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New ODA Bill 125
Second Day of Second Reading Debate on Bill 125
November 19, 2001
(About 50 pages of text)
EXPLANATORY NOTE FROM THE ODA COMMITTEE
In this debate, reference is made to Bill 168, a proposed
Ontarians with Disabilities Act which former NDP MPP Gary
Malkowski introduced into the Legislature as a private member's
bill. Gary Malkowski was an NDP MPP in the Ontario Legislature
from 1990 to 1995. In mid-1994, he decided to introduce a
private member's bill into the Legislature, to be called the
Ontarians with Disabilities Act. He did this in order to get
action started in support of a strong and effective ODA. When he
first introduced it, there were pockets of support in the
disability community for an ODA, but neither the ODA Committee
nor a distinctive ODA movement had yet begun.
Mr. Malkowski's bill received first and second readings, and was
referred to a Standing Committee of the Legislature. That
Committee held three days of proceedings on the bill in November
and December of 1994. Two of those days included public
hearings. It was expected that the bill would receive further
hearing days. However, the bill died on the order paper when the
NDP Government called the 1995 election.
The ODA Committee was born on November 29, 1994, the first day
that those Committee proceedings. It began spontaneously by a
group of some 20 persons with disabilities who were present to
watch the Committee proceedings that day.
Bill 168 received first and second readings, plus three
Committee hearing days, all within about six months of the bill
first being introduced. This was an impressive record for a
private member's bill.
Since the 1995 election, Gary Malkowski has worked in a senior
position at the Canadian Hearing Society and has remained a
strong and active supporter of a strong and effective ODA. We
all are indebted to his important contributions over the past
years in support of the ODA, not least of which was his
introducing his Bill 168.
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, 2001
Resuming the debate adjourned on November 8, 2001, on the motion
for second reading of Bill 125, An Act to improve the
identification, removal and prevention of barriers faced by
persons with disabilities and to make related amendments to other
The Deputy Speaker (Mr David Christopherson): It's my
understanding that the member for Prince Edward-Hastings has time
left on the clock.
Mr Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings): Thank you, Mr Speaker.
I appreciate the time to continue speaking to Bill 125. There has
been a break since last Thursday, and that break has given me an
opportunity to talk to even more of the disabled community and to
hear their viewpoints on this.
It has been suggested to me that this bill is somewhat unique in
that it does not have a name assigned to it. This government
traditionally assigns very cute names to each of its bills. I
would suggest that they've struggled, but that the community
believes that Cam's Scam would be an appropriate title for this
I would like to go through and review some of the statements made
Hon Dan Newman (Minister of Northern Development and Mines): On a
point of order, Mr Speaker: I would ask you to review what the
member opposite just said. It was very unparliamentary.
The Deputy Speaker: I will review it. I would ask the member if
he would refrain while I review that, but if you would refrain
from that language. As you can see, it's going to cause
provocation. I'd ask you to consider that as you give the rest of
Mr Parsons: Thank you, Speaker. It has given the opportunity,
though, to review a number of statements that have been made over
the past few months, and I would like to share some of them with
In question period on November 7, the minister made the
statement, "I want to reassure the House that the 11 principles
were followed very carefully in the drafting of this
legislation." I would ask the minister to review this
legislation, because indeed we can find at best one of them that
was followed. There may be a misunderstanding on the part of the
government, but there does not seem to be an apparent adherence
to the 11 principles.
The statement was made that, "It gives full force and effect,
something never before done in Canada, to the disabilities
community so they have a voice and a say as we develop the
regulations on an access council for Ontario." The bill itself
doesn't require any input whatsoever from the disability
community before legislation is drafted, and certainly nothing
that is enforceable.
The statement was made on November 7 that, "It includes all
sectors of our economy, something that was very important," and
we agree it is extremely important that every sector be included.
However, this bill imposes no requirements whatsoever on the
The question was asked, "Minister, what was the reaction within
the disabled community to the tabling of this legislation?" The
answer was, "It was very evident on Monday, with the presence of
about 30 different organizations representing disability
stakeholders in our province. Duncan Read, the past president of
the Ontario March of Dimes, indicated that it was a historic
moment." The inference is there -- in fact, the statement is
there -- that the disabled community support this bill. Of the 30
different groups that form the Ontarians with Disabilities Act
Committee, one has indicated support for the bill. Doing some
very quick and rough math, that means that 29, or about 97%, of
the disability groups have not supported it.
The minister referred to the report prepared by the Liberal
caucus. Steve Peters toured the province, consulting with those
with disabilities. The minister has had this for quite some time
and has referred to it very positively, and we appreciate that.
However, the real question is, given the input from all of the
persons in Ontario, does this act improve their life? Does this
act remove barriers?
If we look at some of these, the first statement says, "There is
a severe limit of affordable, accessible rental accommodations
throughout the province." Does this tabled Bill 125 help that
situation? Not a bit.
"The lack of automatic doors is a problem." Does this bill help
"The interior design of accommodations are insufficient for the
needs of many in the community." Does the ODA apply to private
buildings? No; it doesn't help.
"The cost of transportation is a concern." This bill provides for
no money whatsoever to implement or to enforce the bill. Will it
address the cost of transportation for those with disabilities?
Not at all.
"There is a severe lack of assistive devices and adaptive
equipment to make learning easier for the disabled." Does this
I had the opportunity on the weekend to have contact with an
individual in a wheelchair in my community who resides on the
fourth floor of a seniors' building. Because of preventive
maintenance, the elevator is going to be shut down for one entire
week, 24 hours a day, for an entire week, the week before
Christmas. Does this bill cause people to think or do something
that would enable her to be able to get in and out of her
apartment? No. She is going to be held hostage in her apartment,
and I would suggest that that happens all across the province.
Will this bill help? Not at all.
"Printed materials are difficult to obtain in alternate formats
such as Braille." It is extremely difficult just to access
provincial documents for citizens in Ontario who are blind. They
do not have access to the documents in Braille form.
"Current voice mail systems are barriers to the hard of hearing
and the deaf." This does not help, and I would suggest they are
actually barriers to everyone.
"Television programs oftentimes do not have closed captioning."
We take for granted, those who are not disabled, that we can turn
on the TV and watch and get the news and understand what the
issues are. Click your television sets to the button that allows
you to have closed captioning, and see how many shows do not.
Does this bill assist to provide that for the disabled community?
Not one little bit.
"Pay phones are rarely accessible for those in wheelchairs and
are difficult to use for those with poor motor skills." This bill
doesn't help that.
"Many are faced with attitudinal barriers and outright
discrimination while attempting to find housing." This does
We can go on and on and on through this bill.
