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David Onley is likely to shake up the way Ontario treats its disabled and he'll start in his own backyard.

In three weeks, he will be sworn in as the province's first disabled Lieutenant-Governor and, in anticipation, government employees are trying to figure out how to accommodate his special needs.

Mr. Onley, a veteran Toronto broadcaster, had polio as a child and is paralyzed from the waist down. He uses a motorized scooter, although he can walk with the aid of crutches. His new workplace, the 19th-century pile of pink stones that houses the Ontario Legislature, is ill-suited to him.

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"This old building," he said recently, "is in desperate need of having a new look."

For example, the entrance to the office he will occupy after he is sworn in on Sept. 5 is on the second floor, at the top of a long, steep staircase. He could place himself at the top of the stairs and wait while a protocol officer ushered up his guests. Or he could meet them at a basement entrance ramp, escort them through a cafeteria and take them upstairs in a public elevator.

It all seems a bit infra dig; not quite viceregal. In due course, a new elevator and some automatic doors will provide easier access to the Lieutenant-Governor's suite, but a more ticklish problem - with explosive political roots - is how to travel.

The government owns two planes - twin-engine King Air 350s that are reliable but cramped inside. Their stairs are steep and narrow and the corridor along the fuselage (which is only 4 feet 9 inches in height) is about 18 inches wide.

Premier Dalton McGuinty, who is 6 foot 2, has to fold himself into his seat like a pretzel and his staff never tire of expressing the envy they feel whenever they see Quebec Premier Jean Charest alight for a premiers conference from his comparatively spacious Challenger jet.

Mr. Onley needs a plane to perform his duties. There are dozens of remote, fly-in native communities in the north that feel a kinship with the Crown, particularly since the outgoing Lieutenant-Governor, James Bartleman, gave their issues a higher profile.

The new Lieutenant-Governor wants to continue that work, but to do so he needs a plane that is small enough to land on short northern landing strips. The King Air was ideal, but its limitations are now obvious.

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Mr. Onley got his first look at the plane last week.

His verdict? "It is, presently, a very inaccessible aircraft."

So, the Ministry of Natural Resources, which owns the planes, is calling in consultants to figure out what to do. So far, they've recommended a portable stairway that would fit over the too-steep regular one. But Mr. Onley is nervous about any plan that just gets him in - he wants to know if he can get out in a hurry, too. "I, frankly, don't want to be in any vehicle that has been just adapted to get me in and out if it's not also safe."

But you can bet the ministry will turn over all stones to see if the King Air can be modified. That's because there's a whole lot of political trouble awaiting any government that proposes buying a new airplane. Bill Davis tried in 1981 to buy a Challenger jet but retreated from the purchase with his backside on fire.

There is still little appetite for a new plane, particularly on the eve of an election. The Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives have considered a deal in the past, but the New Democrats have always been opposed. Their current leader, Howard Hampton, says the government should lease a suitable plane - such as the Pilatus PC12 used by the OPP - for $8,000 a day rather than buy a new one.

Mr. Onley, as befits a guy about to take on a job that's above politics, is pragmatic: "We'll just have to check it out and see what works."

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