ODA Committee London News Release
Sept. 19, 2003
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
All Eyes on London as Swing Region in Ontario Election -- Voters with Disabilities Can Swing the Election Friday,
September 19, 2003
For the first time in this election, and possibly for the first time ever in Ontario, candidates from several of the hotly-contested London ridings will converge in front of voters with disabilities to defend their records and platforms. The ground-breaking multiple-riding All -Candidates' debate on Disabilities Issues, including the need to strengthen the weak Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA), will be held Saturday, September 20th at the Forest City Senior Kiwanis Community Centre, 78 Riverside Drive, London from 10 a.m. to noon. With polls all over the map, and parties fighting close races in many ridings, voting groups which the media may not traditionally focus on may make the difference.
Convened by the non-partisan Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, which has led the charge for the past eight and a half years in its campaign for a barrier-free Ontario for 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities through the passage of a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act, this barrier-free election forum will be open to all. We will hear first-hand from political candidates, people with disabilities, members of the public, and David Lepofsky -- volunteer chair of the ODA Committee. The ODA Committee's agenda for the election is to get the weak, unenforceable ODA which the PCs passed in 2001 strengthened.
London is an especially important swing region, not only because it is likely to swing the election's outcome, but also because several key players on major disability issues in the Ontario Legislature come from this area. Helen Johns, as the Citizenship Minister from 1999 to 2001, was responsible for and planned an ODA bill, but backed down when in 2000 a leaked cabinet document showed it would be weak and clearly indefensible. Dianne Cunningham, who in 1999 had defeated Marion Boyd -- a former NDP MPP who had been a champion for this legislation -- has had many persons pressing her to support this cause. Steve Peters was the former Liberal disability critic who toured the province holding open, barrier-free public consultations when Helen Johns declined to do so. Peters has agreed to attend the All-Candidates' Meeting but Johns and Cunningham have not.
Having invited and now confirmed the attendance of an unprecedented nine local political candidates at the meeting reflecdting all the major parties, Cathy Vincent-Linderoos, a regional contact with the ODA Committee, says she is looking forward to an excellent election forum on an issue close to her heart. "The disability community's 8.5 year-long unrelenting focus on the need for solid legislative action for 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities has inspired countless people throughout Ontario. Disabilities issues are now a provincial election issue, because so many Ontarians are still unable to enjoy life to the fullest."
"Finding out in-person where all the candidates stand on issues that matter to people with mental, physical and sensory disabilities is one way that you can ensure that you will be voting for a candidate who will make a difference", says Ashfaq (Kash) Husain, another ODA Committee contact in the London area. Husain chairs London's municipal accessibility advisory committee and says uniform provincial standards need to be part of the ODA. "We hope that the media will help us to ensure that even the weakest and even the most timid of voices will soar out over the air-waves on this issue, making new broadcast history on a crucial issue that affects all Ontarians."
Forest City Senior Kiwanis Community Centre, 78 Riverside Drive, London
Sat. Sept. 20, 2003
10 a.m. to 12 noon
American Sign Language provided
Accessible to people using wheelchairs, scooters, walkers
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