"There is little protection for the rights of persons using
This is a good document because it is what the people who have
disabilities have stated. The minister, when he took this role on
nine months ago, started touring the province and consulting with
people to find out what they needed to remove the barriers. That
startles me and saddens me in a way, because this government
promised in 1995 to consult and to produce a bill. That means,
until nine months ago, there has been nothing done. There has
been no consultation; there has been no dialogue. Now we're
seeing a rush. We saw that the 11 principles that were
unanimously endorsed are not all being met. There was also a
unanimous resolution which would require that this bill be in
effect by November 23. Not introduced, but in effect by November
23. Clearly, that principle is not going to be followed. We're
going to see some rushed consultation.
Interestingly, this bill doesn't apply to municipalities that are
smaller than 10,000. We now have some sense of where the
government's going to hold their public consultation meetings.
They're in cities like Toronto, Ottawa, Windsor -- all cities
over 10,000. The people who reside in smaller municipalities
won't even have the right to get into city hall, and this
government doesn't want to go and hear their opinions.
If there was ever a need to do more extensive public
consultation, it was with the disabled community, who have
insurmountable barriers at times to come to us. We need to go to
them, and that's not happening.
This bill does virtually nothing to address the barriers
identified by the disabled community. These are not things that
I've said; these are not things the Liberal Party has said. These
are things said by full citizens of this province who realize
they don't really have the right to work in this province, and
will not under the new legislation. They don't have the right to
accessible housing, and won't under this.
They have been misled, perhaps unintentionally, but they
certainly were under the perception that the Ontarians with
Disabilities Act would provide the full range of people with
disabilities the opportunity to be active participants in our
society. This bill won't do that. The time is not right to go and
do consultations and promise to make amendments in the coming
years. For every one of those citizens, a day is a year -- a day
trapped in their house, a day without employment. They have
skills that could meaningfully contribute to our province, and
yet there have been no barriers removed for them in getting a
The right thing to do with this bill is the same as was done with
the last ODA bill introduced by this government: withdraw it.
This is more of a barrier than it is a help. This will prevent
any new meaningful bill from coming forward. This bill needs to
withdrawn and done right, and done in a manner that reflects the
input from the community and reflects the needs of each and every
one of our citizens.
The Deputy Speaker: Members now have up to two minutes for
questions or comments.
Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I want to commend the member
for Prince Edward-Hastings for a very excellent précis of this
bill, for a very excellent analysis of what's in it, what's not
in it and, ultimately, some recommendations that this Legislature
ought to take very seriously. The member went through the bill a
week ago, when the House rose for constituency week, in a very
detailed fashion and brought up some very excellent arguments in
terms of what he saw as shortcomings of the bill and
recommendations that he would make. I would suggest that anybody
who wanted to get a good look at what it is we on this side of
the House will be concerned about as far as this bill is
concerned might want to look at Hansard of last Thursday and see
I think he certainly has raised a lot of the issues that you'll
hear raised by a lot of us in the House over the next few days as
this bill is being debated, questions such as, does it apply to
the private sector? He has obviously said no, and others out
there have said the same thing. Are there resources to support
implementation, any fast-tracking of this bill for the people out
there today depending on this to facilitate them
participating more fully in their community? The answer is no,
there are no resources to go along with this bill, no new money
targeted to help municipalities, communities or even the private
sector, if they choose on their own to move on some of these
Does it help people right now in their everyday lives? Will life
be different for people the day after this bill becomes law in
this province? He says no, and I suggest that if you talk to many
of the people in the disability community out there, they'll say
to you the very same thing. Does it live up to the 11 principles
of the resolution passed in this House? The answer, again, is no.
Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister of Citizenship, minister
responsible for seniors): I'd like to thank the honourable member
for his contribution. I listened, as I did when he began, and to
his completed comments this evening. I just want to remind him
that he brought to the attention of the House his own Liberal
Party's consultation tour filled with an identification of
problems, but even the Liberal Party makes no promise, no
commitment -- no financial commitment whatsoever -- to the 1.5
million disabled persons in our province. It just says that all
of this would be a nice starting point for discussions regarding
any components of any future legislation.
What we have before us in the House is a bill which, by its own
construct, goes further than any other piece of legislation in
Canada. The member opposite knows that. But we have yet to hear
one single commitment. The member opposite was clear that he has
problems with telecommunications, with closed captioning, with
the access to payphones and so on. I just want to remind the
member opposite that those are federal government issues and that
the federal government is absolutely silent on its support for
the disabled community. The federal Liberal government is doing
nothing in this country. We'll be the first province in Canada to
implement any legislation. If we're going to look at an ADA
model, the reason the federal government stepped in is because no
state in the US would come forward; but in fact, we're coming
He mentions transportation. Private sector transit services and
all transit systems in this province will mandatorily have to
file and comply with their accessibility plans. The province has
put up $3 billion, the municipalities have put up $3 billion, but
again, the federal Liberal government has run for cover. The
money for transportation has been put on the table by our
Minister of Transportation, Brad Clark, and nothing has come
Finally, attack me, attack this bill, but I thought it was
deplorable the way you attacked the Ontario March of Dimes, those
volunteers and individuals who contributed their efforts. You
unashamedly attacked these people in this House and you should
Mr Mario Sergio (York West): I congratulate my colleague the
member from Prince Edward-Hastings for a wonderful rendition, if
you will, on yet another bill, yet another attempt by the
government to solve the problem we are having in our province
when it comes to Ontarians with disabilities. You would think
that after all the years they promised they would be bringing
something really, really useful to Ontarians with disabilities,
they would have gotten it right and said, "We have been out
there, we have been listening and here it is. Yes, indeed, it's
acceptable and it's going to do wonderful things for people with
disabilities." They still didn't get it.
We will be approaching, perhaps, a vote on second reading. Will
they be listening when this goes to committee? I hope so because
all the people that we have spoken to say this is not addressing
the needs of Ontarians with disabilities.
What is the government telling us today? They have a bill in
front of the House. As they have done many, many times, they will
bring in this convoluted bill, will make some minor changes,
nothing will happen and then they will bring in another bill.
We've been waiting for this for five or six years. I think it's
about time the government gets serious in dealing with Ontarians
with disabilities and brings in a bill that meets the
requirements and needs of Ontarians with disabilities.
I hope this will move to the committee level, that they will be
hearing from all sides and, indeed, that this will come back to
the House in a format that will be acceptable and will address
the needs of Ontarians with disabilities.
Hon Brad Clark (Minister of Transportation): It would appear that
the opposition party is now rehashing old arguments from years
gone by. I have to correct the record for the member across the
way who just stated, not a few moments ago actually, that we
didn't put any funding in place for transit so therefore we can't
improve transit for the disabled. That's just categorically
wrong. This government has come up with a plan of $300 million a
year over 10 years. This is the first time a government of
Ontario has actually put money into transit over a long period of
time -- 10 years. We're planning for a decade. The municipalities
are there. They've put the same money in: $300 million a year
over that 10-year period.
So quite clearly they can plan for their capital reinvestment,
for their fleet renewal and to provide services for the disabled.
What the municipalities are upset about is the fact that the
federal Liberals are not there, that our Liberal friends in
Ottawa are missing in action. They made promises about coming
forward with funding for transit, but they haven't come forward.
