Services for Accessibility. That person has lead responsibility for making the Ontario Public Service fully accessible. This includes making the Ontario Government a barrier-free workplace, as well as removing and preventing barriers that persons with disabilities face when using Ontario Government services and facilities.

When the first person to occupy this important job recently announced that he was moving on to another job, the Government, to our dismay, did not fill this full-time vacancy. Instead, it piled these full-time duties on the plate of another Assistant Deputy Minister who already has a full-time job. We have been told that the Government has not decided if it will restore this full-time accessibility position, or when a decision will be made.

On November 24, 2010, the AODA Alliance wrote to the Deputy Minister of Government Services to raise our concerns about this backwards step on the road to full accessibility. See this letter, below.

Effective leadership on the accessibility issue within the Ontario Government is at least a full-time job. Earlier this year, the Government-appointed Charles Beer to conduct an Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. His Report concluded that this full-time position is “vital” to the Government getting its house in order. It is wrong for the Government to even consider downgrading this vital position to a part-time duty, especially when Ontario is clearly behind schedule for full accessibility by 2025.

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ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
New Email Address: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Visit: www.aodalliance.org

November 24, 2010

Via Email: ron.mckerlie@ontario.ca

Ron McKerlie, Deputy Minister
Ministry of Government Services
Whitney Block, Room 5320
99 Wellesley Street West
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 1A1

Dear Deputy Minister McKerlie:

Re: Restoring Full-Time Position of Assistant Deputy Minister of Government Services for Accessibility

I write on behalf of the AODA Alliance. We are a province-wide, non-partisan community coalition, spearheading a campaign to ensure that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is effectively implemented.

We write to urge your Ministry to commit to fill the now-vacant full-time position of Assistant Deputy Minister of Government Services for Accessibility, and to accomplish this as soon as possible.

We were delighted back in 2009 when the Government first created the position of Assistant Deputy Minister of Government Services for Accessibility. It was an important step forward for the Government to establish a full-time position at the “Assistant Deputy Minister” or “ADM” level that is responsible for working towards ensuring that the Ontario Government’s public services and employment opportunities are barrier-free and fully accessible for persons with disabilities. Indeed, the establishment of that position was long overdue.

Since the summer of 2009, we welcomed the opportunity to work with the new (and first) Assistant Deputy Minister for Accessibility, Mr. Kerry Pond. He effectively showed how that new full-time position could significantly help efforts at promoting better accessibility practices within the Ontario Public Service. He also showed that spearheading those efforts is clearly a very demanding full-time job. There are still many areas within the Ontario Public Service that have not developed barrier-free practices.

We learned a few weeks ago that Mr. Pond has decided to move to another position in the Government. We were very troubled to also learn that as a result of his leaving his current position, the Government has not yet decided if it will again fill this full-time ADM position. Ordinarily, when a person leaves an ADM position, the Government moves to fill that position promptly, to ensure a smooth transition and continued effective public service.

We understand that the duties of the full time ADM for Accessibility position will now be assumed on an “acting” basis by another existing Assistant Deputy Minister, who also has fulltime responsibility for the Government’s diversity agenda. This means that at least for the time being, and possibly permanently, there will be no full time Assistant Deputy Minister at your ministry assigned exclusively to disability accessibility. Instead, one person is expected to perform two full time jobs at the same time, of which accessibility is only one. From my recent telephone conversation with you we also understand that it is not yet known when the Government will decide whether it will restore the full time position of Assistant Deputy Minister of Government Services for Accessibility.

This development is a real setback in Ontario’s efforts toward becoming fully accessible by 2025, a goal which the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires. We urge the Government to now restore the full time ADM for Accessibility position, and to fill it as soon as possible.

The importance of the full time position of Assistant Deputy Minister for Accessibility in your ministry was recently highlighted by an independent review of the Government’s efforts at accessibility, appointed by this Government. In 2009, the Government appointed Mr. Charles Beer, a former Liberal cabinet minister, to review the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This review was mandated by that legislation, four years after it went into effect.

It is telling that the Beer Report concluded that your ministry’s full-time position of Assistant Deputy Minister for Accessibility is “vital” for promoting the Government’s agenda of achieving full accessibility. His Report states:

“Let me add a point that relates to the Ontario government’s compliance responsibilities as the largest obligated sector under the AODA. While this has not been a specific focus of my review, it has struck me that as the ADO needs renewed authority to deliver change, the government as a whole needs to send a clear signal that it is doing all it can to get its own house in order. The recent creation of the position of Assistant Deputy Minister — Accessible Public Service in the Ministry of Government Services is vital for the government to meet its obligations under the AODA. I have heard from stakeholders that this change is already having a positive impact.”

His Report, which the Government received last February and made public last May, is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05312010.asp

Mr. Beer’s report thoroughly documents the need which he identifies for the Government to revitalize and breathe new life into its implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, if Ontario is to reach its mandatory goal of full accessibility by 2025. It detailed several new measures needed to ensure that Ontario meets that requirement. Regrettably, the Government has not announced an intention to implement many if not most of his key recommendations. See: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/08112010.asp

We agree with the Beer Report that the full time Assistant Deputy Minister for Accessibility position at your ministry is vital. Its elimination, even if only temporarily, in favour of a part-time assignment, bundled with other duties such as the Government’s broader diversity agenda, weakens Government efforts at removing disability barriers within the Ontario Public Service.

The Government has repeatedly committed to lead by example in the area of accessibility. The elimination of the full-time position at your ministry of Assistant Deputy Minister for Accessibility would lead by the wrong example. It would signal that achieving accessibility is becoming a lower priority within the Government. To choose this under-serviced area for downsizing would not be consistent with stated Government policy on the priority of promoting accessibility.

The Beer Report concluded that there is a pressing need for the Government to escalate its efforts on the accessibility agenda, e.g. by creating a Deputy Minister for accessibility. We endorsed that recommendation. The Government has to date not implemented it, has not committed to do so, and has given no reasons for this. It would compound the Government’s failure to show the leadership that the Beer Report recommended, were it also to eliminate the full time ADM position responsible for accessibility within the Government that the Beer Report described as “vital.”

It is our understanding that the only reason the Government is now reconsidering whether to retain the fulltime position of Assistant Deputy Minister for Accessibility is because the current occupant of that position has opted to move to another job. Had he not chosen to do so, the Government hadn’t planned to eliminate this position, as far as we can tell. It would be wrong for such a significant backward step as the elimination of this full-time position to be caused by an individual’s making a personal career choice of taking another job.

I very much appreciated your recently taking the time to speak with me by phone about our concerns in this area. As the Government deliberates on whether it will maintain or eliminate this position, we remain eager to provide whatever help and input we can to assist. We look forward to hearing as soon as possible what plans the Government has for the future of this position.

Sincerely,

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

cc: Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier, fax 416-325-9895, email mcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Hon. Harinder Takhar, Minister of Government Services, fax 416-327-3790, email htakhar.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Noëlle Richardson, Chief Diversity Officer, Government Services, fax 416-326-8461, email Noelle.richardson@ontario.ca
Kerry Pond, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessible Public Service, fax 416-326-8461, email kerry.pond@ontario.ca
Shamira Madhany, Assistant Deputy Minister, Diversity, fax 416-326-8461, email shamira.madhany@ontario.ca
Madeleine Meilleur, Minister, Community & Social Services, fax 416-325-3347, email madeleine.meilleur@ontario.ca
Marguerite Rappolt, Deputy Minister, Community & Social Services, fax (416) 325-5240, email marg.rappolt@ontario.ca
Ellen Waxman, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate, fax (416) 325-9620, email Ellen.Waxman@ontario.ca

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