ODA Committee Update
dated Sept. 23, 2003
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
Toronto Star Publishes Column On Election Disabilities Issues - ODA and ODSP Coalitions Team Up To Get Their Issues To Voters
September 23, 2003
The September 23, 2003 Toronto Star, on the day of the all-important Leaders Debate, includes a column on election disability issues jointly written by ODA Committee chair David Lepofsky and ODSP Action Coalition chair Nancy Vander Plaats (See the full column below).
This column alerts voters to two important disability election issues, the need to strengthen the weak, unenforceable ODA and the need for a long-overdue cost of living increase to Ontario Disability Support Program payments. It describes the parties' positions.
Help our campaign to raise disability issues in this election. Forward this article to family and friends. Print up copies and hand it out to people you know. Urge them to consider these issues when deciding how to vote.
Hand out copies of this article at an All-Candidates Debate near you.
Help us get more media coverage on this election's disability issues. Urge your local media to give disability issues some profile during the last 9 days of this campaign. Raise the disability issues that matter to you.
Show this column to your local radio and TV station assignment editors, and to your local newspaper. If they won't assign a reporter to cover this, write your own letter or column for your newspaper.
For email addresses for Ontario newspapers, and tips on how to write letters to the editor,
Toronto Star Tuesday, September 23, 2003, p. A26
Voting down Ontario's barriers
David Lepofsky and Nancy Vander plaats
Your vote can help make Ontario barrier-free for 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities.
Media coverage emphasizes a few major election issues. In close
riding races, other issues can swing election results. This
election, voters with disabilities can make the difference. Here are
two important issues and the parties' positions.
Like other Ontarians, 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities want to
go out with friends, go to school, get jobs, and participate in
every aspect of life. But many can't. Unnecessary barriers block
them from fully participating.
If barriers are prevented and removed, it will help everyone. If you
don't have a disability now, someone close to you likely has one.
You'll likely get one as you age. Seniors are getting more attention
this election. Many seniors have disabilities.
For years, Ontario has needed a strong new law to tear down barriers
that keep people with disabilities from participating in every
aspect of life. A strong Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) would
do that. In 1995, the Conservatives promised to pass the ODA in their
first term. They later pledged it would be a strong, effective law.
In 2001, after delaying six years, they passed a weak, unenforceable
ODA. It doesn't require removal of barriers. Municipalities and
other public sector organizations have to file accessibility plans,
but they can leave in place any barriers they wish. The plans have
to be made public, but they don't have to be implemented.
The Conservative election platform doesn't promise to strengthen the
party's weak law. After eight years in power, the Conservatives
didn't make significant progress towards the barrier-free Ontario
that they had promised.
The Liberals and NDP each proposed amendments to strengthen the
Conservatives' weak ODA. The Conservatives voted these down. The NDP and
Liberals pressed the Conservative government for years to keep its
1995 election promise. The Liberal and NDP each promise that they
would strengthen the ODA within one year.
The Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), Ontario's disability
social assistance program, is supposed to meet the needs of
impoverished persons with disabilities.
These payments have not been raised since before 1995, even for cost
of living increases. Poor persons with disabilities have had to
survive on a maximum of $414 a month for rent and $516 for food,
transportation, and all other costs including costs of coping with
The NDP and Liberals each promise an ODSP cost of living increase.
Both the NDP and Liberals pressed the Conservatives for years to raise the
ODSP, and introduced bills last year to provide for a cost of living
increase, but the Conservative majority defeated the proposal.
Among the Conservatives voting against the opposition bill were
Citizenship Minister Carl DeFaria and all previous Conservative
citizenship ministers still in the Legislature, Cam Jackson, Helen Johns
and Marilyn Mushinski. The citizenship minister is supposed to advocate
in government for persons with disabilities. Three Tories broke
party ranks, voting to raise the ODSP, but that wasn't enough to
save the bill.
A year later, the Conservative platform now promises to raise the
ODSP by five per cent , far less than the decade's cost of living
increase. The Conservatives haven't implemented this promise in the
five months since releasing their April platform. This comes after
the Conservatives refused for eight years to raise the ODSP.
These disability issues compound each other. Barriers force many
Ontarians with disabilities into poverty. Often, they need to turn
to social assistance. They experience great difficulty dealing with
the complex application process before they even can get the ODSP.
The cruelly inadequate ODSP payments, in turn, make it harder to
overcome society's barriers.
People with disabilities want to contribute and participate fully in
society, but when all their energy must go to bare survival, they too
often remain trapped in poverty.
All Ontario will benefit when barriers are removed and prevented. Ask
candidates where they stand. If the Conservatives still won't match
the Liberals' and NDP's commitments, ask them at least to pledge not to
oppose these measures in the next Legislature. If they won't help, ask
them to promise not to act as barriers.
Consider these issues when deciding how to vote. Help ensure that
voters with disabilities can get to the polls to make their votes
David Lepofsky chairs the ODA Committee, a voluntary coalition advocating
for the ODA. Nancy Vander Plaats chairs the ODSP Action Coalition, a
non-partisan coalition advocating to improve the ODSP.
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