They're the only ones that are missing in this picture -- the
If you sit back and look at all the transit authorities, all the
municipalities with urban transit, all the different groups that
have come forward -- the environmental groups, everyone -- have
praised the government for this incredible reinvestment in
transit. The only group that has not pointed a finger at our
Liberal friends in Ottawa are the Liberals here. That might be
slightly conspicuous. You would expect them not to cry foul. They
have yet to stand up to the federal Liberals on any matter. So
for the member to state that we haven't come forward with any
transit funding is categorically wrong. It's false. We have come
forward. The only government that has not come forward with money
for transit in the province of Ontario is the federal government.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Prince Edward-Hastings has up
to two minutes to respond.
Mr Parsons: I want to thank the members for Sault Ste Marie,
Burlington, York West and Stoney Creek for their comments.
First of all, I would like to clarify that the March of Dimes has
never been attacked by myself. I indicated they were the only
group that supported this bill. It is not an attack on them when
I indicate that they supported the bill.
The issue of transportation is a very real one. I can understand
there may be big, new, shiny vehicles driving past Ontarians with
disabilities. The issue is the absolute maximum that an Ontarian
with disabilities receives: $930 a month. Take that and pay rent,
buy groceries and do the very basics of life. They do not have
the money to pay the user fees to get on the bus. That's the
problem. A nice, shiny bus driving past them does not provide
This is a partisan issue that really should not be. Every person
in this House, every person in Ontario can identify a relative, a
friend, a neighbour, who has a disability. Each and every one of
us in this House, whether because of age or because of accident,
runs the risk of having a disability. The disabled community is
us. We are part of them as much as they are part of us. Each of
us needs to stop and say, "Will this bill make life better for
our friend, our neighbour, our relative, our co-worker?" That's
the challenge we face; not the rhetoric, not to be able to go on
the election trail next year and say, "We passed an ODA." The
question we have to answer is, have we improved life for our
In terms of priorities, do we want to give $2-billion tax cuts to
corporations that are doing well or do we want our neighbour to
be able, with dignity, to travel to a place of employment or to
travel to a business to shop? That's the real question, and this
bill doesn't help our friends, our neighbours and our relatives.
The Deputy Speaker: The floor is now open for further debate. The
Chair recognizes the member for Sault Ste Marie for the third
party's leadoff debate.
Mr Martin: I appreciate the opportunity tonight to put some
thoughts on the record where this very important piece of work is
concerned. Before I do, I want to give credit to a few people who
have helped me come to a fuller understanding of what is needed
today in Ontario if we are going to meet the needs of 1.6 million
disabled citizens across this province. They have helped me,
since I was appointed by our caucus as the critic for
disabilities well over a year ago, to come to terms with the
record of this government where people living with disabilities
are concerned and what it is they really need in their everyday
lives by way of support, regulation and initiative by this
government if they're going to participate fully in their
communities, as they all want to do; if they're going to be able
to live up to the capacity we know they have, and they
particularly know they have, to participate in meaningful and
wholesome ways in their community, whether it's as a volunteer,
whether it's within their family, whether it's simply looking
after their own needs, or out there in the workaday world
gainfully employed using the abilities they have at their
disposal, that they are able to access and avail themselves of,
if only we would get rid of some of the barriers they encounter
each day as they try to do that.
There are some people in my own office who have been very helpful
and who have worked very diligently to put together some of the
notes that I will be using tonight in my comments as I critique
this bill. They are people like Sarah Jordison, who works as a
legislative assistant, and Lea Bothwell, in my Sault Ste Marie
office, who has worked with me to pull together over the last
year and a half some very committed, intelligent and hard-working
individuals, most of them living with disabilities, many of them
advocates for groups or individuals living with disabilities who
have responded to this government as it time after time put out
notices that an ODA was coming down the road, to suggest to them
each time that if they were going to do something real and
meaningful that it had to have some teeth in it -- that was the
term they used -- and if the government really wanted to know
what was required in that bill and what they meant by teeth, they
would simply have to go and have a chat with them.
One of the people in Sault Ste Marie who worked very closely with
Lea Bothwell in my office to make sure that we had these
meetings, that they were well organized, that we got good input
and that we were moving forward always in the development of ever
new and more advanced thinking and contribution to the government
if they were interested in it -- and in fact we did on numerous
occasions in our community, through the leadership of Lea and
Dorothy McNaughton, who took over the chair of that group in very
short order after it started off to work to make our community
aware of what some of the challenges were, of what it was that
the disabled were talking about when they spoke of the need for
an Ontarians with Disabilities Act in our province and what in
fact it should look like. They wrote letters to the government.
They developed petitions in the community. At one point they
undertook, I thought, a very ambitious initiative to gather
barrier diaries from those disabled in our community who were
interested in documenting for us those things that they ran into
each day that many of us who don't live with obvious disabilities
don't encounter or might not have any understanding about. Those
barrier diaries were submitted to the government so that they
might have those to look at, to assist them as they put together
a bill that would help to remove some of those barriers.
They appeared before city council on a number of occasions. They
sat down with reporters to make sure there were articles in our
local newspaper on a regular basis to keep the public engaged and
informed and, through that, to be informing the government, to be
encouraging the government, to be challenging the government to
bring forward a bill that dealt with the question of disabilities
and getting rid of barriers and improving the lot and the life of
those 1.6 million citizens in this province who are still waiting
tonight, and will be over the next few weeks as we debate this
bill, to see if in fact there is something in it that will be
useful to them.
If this government is true to its word that it wants to do
something that's going to be helpful, they will be willing to go
back out to the community now that they've tabled the legislation
to see what those who will be affected directly by it, who will
have to live with it, support it, work with it very concretely
and directly in the community, have to say about it and in fact
be willing then, at the end of the day, to accept whatever
amendment, however fulsome that amendment might be, however
dramatic that amendment might be in terms of calling for change,
that the government will be willing to live up to its word, live
up to its commitment to do something useful here and actually
listen to those people and put those amendments in so that we in
this place, all of us -- Liberals, New Democrats and
Conservatives -- can support this legislation, because I know
that the longer we wait, the longer we put this off, the longer
people have to wait. However, I say that knowing that if we put
something forward now that doesn't have in it the legs and the
teeth, the power and the ability and the legislative authority to
actually make something happen, we deceive a whole group of
people out there who have been waiting too long for us to
actually do that.
For this government to in any way surreptitiously bring this bill
forward and present it as in fact doing that I think would be to
set us all up for the kind of cynicism that we often see in our
province and in our country these days where politicians and
government are concerned, and the knack we have of saying one
thing and then in fact, when we turn around, doing something else
completely different and not hitting the mark when there are
people out there who are depending on us, counting on us, waiting
for us to hit the mark.
I mention those people because I think it's important that the
minister know that those of us on this side of the House have
also done our homework, that we have been out there talking with
people, that we've been listening to people and that we're
genuinely and seriously interested in some real dialogue with him
about this bill if he in fact wants to make it the kind of
legislation that will do the job that he, in his announcement,
suggests it has the potential to do.
