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New ODA Bill 125
hansard November 28, 2001
Ontario Hansard Wednesday, November 28, 2001
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES LEGISLATION
So here we are again. It's Wednesday afternoon and we have another time allocation motion which basically says we'll spend today on the time allocation motion and we'll talk a bit about the bill and what it's going to or not going to do. It will then go from here to another session -- an afternoon for a couple of hours, perhaps an evening for another couple hours if we're lucky and we'll run out the clock on that. Each of us, perhaps a couple of speakers, will have an opportunity for 10 or 20 minutes to put on the record what we feel about these very important pieces of public business. Then the debate will be virtually shut down and we'll move it to some usually very limited public hearings in this place while the House is sitting, with absolutely no possibility of travel. I'll talk in a second about the Ontarians With Disabilities Act, where in fact there is some travel. But it's so quick, so limited and so inaccessible as to actually be funny if it wasn't so sad. ...
... Here we are again, and it goes on and on. Some out there who have listened to me on Wednesday afternoon will know that I make the same argument and say a lot of the same things each time I get up here. For example, last week they time-allocated the bill concerning Ontarians with disabilities, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. I said that we have 1.6 million disabled Ontario citizens, not Canada-wide here, waiting for this bill. They've waited for over six years. This government, when it first came to power, just systematically rubbed its hand across the table and wiped out all the legislation that had been put in place by our government between 1990 and 1995 to deal with the question of accessibility and participation of disabled citizens in our communities, in their workplaces, taking advantage of education opportunities and access to the health care system and other things in the province. They've been waiting for over six years, because this government made a promise that it would bring in a strong, effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
They throw up in our face all the time, when we discuss this, that we didn't pass the bill that was brought forward by Gary Malkowski. That's fine; we didn't do that. We did a lot of other things, however, that this government saw as not in their interests to keep in place: the Employment Equity Act. We set up the commission. We did a whole lot of things within the public sector itself, and the Planning Act, so that any new buildings would have to live up to certain requirements and regulations in terms of accessibility. We made sure that people with disabilities were able to access and participate in the education system by funding in a generous way organizations of government like the vocational rehabilitation services of the Ministry of Community and Social Services, which they got rid of; put money into transit: Handi-Cabs. I remember buses bought in my own community that were designed to not only pick up the temporarily abled folks out there but the disabled as well so that disabled people across this province could in very serious and significant and important ways participate in the communities in which they live.
This government came in and just wiped all those out. It promised those people that in doing that, they would bring in an Ontarians with Disabilities Act that would have some teeth, some effect, some ability to make change, and would put their own stamp on this very challenging area of public policy and public life.
But more than six years later, those 1.6 million disabled citizens out there were waiting for this government to live up to their promise. They tabled a bill, the second one they have tabled -- the first one was such a joke that it just kind of flew off the table. I think it was one page, and it kind of went like this across the Legislature.
Mr Bisson: Kept on floating off the table.
Mr Martin: That's right. It was such a piece of fluff that even the minister lost her job over it.
But this bill now, hailed with some great flourish by the minister, who went across the province talking to people, making these wonderful promises that he was looking at this and looking at that, and "What about that?" gave everybody the sense that, "Hey, this guy understands. He knows what we're confronting and is, by way of that, probably going to do something here that will have some effect."
Well, we found out not long after he tabled the bill -- and some of you will remember the tabling of that bill and what proceeded that that day. He brought in some disabled people, had lunch with them, had a press conference, but nobody had seen the bill yet.
Mr Bisson: I was going to ask. Exactly.
Mr Martin: Yes, nobody had seen the bill yet, so they were all singing the praises.
Mr Bisson: Did he at least pay his bill for lunch?
Mr Martin: I'm not sure whether he paid the bill or not. I'm assuming he probably did in that instance. But he had promised a lot of things as he went around the province and -- ...
