The following is a survey questions letter that CILT and CNIB sent out to the top polling Toronto Mayoral By-Election Candidates on Friday, June 16th, 2023 for response by end of Monday, June 19th, 2023. Mark Saunders’ responses have been put in bolded text:
Toronto Mayoral By-Election 2023
Questions for Mayoral Candidates on Disability Issues and Mark Saunders responses:
- We know everyone is facing a housing shortage, but for disabled people the issue is not just a lack of affordable housing, but also a lack of accessible housing. In 2019, Toronto City Council adopted a right to housing commitment and this includes a right to accessible housing, and yet disabled people in Toronto are experiencing an accessible housing crisis. Action on accessible housing remains largely absent from the housing platforms of leading candidates.
How would you develop more accessible and deeply affordable housing for disabled Torontonians? How quickly would your approach be implemented?
Everyone has the right to safe housing that they can afford, however City Council’s plans to build housing have been an epic failure. For example, at the current rate of construction, it will take 45 years for Council to meet its goal of 40,000 affordable units in ten years. As Mayor, I will immediately incentivize builders to include the maximum number of deeply affordable and accessible housing units possible, at no cost to the City to build or maintain.
- A single disabled person living on ODSP receives $1228 maximum per month on ODSP. This must cover all expenses including paying rent and buying food. As well, many working disabled people endure systemic employment barriers, are underemployed and live in deep poverty. According to the Daily Bread Foodbank’s “Who’s Hungry Report,” disabled people constitute 44% of the users of food banks in Toronto. Apart from the Fair Fare pass, disabled people are missing from the City of Toronto’s Poverty Reduction Strategy.
How do you propose addressing the ongoing and systemic poverty which many disabled people experience?
There are too many Torontonians being left behind, including those living with disabilities. While I can advocate to the other orders of government to make improvements to the social safety net that they are responsible for, there are several ways that the City of Toronto can help, including providing adequate housing, providing access to City-led training programs and employment, pushing back against discrimination, and ensuring that all advocacy voices are heard. As Mayor, I would be very pleased to meet with you and others advocating for those with disabilities to understand exactly how and where the City can help reverse the situation.
- AODA Reviewer and former Lieutenant Governor David Onley said that for disabled people, Ontario is a place of “dispiriting and soul crushing barriers”. The most recent AODA reviewer, Rich Donovan, released an interim report in March 2023 stating that he “has no choice but to assess this [AODA] regulatory regime in its current form and practice to be an unequivocal failure.”
Do you think the City of Toronto will be fully accessible by 2025? If not, how will you get Toronto on track to meet its legislative obligations under the AODA?
Everyone in Toronto has the right to fully enjoy all the city has to offer. As Chief of Police, I was responsible for AODA compliance and took this seriously; this is not simply an exercise to tick off boxes. As Mayor, I will work hard to ensure that the City is compliant with all AODA requirements.
- Far too often, disabled people are left out of the City’s concept of equity deserving populations. A recent example of this is that the City’s newly established Right to Housing Advisory Committee Terms of Reference included many different equity deserving groups but did not originally require disabled
folks to be represented. It has since been amended with input from the disability community and the support of two City Councillors.
How would you ensure that the City of Toronto’s work related to ‘equity deserving populations’ always includes disabled people?
I do not tolerate discrimination of any kind. As Police Chief, I made it a priority that all TPS employees were treated equally under the law and given the same opportunities that many take for granted. As Mayor, I will continue to advocate for those with disabilities and ensure that they have equal access to all City programs and employment opportunities.
- Wheel-Trans’ own internal reports show that they intend to move 50% of current Wheel-Trans users on to the traditional system through the Family of Services program, despite it not yet being fully accessible or safe for them to use. A recent TTC Riders report demonstrates that thousands of disabled
people will lose their independence as a result of this cost-saving measure.
How will you ensure that disabled Torontonians’ right to use a fully accessible transit system is supported?
I believe that Wheel Trans should continue to be available to all who require this service to travel through the City.
- In 2021, City Council voted unanimously to ban e-scooters from city sidewalks at the recommendation of both City staff and the City of Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee (TAAC). In cities where e-scooters have been rolled out, people with disabilities, seniors and children have been injured as a result of inexperienced and unsafe riders, and encountered serious issues with scooters
being left haphazardly on the pavement.
How will you ensure that people with disabilities, seniors and children will be kept safe from the hazards of e-scooters and micro-utility robots on our streets?
Those who ride e-scooters are responsible to follow the laws of the road and stay off our sidewalks. The only way to accomplish this and change behaviour is to send a strong message to that community through by-law enforcement and ticketing that irresponsible driving that endangers pedestrians will not be tolerated.
About the Survey Organizers:
Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT)
The Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT) is a consumer-controlled, community-based resource organization. CILT’s aim is to develop and implement dignified social services that empower individuals rather than create dependencies. We encourage people with disabilities to take control of
their own lives by exercising their right to examine options, make choices, take risks and even make mistakes.
CILT is unique in that a majority of Board and staff positions must be held by persons with a disability, thus ensuring that the service is directed and controlled by the consumer. CILT is also a member of the GTA Disability Coalition – the only grassroots, cross-disability coalition working to improve the inclusion
of disabled people in the GTA.
CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind)
Founded in 1918, CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) is a non-profit organization driven to change what it is to be blind today. We deliver innovative programs and powerful advocacy that empower people impacted by blindness to live their dreams and tear down barriers to inclusion. Our work as a blind foundation is powered by a network of volunteers, donors, and partners from coast to coast to coast.
The CNIB’s wide-ranging programs address the needs of people of all ages as they:
● Enhance their skills, realize their goals and live with confidence
● Have fun, play, connect with others and demonstrate that people with sight loss can do anything
● Get the skills and resources to attain work ambitions, and break through barriers in the job market
● Learn the knowledge, social skills and independence to achieve their full potential in school and life
● Advocate to change perceptions about blindness, eliminate barriers and transform challenges into