Alas, though, we're wary and worried that maybe -- because we've
heard from some people now who have actually done an analysis of
the bill and who tell us that there is a lot of work required if
it's actually going to be a bill that will be meaningful -- this
government is responding to or working out of, I guess a word you
might use is, an "ethos" that was presented when we saw a leaked
document a couple of years ago that suggested that, really, the
people of Ontario overall, the millions of people who call
Ontario home, not the 1.6 million living with disabilities but
the others, aren't that interested or concerned about this. They
don't know what it is that people with disabilities are talking
about when they call for an Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and
in fact it's not something that's high on their radar screen nor
do they have a whole lot of interest in it, so if the government
simply puts out a piece of legislation that has a really good
communications strategy that goes with it, that will be
When we look at what's happened over the last couple of weeks in
this place as the government unveiled this piece of legislation,
you have to ask yourself, when you consider all of the pieces,
whether in fact that is what has happened. Any of us who went to
the briefings and the press conference know that the government
did a good job of putting this legislation out in various formats
so that people could access it and get a sense of what was in it
--lots of good material, lots of communication hoopla, lots of
information and binders etc going out to folks, so there was with
this piece of legislation a very excellent communications
strategy put in place.
As a matter of fact, Mr Speaker, I might just for a minute
explain to you that strategy so that you perhaps might make up
your mind, as well as people out there listening, what the
government was in fact trying to do with that whole process. The
minister went around the province, to give him credit, and talked
to folks about the possibility of an ODA act. When he was out
there, he held up the possibility of the most wide-ranging and
progressive and inclusive and authoritative piece of legislation
that one could imagine, living up to the 11 principles we all
debated here in a private member's hour about a year ago, that we
passed unanimously and we all agreed should be in any Ontarians
with Disabilities Act.
The minister suggested in his travels that those principles would
be lived up to. He wrote letters back to people like myself who
wrote to him encouraging him to pass an ODA with authority and
teeth that in fact he was going to do that. He was out there
presenting the message that he was actually going to do the right
thing, that he was going to table a bill that had in it all those
things that groups out there who have been waiting for such a
long time were calling for, that would force organizations and
groups and institutions to make changes and to make them
immediately and to make them effective and that he was willing to
put the resources in place to support those changes.
When he talked to some of the disabled community and explained to
them that this was what was coming down and that he was going to
set up some advisory councils that would include some of them,
and he invited them to Queen's Park for lunch and the press
conference that he held, it shouldn't surprise any of us that
there were a lot of people willing to attend, because they
thought, not having seen the legislation, not having had a chance
to actually analyze it and take a real good look at it, that they
were getting the whole thing; that in this piece of legislation
the minister was going to table that afternoon were all the
things they knew needed to be in place if we were going to live
up to the 11 principles that we all debated and passed and
supported and talked about and worked with over the last couple
of years out there across Ontario. So they were excited, and some
of them even said some very positive things about it and said
they would support this bill. But, alas, when some of us and some
of the groups and individuals out there had the time and took the
time to actually read through the bill, it rang hollow.
Where this minister, in announcing this bill, said that it would
put the disabled in this community, all 1.6 million of them, in
the driver's seat, we're here today to suggest to you that in
fact what the minister is doing is taking all these people for a
ride on a bus that's not going very far in trying to support or
put in place those things that are necessary if those people are
going to participate in the way that they know they have the
capacity to or want to in this community.
We know that if this government were really serious about issues
of accessibility -- and this bill, which I'll talk about in a
short few minutes, is very much about making buildings accessible
and putting in place plans or encouraging, sort of using moral
suasion to get municipalities and other organizations to put in
place programs that would allow for some of the mobility
challenges to be dealt with -- if they wanted to do that, they
didn't need an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. They simply
needed to tell people out there who are getting money from this
government to build new buildings, or could have been doing it
over the last five or six years, as they spent capital dollars on
infrastructure projects, to make sure that they are all
accessible. The guidelines are out there. They have been
developed over a number of years. With some of the announcements
that we're going to hear in the next month or two, as this
government begins to roll out some of the SuperBuild money that
they've got stashed away and will spend in, I suggest to you, a
very politically helpful way, none of that money would be
accessible to communities or organizations unless the buildings
they are putting up that are open to the public are accessible.
They could do that. They could do that right now. They could make
that announcement next week or the week after when they announce
these SuperBuild projects and use this bill for the purposes that
we all thought it was intended for and do the broader support and
regulation and legislation that's required in this province if
we're going to make it a province that is friendly and supportive
and inclusive of everybody who calls Ontario home.
I just want to share with you a letter that was sent to the
minister shortly after the bill was introduced last week, one
that I dare say he will share with us. It was written by the
Canadian Hard of Hearing Association. He may or may not have read
it. It says:
"Re: A Shameful Ontarians with Disabilities Act
"The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association Ontario Chapter and
branches across the province are shocked and appalled you have
brought forth a long-winded bill that lacks substance.
"The bill you have introduced will not remove or prevent barriers
for people with disabilities. You have not included timelines to
accomplish anything or enforcement mechanisms. And downloading
responsibility to local governments will result in ensuring
unequal access and unequal opportunities for people with
disabilities and their families throughout the province.
"Although we do support the increase in parking fines for illegal
parking in spaces reserved for people with disabilities, the fact
remains many people with disabilities cannot afford cars or
retrofitting cars for access. Minister, many people with
disabilities do not even have access to public transportation due
to barriers, including cost. Poverty is a serious problem
confronting people with disabilities and their families.
"People with disabilities need access to jobs. People with
disabilities need access to education. People with disabilities
need access to our political institutions.
"Minister, you have implied that there is strong support for this
bill within the disability committee. This is just not so.
"Many organizations, including the Canadian Hard of Hearing
Association Ontario Chapter, and many private citizens do not
support the bill as it now stands. Significant amendments must be
"It is offensive that you have excluded many, many people with
disabilities from the legislative process. With only four days'
notice on the reading of the first bill and this event only for
your invited guests, coupled with no notice for the second
reading of the bill, is a form of discrimination.
"Inclusion is what the Ontarians with Disabilities Act is all
about. It appears that you are having difficulty grasping this
"Please pause and re-examine the `human side' of the Ontarians
with Disabilities Act. Take time to reflect on how your actions,
your party's actions, will diminish the life experience of people
with disabilities and their families by bringing forth an
"Please `practise' inclusion and take the time to hold open,
public legislative committee hearings throughout the province of
Ontario, meetings that are accessible to people with
"We all have an ethical responsibility to work toward inclusion.
As an elected public official, please take the first step and
role model inclusion by including people with disabilities in the
And this is signed by Sandy Russill, vice-president of the
Canadian Hard of Hearing Association of Ontario. I could -- but
I'm not going to tonight --read a number of other letters that
have been sent to many of us who are involved in the debate at
this time around this legislation.