Mr Martin: Thank you very much. It's always important, Speaker --and we're talking about process here -- that we have people in this place who are participating in the debate, even though in most instances they are talking to each other and not listening, and are writing at their desks. The member who just got up a few minutes ago to challenge me in terms of my conversation with my colleague sitting beside me here is the only person in the House, other than the Liberal who just got up to call for quorum, who is actually paying attention to anything I have to say here. So it's helpful when somebody brings to your attention the possibility that there aren't enough members in this place to carry out the business of the Legislature.
I was saying, Mr Speaker, that last week we debated another time allocation motion here, and I'm speaking to you now very directly, about the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. I was saying that 1.6 million disabled Ontario citizens have been waiting for over six years for this government to bring forward a bill that will be effective in their ordinary, everyday life, a bill that, on the day that it's passed, will make a difference, that these people will recognize as having made a difference.
It was brought in with some great flourish, it was tabled, and then a day later we're debating it for second reading. A couple of days after that, we're debating a time allocation motion which is going to effectively cut down public debate, limit the ability of the public to participate. We were hoping that in this process, particularly with that bill, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the government, after having waited for six years, and the minister obviously being so convinced that this was the thing that was going to do it, would be willing to take the time necessary to do it right and hear from people, if in fact it wasn't going to do the job, what they needed to do by way of changes and amendment to achieve that end.
Alas, that's not going to happen. Where we thought they might be willing to take January, February and March, when I'm sure we will all have a lot of time on our hands to participate in this public process, to actually go out across the province, to communities in the north, in the south, in the east and in the west, to actually hear from people about this bill, to make sure that the folks that this bill, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, Bill 125, is targeted at had all kinds of opportunity; that the provisions necessary to translate or to make sure transportation was available were taken care of in a timely and comfortable fashion so that all those people felt they had adequate and full opportunity to participate if they wanted, to get to the location of the hearings, and then when getting to the hearings to be comfortable that all the assistive devices or translators etc that were necessary were there to help them get their message across, to understand that they were heard and understood by the committee; and that after that was done, that the government would be willing to take the significant time that would be available to them before the House comes back to consider the recommendations that were made, to consider the amendments that were put on the table and to do the right thing in the end and make sure that this was in fact a bill that committed government, that committed the private sector, that committed every citizen of this province to do everything within their power to make sure all citizens were included in the public business and the private business of Ontario in a way that reflected the value that exists inherently in every single human being who calls Ontario home.
But alas, even in that instance, what we have before us now that we're trying to deal with, and I'll give you an example of how difficult it is, a process that sees us now, having done second reading --as a matter of fact, we didn't even get a chance to have any further debate on second reading for Bill 125. Once we passed the time allocation motion before us last Wednesday, it said right in the bill that the next time that bill was called, it would be voted on immediately, with no further debate, and that we would be out to these very limited and rushed public hearings that are going to see us going to Ottawa on Friday.
This is what I want to bring before you. Because we are going to Ottawa on Friday in such a hurry and because the bill wasn't voted on until Monday, there was a problem, there was a logistical snag in this process. The clerk of the committee, a very hard-working, proficient and excellent member of the staff of this legislative precinct, in her attempt to make sure the people in the Ottawa area knew of this opportunity to come and make comments to Bill 125, was hamstrung by the fact that she could not possibly get an ad into the Ottawa newspapers until Tuesday. If she was going to follow the template we usually use in this place, she would have to make the timeline for people asking to make submissions that Tuesday afternoon so that she could then schedule them and get back to them to tell them they were scheduled and when they were to appear, so that in fact they could be there on Friday.
Imagine: you read about this. You're a disabled person out there in some part of the Ottawa region. You pick up the Ottawa Citizen, probably some time Tuesday morning or afternoon. You hear that these hearings are coming to your area. You've been waiting for this bill for six years. You've got a lot to say about it.
First of all, you'd like to get your hands on it, because you've heard about it now by way of this ad in the paper, so that you could have a look at it and prepare something to present. But on top of that, you've now got until 5 o'clock on Tuesday to phone the clerk's office and tell them you want to appear before the committee. You probably suggest to her that she might want to send you a copy of the bill. Once you've done that, once you've got your head around that, you've got to then figure out, "How do I get there? Can I, between Wednesday and Friday morning, arrange for the kind of transportation I need to get me from here to there?"
