Government Proposes to Charge AODA Alliance Chair to Answer Freedom of Information Request – How Free is “Freedom of Information”?
October 3, 2013
Ontario’s Wynne Government has told AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky to pay approximately $2,325.00 if he wants an answer to his request under the Freedom of Information Act for information on the Government’s plans and actions to keep its election promise to effectively enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
“It is shocking that the Government would demand such a steep sum just to get answers that we’ve sought for months, on what the Government is doing to keep an important election promise to over 1.7 million Ontarians with disabilities – a promise that the Government made in a letter to our coalition,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan, province-wide AODA Alliance, a volunteer community coalition that advocates to make Ontario fully accessible to people with disabilities. “This is another unfair barrier thrown in our path.”
In the 2003 and 2011 Ontario elections, and at other points along the way, Ontario’s Liberal Government promised to effectively enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The AODA is a law for which Ontarians with disabilities tenaciously fought for a decade from 1994 to 2005. It requires the Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.
The AODA Alliance has been deeply concerned for some time that the Government has not kept its promise to effectively enforce the Disabilities Act. On January 22, 2013, 252 days ago, the AODA Alliance wrote the Government to find out the Government’s plans for keeping this promise. It also asked the Government how many private sector organizations with 20 or more employees had not yet filed mandatory accessibility reports, as the AODA requires –information the Government should be able to pull up from its computers at the push of a button.
The Government has never answered that letter. Exasperated, on August 15, 2013, David Lepofsky had to resort to filing a Freedom of Information Act application to get answers.
On October 2, 2013, the Government emailed Lepofsky (email set out below) to advise that to get the information he has requested, the fee would be approximately $2,325.00. That email required a down-payment up front, stating: “If you would like us to continue to process your request please provide a cheque of $1,162.50 made out to the Minister of Finance for 50% of the Fee estimate within 30 days upon receipt of this letter.”
On October 2, 2013, Lepofsky quickly responded by email (set out below), asking the Government to waive this hefty fee. Lepofsky had earlier been told that the Government has a discretion to waive any such fee. To support his request that the Government waive this fee, he emphasized that he is the volunteer chair of a volunteer public interest community coalition – the widely-recognized coalition to whom all major Ontario political parties have made election promises, and to whom the Liberal Government made the promise to effectively enforce the Disabilities Act. He urged that the information he seeks is the kind that would or should have been sought by the new Ontario cabinet minister responsible for enforcing the Disabilities Act, Dr. Eric Hoskins. It is also information that would soon be needed by Dean Mayo Moran of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law. The Ontario Government recently appointed Dean Moran to conduct a mandatory Independent Review of the Disabilities Act’s implementation.
Contact: David Lepofsky email@example.com