These people aren't saying that tabling this bill at this time is
a bad thing; what they're saying is that there's not enough in
this bill right now to make it usable or helpful to them. They're
calling on the government to be ready to accept serious and
significant amendments. They're calling on this government, and
we're supporting them in that call. We're not completely dissing
this bill either. We're willing to work with the government if
the government is willing to take the time necessary to get it
We're saying to the government that they need to take this bill
out across the province; that they need to take the time
necessary, not try to ram it through before Christmas, not do
hearings that are quickly put together and rushed into existence
simply because there's this artificial deadline of, say, December
17 or 18, that this government wants to get this bill through;
that they take the time during the intersession -- January,
February, March of next year -- to go out there to communities,
big and small, across this province and provide the resources
necessary to make sure that the hearings we will support them in
having out there are accessible, are well advertised and that the
resources are in place to make sure that all people with every
sort of disability are able to come forward to say their piece
and ask their questions, make their suggestions and their
recommendations and feel that they've been heard so that this
government, then, could come back to this Legislature and with us
look at and accept amendments that will make this bill the kind
of bill that we hoped it would be when it was tabled just last
week in this place.
I think you have to understand why it is that so many of the
disabled across this province might be a little suspicious where
this government is concerned and a bit more than disappointed
that what we got a week or so ago was so weak and so minimal,
when you consider what was in place in this province in 1995 when
we left government, particularly by way of a really strong and
effective and workable Employment Equity Act that was targeted
directly and clearly at people in this province with
disabilities, to try and get them into the workforce, to
recognize the training and the education and the skill and the
ability that was there that we as a province were missing out on
because we weren't able to nor had we the political will to make
sure that those people were able to fully use those skills out
there in the community and in the workplace. That Employment
Equity Act was about them, was about including them, was about
making sure that they had their place, that institutions and
employers and organizations out there who wanted to employ them
because they recognized the very valuable contribution that they
could make had the resources necessary and that the legislation
was in place to support them in that effort.
But you'll remember very clearly that this government ran in that
election in 1995 by putting that piece of legislation up as this
bugaboo that was somehow a counter-discrimination against another
group of people, which in fact flew in the face of all reality.
So when they got elected, they did what they said they were going
to do and they threw out the Employment Equity Act, and with it
they threw away the lives of literally thousands of citizens in
this province who held out just a little hope, who saw a light at
the end of the tunnel and who were actually beginning to get
excited and get prepared to participate.
I know some people in my own circle of friends who actually got
jobs during that period of time because there were being put in
place employment equity programs within workplaces --
particularly government workplaces -- to make sure that workplace
reflected the reality of the community out there where
percentages of people with disabilities were concerned. But that
was thrown out, so we should not be surprised that a whole lot of
people out there were waiting very anxiously to see what this
government was in fact going to do replace that; or do something
else; or respond in some other positive and constructive way to
the very real challenges being faced by this group of people in
our province. Our government set up a commission of people from
various of the target groups where employment equity is concerned
to make sure that those workplaces that were identified as
needing to put in place plans were in fact doing that, carrying
them out according to the letter of the law and hitting the
targets and the timelines that were laid out as well.
Mr Speaker, you'll remember the very long, difficult and
important debate that took place for months and months before we
actually introduced some of that legislation and put in place
that commission so that we might get it right and so that it
might be helpful to the groups, particularly the disabled, in
this province who are counting on, depending on and looking to
government for leadership in this area, so that we might afford
opportunity to participate in the way that we, who see ourselves
as not disabled -- even though sometimes you wonder who the
disabled are -- those of us who aren't challenged in the same
way, take for granted so often.
It wasn't long after doing away with the Employment Equity Act
and closing down the commission that was set up to support it
that we then began to see this government, in its attempt to
reduce the effectiveness of government and to shrink government
in the province, lay off literally thousands and thousands of
people -- a couple of thousand in my own community alone.
It's interesting, but a closer analysis of that piece of business
by the government will indicate that literally hundreds of
disabled people who had been hired by different government
agencies, boards, commissions and institutions as employment
equity plans began to kick into place, in fact now began to lose
their jobs; because, as you know, when people are laid off, if
there's no protection -- without the legislation that protected
people in situations where there was an attempt to employ
somebody who otherwise would have a difficult time getting their
foot in the door -- it's last in, first out. So a whole lot of
disabled citizens -- very talented, capable disabled citizens --
who had been hired in 1993, 1994 and 1995 across this province to
work for government and agencies indirectly connected with
government and ultimately in the private sector out there, which
began to have to live up to some of the requirements of that
legislation as well, began to lose their jobs.
I refer to a gentleman in my own community who came to me soon
after this government got elected to tell me that he had gotten a
job locally in a government office and was really enjoying it.
But now, because of the doing away with the Employment Equity Act
and the laying off of literally thousands of civil servants
across the province, he was about to lose his job. Where a
tremendous effort was made to make sure that this gentleman, who
was very talented and very anxious and willing to work, could be
accommodated in this workplace, he was no longer, according to
the rules set out by this government, going to be able to do that
So, to this day, because he lost his job, this gentleman has seen
his life become more and more difficult, the challenges seemingly
bigger and bigger in front of him as he dealt with the
deterioration of his health, which I believe and suggest to you
is not indirectly connected to the fact that he is no longer
gainfully employed out there. He struggles to the point now where
-- this gentleman is in a wheelchair and is quite challenged with
a disability -- this government has seen fit, in their wisdom, to
even take away his home care. That's how far we've come since
1995 in terms of how we deal with the disabled in this province.
The Deputy Speaker: Would the member please take his seat.
I would bring to the attention of members that there are a number
of conversations going on on the government benches. However, one
of the offenders happens to be the member from Sault Ste Marie's
own chief whip, so I would ask him to also please come to order.
If there are any further discussions, either save them for later
or go outside -- with the exception of the Minister of Consumer
and Business Services, who may continue to quietly show the
picture of his grandchildren to colleagues. Other than that, all
discussions will cease, or please move outside the chamber.
The member for Sault Ste Marie may continue. My apologies for the
Mr Martin: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I appreciate your
challenging the members across the way to perhaps participate or
to listen in some small way to some of the comments I'm making,
because there are 1.6 million disabled citizens out there hoping
that you're listening to what I have to say. In many ways, I feel
that I'm speaking on their behalf here, because they have no
voice in this place otherwise.
As I was saying, this government laid off literally thousands of
civil servants, many of them newly hired disabled individuals.
They then summarily wiped out the voc rehab program that
governments of different stripes had put in place and enhanced
over the years to support people with disabilities in getting the
training that they needed and give them support in terms of
accommodation in actual workplaces once they were finished the
training. They introduced, with great fanfare in this place -- Mr
Speaker, at one point you'll remember an Ontarians with
disabilities support program, which was supposed to be an
enhancement of supports that were in place by government to help
disabled individuals either live with some dignity or quality of
life or support them by being more flexible in terms of moving in
and out of the workplace. But, alas, we know, those of us who
have anything to do with people living with disabilities in this
province, that that in fact isn't the way it turned out. This,
again, was a vehicle for this government to reduce the
contribution that government makes to the lives of some very in-
need individuals out there, and in fact became a bit of a weapon
against the disabled.
