Mobilize March -- Travel Blog

Day 25 — Early bird catches the transportation

Despite starting early this morning, the sun was already shining warmly as Pete and I made our way to Queens Park–it was definitely a great way to start the morning. We made great time getting to Queens Park and the elevator at Queens Park station had indeed been fixed up, phewf. We began the day with a big meeting with the head hancho of the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the Honorable Madeleine Meilleur (also the Minister of Francophone Affairs). I was a little nervous about this meeting because the last time I saw her she was cutting up the opposition during question period and believe you me, this is one firey and intelligent fighter! The stress level flew through the roof when she came in with an entourage (5 or 6 other people, biggest MPP meeting thus far) and I began wondering if I was prepared for all of this after only getting about 6 hours of sleep last night.

Within seconds of entering the room, Madeleine flashed me a huge smile and offered a firm hand shake, setting my nerves at ease. We had a tremendous meeting and I was thoroughly impressed by her understanding of the issue. One of the best things to come out of this meeting was a request from the Minister to put together a report on what I have found along my journey with the hopes of educating her on what is happening around the province and assist her in making informed decisions on transportation standard legislation that should be coming through the legislature soon(ish). I think this is a huge opportunity and I’m really excited to take part in the process. I think this is also a great idea because it will allow me to consolidate some of my recommendations into a streamlined document that I can then send out to the municipalities I have visited so they too can hear about what I have seen, how the trip went, and perhaps get some pointers on what they could be doing in their own communities. This is a really big opportunity and I can’t wait to tackle this summer project! And who knows, perhaps the Minister would like a hand-delivered copy of the report, giving me another reason to swing by Queens Park (I’m gonna miss that place once I’ve left Toronto!).

After chatting her ear off and having a quick debate on why the Maple Leafs are forever superior to the Ottawa Senators, I was off to another productive meeting over at the Directorate of Disability. We had a tremendous conversation on the current state of AODA legislation and I had the chance to ask some questions about how the policies are working and what I can do to help make things better from within the current structures. Director Weeres is a truly incredible man and I’m pretty sure I have a new role model–this is a man on a mission and I found our perceptions on adaptation and accessibility to really sync. It’s really nice to know someone like Scot is calling the shots at the Directorate. The staff we met were also great: Lisa and Linda are two great champions of the disabled and I pity anyone who comes up against these two! It would be a short conversation indeed.

After checking in on the radio with John at The Beach, I received a phone call from Madeleine’s office expressing an interest for a photo op at the front steps of Queens Park. They didn’t have to prod me too much before this photo–there was no way I could smile any bigger after the morning I just had.

The day really shifted gears at this point, for the awesome. I got a chance to see my dad during lunch, which was much needed as I’ve really been missing home lately. After relaxing with him (and seeing his new Blackberry…I’m way jealous), it was back to Queens Park to see Deb Matthews. This was another great meeting–it was fantastic to see Deb again. I had always been impressed by Deb, seeing her around town during election season, but now that I’ve had a chance to sit and chat with her twice I am just more and more impressed by this woman. She is so strong and charismatic and caring…I honestly cannot say enough about her. It was great seeing her again and was a great way to finish off my political meetings in Toronto.

Tomorrow and Saturday will be a dramatic change of pace, as we begin getting ready for our trip to Oshawa on Sunday. Over our last two days here I’ll be finishing up some paper work and posting the special 2-week video blog of my time in Toronto. So keep an eye on the blog for a flurry of activity over the next few days as I catch up on some things I had wanted to talk about/post but was simply too busy meeting with politicos and pushing our message.

But for now, my bed is calling…mmm…sleep…rest…finally…after a job well done…although honestly it feels like I am already dreaming because this past week has been absolutely incredible.

– Jeff

By Jeffrey Preston

Born with a rare neuromuscular myopathy, Jeff has spent his life dedicated to advocating for himself and others with disabilities. With a PhD in Media Studies from Western University, Jeff's research focuses on the representation of disability in popular and digital culture. Jeff is currently an Assistant Professor of Disability Studies at King's University College @ Western University in London, ON.