Ontario's Next Lieutenant-governor Says He'll Champion Accessibility Issues

MICHAEL OLIVEIRA
Published Tuesday July 10th, 2007

The man poised to become Ontario's next lieutenant-governor said Tuesday his chief goal during his term as the Queen's representative in the province will be to secure rights for the disabled.

"I really want to be the compelling and driving force to help make this province a more accessible place," David Onley said in an interview with Citytv, where he has worked since 1984 as reporter, anchor and host.

The TV station has become known for hiring a diverse, multicultural staff, and Onley - who was stricken with polio as a child - always appeared onscreen with no effort made to hide his disability.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose office confirmed the appointment, called Onley a respected author, broadcaster and tireless champion for people with disabilities.

When Onley started his career, viewers saw his leg braces and crutches, and in recent years, he read the news and conducted interviews from a motorized scooter.

"We made a point of making sure the audience could see that - that was absolutely part of the way in which we showcased David as a reporter," said Stephen Hurlbut, Citytv's vice-president of news programming.

"We had someone who was a great broadcaster, with wonderful intelligence and character, and with his absolute permission we knew that showcasing the fact he was a disabled individual had an underlying power message to make."

Onley will replace James Bartleman, who became the 27th lieutenant-governor in March 2002, and whose term is over at the end of the month.

Onley's appointment is a "great day for Ontario," said Bartleman, who used the role to champion many causes such as aboriginal literacy and mental health.

Given the job doesn't come with any tangible power, Bartleman said it's up to the office holder to use the position to connect with people and talk about issues the government hasn't been able to make "huge headway" in.

"There is a tremendous moral power associated with the office," Bartleman said in an interview from his home in Perth, Ont. "If lieutenant-governors and governors general confine their role to a purely ceremonial one, the office will eventually be regarded as irrelevant."

But Bartleman said he's certain Onley won't be a simple figurehead.

"I'm really happy that he has been named," said Bartleman, who called Onley as soon as he learned of his appointment Tuesday morning.

Onley joined Citytv as a science and weather specialist in 1984 and is the author of the novel "Shuttle."

He is active in a number of community organizations, notably the Canadian Foundation for Physically Disabled Persons.

Taken from http://canadaeast.com/ce2/docroot/article.php?articleID=27176

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