It's one thing for able-bodied people, or the temporarily able-bodied people in the province, to have a window of about two or three days to look at a bill, assess it, come up with a critique, perhaps some suggested amendments and then organize yourself to get a place at the table at the hearings and then get yourself from home to there in a timely and comfortable fashion. Add to that the added challenge with no Ontarians with Disabilities Act in place, with no provisions provided by this government because they knocked them all off the table in 1995 when they came to power, to provide you with the support you need to in fact get to these hearings and participate in some meaningful and helpful way. But that's what has happened here.
I haven't even begun to look at the challenges people in northern Ontario are going to have, because they've only got a week too, as they look at the potential for them to either get to Thunder Bay or Sudbury so that they can participate. Imagine somebody in Dubreuilville, Chapleau or Hornepayne --
Mr Bisson: Or even Timmins.
Mr Martin: -- or even Timmins --
Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex): Thessalon.
Mr Martin: -- or Thessalon, considering these public hearings. I'm particularly talking about the people in the Chapleau-Wawa- Hornepayne area. They're saying, "OK, next week on Thursday the hearings are going to be in Thunder Bay; on Friday they're going to be in Sudbury. Which place should I go?"
Mr Bisson: They're both pretty far from where I come from.
Mr Martin: You're darned right they are. From Chapleau, Wawa or Hornepayne, they're at least seven or eight hours away by car. I don't know if any of you have heard recently, but it's snowing up there. Joe, it started to snow there yesterday, about six inches of snow. We'll all be skiing on the weekend. We're hoping everybody will come.
But imagine the challenge to anybody who's disabled, you know, from Chapleau, Wawa or Hornepayne, trying to get to either Thunder Bay or Sudbury. It's not as easy as one would imagine. You look at that map of Ontario -- and we all laugh about this, but it's not funny really. When you see the map of southern Ontario and you say, "OK, there's where everything is," and it looks relatively close. Then you flip the side that's northern Ontario over and you say, "What's the problem here?"
Mr Bisson: "It's not that far."
Mr Martin: "That's not far." What they don't realize is that it's not to scale. To get from a place like Wawa, Chapleau, Hornepayne or Dubreuilville to either Sudbury or Thunder Bay is a major undertaking. It's a big trip. You've got all these people out there who have been waiting for six years, 1.6 million of them waiting for six years -- and I'm running out of time here -- to look at the bill that's put forward, anxiously hoping it's all they expected it to be; they look at it, and it turns out that it's not, and they want to have some input. They want to go and speak to the bill, meet with their elected officials and put their thoughts on the table, but hey, it's a challenge, it's difficult. This government could have, if it really wanted to and was committed to public process, waited until January, February or March and given everybody ample and adequate opportunity to participate and do the right thing....
Mr Spina: I want to remind my friend, the honourable member, that we want to ensure on that particular bill, the disabilities act and the public hearings that we are going to Windsor, Thunder Bay, Ottawa, and of course two days here in Toronto.
Mr Caplan: Why not Brampton?
The Acting Speaker: Order.
Mr Spina: Because it's covered by Toronto. That's why not Brampton.
Mr Caplan: Oh, they're not going to like that.
Mr Spina: We are part of the GTA. You can't deny that.
The reality is that we wanted to make sure that this particular bill is implemented as soon as we possibly can. It's always nicer and it certainly would be a wonderful, ideal situation if we could take it to many towns across Ontario. But one of the things that act will do, and we'll talk more about it when it comes before the House, is that it will allow more of those communities the opportunity to become more accessible for disabled people. ...
-- As my friend Tony Martin, the member from Sault Ste Marie, said,
it's important that we have debate on certain bills. We probably would
slow down debate on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, because we
think it's important that we go out and talk to the disabled community
to see how we can strengthen the bill. We fundamentally agree with
what you're trying to do. We think, though, it could be made better.