Just to use one little example, in my experience anyway, a person
decided to go off and get into a workplace situation and leave
the confidence of a disability pension behind for a time,
understanding, because the government had told him that this was
the way it was going to be, that it would be easy for him to just
come back and get back on the disability pension again if the
work experience didn't work out. Alas, what we found out was that
a lot of people did take advantage of that, but in coming back to
apply, the rules had changed so significantly and the bar had
been raised so much higher that in fact where they qualified
before they left, they found that they didn't qualify any more.
So they were in a real conundrum and found themselves in worse
shape, worse off, than when they started out in the first place.
This is the kind of thing that makes people looking at this
government and looking at this piece of legislation cynical and
not trusting and wanting to see the fine print and the
regulations before they'll support what this government says will
be in their best interests, because they've had too much
experience otherwise over the last five or six years in this
province where people with disabilities are concerned. I've just
listed a few. I'm sure you could bring people in here by the
truckload who could talk to you over and over again about other
things that have been put in place to make the lives of those who
are challenged with disabilities difficult in this province.
The Social Benefits Tribunal, for example, is supposed to be
there to help people who are trying to access the Ontarians with
disabilities support program work their way through the process
and get what they need. I'm told the government is now acting as
if they were a private sector insurance company. The first time
you apply -- it seems, anyway -- you automatically get turned
down, so you have to appeal. I'm told by those who work directly
with people who are in the process of trying to appeal some of
those rulings that people are dying before they get to their
hearings. They are being told by the folks who make those
decisions that they're not disabled enough yet, and if they just
wait a little longer and get a little bit more disabled, then
maybe they'll quality. But in the meantime, I'm told by people
working with these folks, some of these people are actually
passing away before they get to their appeal and get the kind of
support they need to get themselves the assistance that would in
fact allow them to get the medications and assistive devices that
are necessary so that they don't end up dying.
For example, we have people -- and this comes from the Algoma
Community Legal Clinic -- who applied for disability in November
2000. Their appeal began because the government has put in place
in the legislation that if they are turned down and they appeal,
hearings will be scheduled within 60 days. Well, in fact, they're
living up to that part of it. The only thing is, they're
scheduling those hearings a year or two down the road. So where
somebody applies in November 2000, the appeal, once they get the
response back, begins in March and April or May 2001, and their
hearing actually takes place in June 2002. That's almost two
years. That's the kind of thing that people with disabilities are
having to struggle with day in and day out across this province,
not to speak of the fact that they haven't had an increase in
their pension since we were government.
This government has deemed it not necessary to provide people who
through no fault of their own are dependent on the Ontarians with
disabilities support program pension any recognition of the fact
that the cost of living has been rising, some suggest 9% to 12%,
in that range, over the last five or six years. So they've lost
their ability to participate in terms of purchasing power over
that period of time. It's just another little example of the
kinds of things that are out there by way of obstacles, by way of
barriers, by way of challenges to disabled people across this
province, and why it is they were so keenly anxious and looking
forward to this government actually tabling a bill that would
legislation some rights that they would have to accessibility, to
support, to participation in the communities in which they live.
To get back to the bill specifically and to put a few thoughts on
the record as to our caucus's position on a number of the things
that are in the bill, the hallmark of this bill seems to be the
establishment of an advisory committee on disabilities, something
that existed for years before this government came into office,
something that they threw out, that they disbanded. Upon taking
office, they quickly terminated the Ontario Advisory Council on
Disability Issues. They did that in October 1995. They were
hardly in office six months when they got rid of the Ontario
Advisory Council on Disability Issues, and now they suggest in
this bill, "We're going to reintroduce that, and we're to be
applauded for that"? That's fine. We'll say, "Yes, let's have
that. Let's do that." Five or six years later, to have woken up
to the fact that we need it, you know, let's give them credit and
let's do it. Now the minister wants us to applaud the re-
establishment of an advisory committee that his government never
should have terminated to begin with.
The bill promises guidelines that could have been written six
years ago when the government first promised an ODA, guidelines
that may never even make it into the regulations. Six years of
broken promises from this government, and there are still no
guarantees life will be any different five years from now for 1.6
million citizens of this province.
This bill calls for accessibility plans with no timelines or
money to guarantee those plans will ever be worth the paper
they're written on. This bill doesn't break down any of the
existing barriers. It has no primacy over the building code or
any other important legislation where this is concerned. It
doesn't even speak to the retrofitting of old buildings. Aside
from mobility disabilities, this bill virtually ignores all other
people who live with a disability.
I met this past week, during constituency week, with the local
Sault Ste Marie and Algoma Ontarians with Disabilities Act
Committee and they brought this issue up. They saw through this
bill and pointed out to me that I had to go back into the
Legislature and tell them that you can't ignore all of the other
people who live in this province with disabilities simply to
focus on the mobility disability issues, even though they are
important and need to be addressed as well.
It provides no enforcement strategy. The government is asking
municipalities, school boards, hospitals, colleges, universities
and transit commissions to create accessibility plans. But
exactly how does the government expect them to implement those
plans? They are so strapped for cash they're having serious
problems providing current services. Mr Speaker, you know all
about the downloading that has happened over the last five or six
years and the fact that municipalities are having a difficult
time just providing some of the basic services that are required
municipalities, never mind asking them now, although they should,
to provide for some of these other things that will of course be
included in these plans that they'll need some
resources to help put in place. Municipalities are already
scrambling to finance programs and are having to cut services.
Where are they going to get the money to implement their access
plans? Without provincial funding, the risk is that they'll
simply report the barriers they want to tear down but can't.
This bill lets the private sector off the hook. Let me tell you,
people don't get their groceries at Queen's Park. They buy them
from the private sector. They don't get their hair cut at city
hall. They go to the private sector. They don't go to a movie in
a hospital. They go to the private sector. All of those goods and
services remain off limits to people with disabilities, because
this government refused to put a single mandatory requirement for
the private sector in this legislation.
Besides having an advisory committee, accessibility plan and
revised procurement requirements, there is no clear mandatory
action required of municipalities either. So if they don't feel
like it or the political climate isn't right or they cry poor or
whatever, there's no mandatory action required there.
Advisory committees have no power to ensure compliance and
enforcement. Their power will lie in their ability to lobby hard,
which they're already getting tired of doing. This bill does
nothing to improve job access for people with disabilities.
Again, one of the first things this government did when it came
into office was to scrap the NDP's employment equity legislation
that gave people with disabilities an actual shot at fulfilling
their employment potential. This bill does nothing to improve job
access for people with disabilities. This legislation doesn't
even come close to rebuilding policies that this government cut.
The risk is that for the average disabled Ontarian nothing will
change. Enforcement remains complaint-driven, and the only body
with power to force change is the already overextended Human
Commission. We all know of the waiting list there. How are they
going to deal with this?
The bill changes the Municipal Act to allow municipalities to
require new businesses to be accessible in order to get their
business licence, but emphasis here is on the word "allow."
There's no guarantee, there's no mandatory requirement and it
doesn't speak to existing barriers in established businesses.
Though it reforms the social housing act to ensure any future
social housing is fully accessible, when was the last time this
government built any social housing? From 1990-95, every other
day there was a new shovel going in the ground in my community
building social housing, because we knew that we needed to have
affordable housing for people. In every one of those units, there
were dedicated units for the disabled, units that had wider
doors, that had lower shelves, that had all kinds of things that
made it possible for disabled people to live a life of some
comfort and accessibility. This government hasn't even built a
unit of social housing, never mind putting in units within that
for the disabled.
After all these insults, the minister likes to claim that
disability groups love this bill. I'm sure there are people with
disabilities who are relieved that the government is willing to
take even this small baby step. When I was back in Sault Ste
Marie during constituency week at the meeting that we had with
the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, there were people
who said, "Tony, please, it may not be the whole loaf but it's a
slice. Don't kill it. Let's see if we can work with it, let's see
if we can't amend it, improve it, because at least it's
something." Up to now we've had nothing but promises, for six
years promises to 1.6 million citizens living in this province
challenged with disabilities.
The minister shipped in disability groups, fed them lunch and
made sure they surrounded him at a press conference he held
before he released the bill. He was too cowardly to go to the
media with the actual bill in hand, to actually give the bill to
some of us so that we might ask some pointed and real questions.
Yes, people with disabilities were excited about this bill. They
thought this minister was going to do something meaningful for
them, but now that they've read the fine print, the minister's
cheering section is shrinking with each day that goes by. If the
minister is so sure the disability community loves this bill, why
isn't he giving them plenty of notice before ramming it through
for second reading? Why isn't he announcing broad public hearings
throughout Ontario to let people have their say now that they've
actually read the bill? Why isn't he willing to wait and take the
time -- January, February, March -- when we can all get our heads
around this and prepare and get groups out there prepared and go
to not only four or five communities but go to maybe 12 or 15
communities -- small
communities, medium-sized communities, big communities -- so that
we can hear of the unique and individual challenges of people in
those places and hear from them what it is that they think should
be in this bill if it's actually going to be helpful?
The Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee has read the fine
print and says, "This bill does not do what Cam Jackson claims it
will do." They've said that. Is this bill consistent with the 11
principles unanimously agreed to in this House? You heard the
member for Prince Edward-Hastings a few minutes ago. He said no.
I say no. The disabled community out there, the Ontarians with
Disabilities Act Committee are saying, now that they've had a
chance to read it, no, it doesn't.
Does this bill achieve the barrier-free society the government
sets out in its own vision statement? No, it doesn't. The
minister went out across the province over the last few months
with this vision statement getting everybody cranked up and
excited about the possibility of a bill that would actually do
something, and then he tables this and he expects all of us to
jump on board and whip it through quickly and make it the law of
the day and disappoint so many people.
Is this the strong and effective law this Legislature unanimously
promised on November 23, 1999? You remember the debate. You
remember how enthused and excited people were as they talked
about the possibilities, what needed to be in place, what those
11 principles should look like and why it was important that they
be reflected in any legislation that would come forth, how after
having seen the paltry offering by this government by way of its
first ODA, we all in this place gathered and said, "We can't do
that again. We can't repeat that disappointing piece of business
in this place. If we're going to do it again, we've got to do it
right." Some of us stood and spoke on behalf of individuals in
our own communities and on behalf of groups and communities
across this province to say that these are the 11 principles that
needed to be in place.
No, it's not there. It's not reflected. It's not in this bill. To
add insult to injury, this government isn't even making the
debate on this bill accessible to the very people it claims to
help. You remember the last week before we left this place. The
bill was introduced and then, without any real notice to folks
out there who require all kinds of time to prepare, to get
themselves ready -- transportation, visibility issues, all kinds
of things -- we had the bill kicked off for second reading only a
day or two later.
The minister knows this bill is a dud. That's why he's ramming it
through second reading without giving any notice to people with
disabilities. That's why he's trying to skirt around the fact
that he's not giving this bill the broad public hearing it so
desperately needs. I guess he figures if he whips it through
quickly, he won't have to deal with some of the amendments that
so many people are working so feverishly right now out there to
prepare and get in place and hope to have an opportunity to
actually put on the table. If he gets it through quickly, they
won't have an opportunity to in fact do that and then he won't
have to deal with it.
This government had six years to make good on its promise to
people with disabilities, and now it's shutting them out of the
debate on this bill. We've waited six long years for Premier Mike
Harris to make good on his May 24, 1995, promise to the ODA
committee to bring in an Ontarians with Disabilities Act in his
first term of office. It seems to me that a lot of things have
happened since then, there's been a lot of water under the
bridge. We're well into a second term and the Premier has
announced that he's stepping down, he's moving on because, he
claims, he's done everything that he came here to do. I say to
the Premier, before you leave, you said you would introduce an
Ontarians with Disabilities Act that would actually do something
in this province, that would go a long way to meeting the needs
of the people on the ODA committee in this province, what they've
been talking to you about and what they've indicated to you they
need. You could finish that piece of business before March 23 if
you really wanted to. You could give us all the time we need,
even if the House prorogues in December. You know and I know that
there are ways of keeping bills alive so you can have the fulsome
debate that's required and actually come back, then, in another
session and make it the law, pass it.
All we get is a promise to write up guidelines that may or may
not end up in the regulations. Year in and year out, this
government broke its promise to bring in a strong and effective
ODA, and people living with disabilities in Ontario suffered the
consequences. They were shut out of movie theatres, buildings,
public buses, special education and interpretive services. The
list is endless. This bill doesn't guarantee any changes
whatsoever in any of those realities for people out there --
How many SuperBuild projects were created without any plan to
ensure they were barrier-free? How many? Maybe the minister will
tell us when he gets up later today. How much of this
government's Smart Growth program turned out to actually be
stupid growth because it included no plan to tear down existing
barriers or to prevent new ones? The ODA committee, along with so
many others, have been working so hard to ensure strong,
effective ODA legislation and, once again, this government has
What do we have after six long years and all this great effort? A
bill that fails to guarantee their lives will actually change
significantly. That's what we have, and the government ought to
be honest about that. This should be a joyous moment for the
disability community. It is so sad that after all their hard
work, this is what the government puts forward, this is what the
government thinks is necessary and will in fact do the trick.
Last Thursday, you announced your vision for people with
disabilities. It brought back memories of one of your cabinet
documents, leaked last October, that suggested that the way to
get around introducing an effective ODA was to have a strong
communications strategy -- hoodwink people, smoke and mirrors.
You know all about that. You've been doing it for five or six
years in many, many jurisdictions, Minister.
I call on the minister to begin extensive public hearings on this
bill across the province. A few token cities just won't do it.
These hearings must be fully accessible and people must be given
plenty of notice to ensure access to transportation. It's time
for this government to start listening to the people whose lives
this bill could actually significantly improve. This bill just
doesn't cut it, and you need to make the right changes. You need
to be willing to work with those of us on this side who are
willing to work with you to make sure that the necessary
amendments are brought forward and actually adopted and accepted
by this government so we have a bill that will live up to the
expectations of so many people across this province who have been
waiting too long.
I would like to recognize all the hard work and commitment of the
many people in organizations dedicated to creating a barrier-free
Ontario: the municipalities throughout Ontario that threw their
support behind an ODA, the all-party agreement that forced the
Harris government to enact this law by November 23, 2001 -- we're
going to miss that, as well. But I say to the minister that if
missing that means you're willing to take the time necessary to
take this bill out across the province to a significant number of
communities during the intersession -- January, February, March -
-so we might hear from people in a way that is accessible,
comfortable and open to as many people and groups as possible,
then in fact we won't worry about the November 23, 2001,
deadline. We'll kind of ignore that. I think I can speak on
behalf of my caucus when I say that. Having listened to the
member from Prince Edward-Hastings a week ago Thursday and again
tonight, I think the Liberals would probably be willing to agree
with that as well.
We're not saying here tonight that we're going to deep-six this
bill. I'm responding to a comment made by the chair of the Sault
Ste Marie Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee who said to
me this past week when I met with her, "Tony, there are a couple
of things in the bill that we don't want to lose." I know it's
not the panacea that we all thought and expected it might be, but
there are some things in there that she and they were willing to
recognize were worth saving. I'm saying to you and to her and to
the others out there that we're willing to do that. We're willing
to try to find whatever needle in this haystack lends itself to
something positive, constructive and effective for the 1.6
million Ontarians with disabilities out there who are looking to
us for leadership, who are looking to us to have the intestinal
fortitude, the political strength of will to actually come
together in this instance to serve a group of people who for too
long have been left on the outside looking in, who have been on
the sidelines waiting to be included, who know that they have
something valuable to offer, who have gifts and abilities, who
have trained themselves to the max. But because we can't together
put in place regulations and legislation with some teeth,
something that's mandatory, that has deadlines and timelines, we
as a government, in a jurisdiction that has so much money, that's
so rich when you compare it to other jurisdictions across the
world, cannot resource those organizations and municipalities and
institutions as they try to live up to the regulations that we
together could put in place and which would be helpful and
I think we owe it to them. I think we should do the right thing,
and I think we should all work together. We should take this
piece of legislation out across the province. We should do it
when we have the time, in the intersession. We should be willing
to make sure those hearings are accessible, that we notify people
and give them good lead time so that they can organize their
transportation, those devices and that assistance they need so
they can participate and communicate effectively, so that we can
hear from those people who are going to be affected so directly
by this --or disappointed so directly by this if we don't -- what
they have to say, what they think needs to be added to this,
because some of them actually see some small semblance of hope in
this -- that we build on that hope, that we build on the effort
that has gone into getting us to this point so far and make sure,
together, we actually put in place something that works.
The excellent grassroots work by the members of the Ontarians
with Disabilities Act Committee throughout this province, who
understood best that a barrier-free Ontario must be legislated
because the voluntary approach simply wasn't working and will
never work, needs to be honoured. We need to hear and to listen
to their voice. We need to honour their experience. We need to be
willing to say to them, "We have heard you. You have waited too
long. Now is your time, and we're going to deliver."
The Deputy Speaker: Members now have up to two minutes for
questions or comments.
Hon Mr Jackson: I'd like to acknowledge the member for Sault Ste
Marie's comments in the House today. I was quite interested in
all the individuals he named off: his secretary, his best friend
in Sault Ste Marie, his office staff. He listed quite a few.
The person he didn't name was the one I was listening for: Gary
Malkowski. Gary Malkowski was one of the very first persons with
a disability elected to this chamber. He performed extremely
well, and he was on the governing side of the House. As I recall,
he had --
Hon Mr Jackson: I have a copy of it in my hand here. It was Bill
168. The member opposite made reference to the fact that
previously it has never been in legislation in this province that
there would be an accessibility ministry or an access board,
similar to the ADA. That is in this legislation and will occur in
But I want to cast him back to when his party, the NDP, were in
government. They had an accessibility advisory committee that met
once a year, and you know what? They wouldn't let them read Bill
168, let alone comment on it. Ten years ago, Gary Malkowski put
forward in legislation that every post-secondary institution
shall prepare a plan to achieve equal access to education for
people with disabilities in accordance with the regulations. It's
something that's in our legislation, and you don't even have the
class or the dignity to get up and admit that something that's in
this bill came from Mr Malkowski, something you jammed for 10
Let's put a financial package on this. Your NDP government
increased the deficit of this province by $50 billion, and what
did you do for the disabled in this province during your five and
a half or six years of government? Absolutely nothing. This
government has increased support and commitments from $5 billion
to $6 billion for persons with disabilities, a record we're
extremely proud of. I look forward to something positive from the
NDP about what they're going to do to support persons with
disabilities in this province.
Ms Caroline Di Cocco (Sarnia-Lambton): I must say that this bill
has been a long time coming. On the other hand, the community of
disabled across this province had to mount an incredible campaign
over the period of the last six years to get the attention of
this government after the government promised, before 1995, after
Mike Harris promised that he would bring into this Legislature a
new Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
What I find unconscionable is the way the government purported
that this bill was in fact -- prior to this bill being written,
there was a verbal agreement made to the disabled community, yet
when this bill is now being scrutinized, people like David
Lepofsky suggest that, no, this is not what they had agreed to.
We do have this bill asking that public buildings become
accessible, but --I'll say this again -- most people go to
grocery stores far more often than they go to a city hall. How
many times does an individual go to city hall versus going to buy
their groceries? You could have city hall accessible to the
disabled, which is a good thing, but if grocery stores or banks
or other private buildings don't have accessible entrances etc,
then it really doesn't address what the community had asked for
in the first place.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): I want to congratulate our
critic, Mr Martin, the member for Sault Ste Marie, for the work
he has done over the years in this Legislature on behalf of many
people, but in particular on behalf of disabled people in
I share his view that we should try in some way to work with the
bill the government has brought forward. As he pointed out, there
are parts in this bill that are supportable. There are some parts
of this bill that quite frankly are a step in the right
direction. But the contention that I have as a member, the same
as the member for Sault Ste Marie, is that we need to go a lot
further when it comes to providing services for people with
disabilities. That's the reason why we're saying, allow this bill
to survive past the prorogation of the House in December -- we
will give you support for that -- so the bill can go to committee
and we can hear from the municipal sector, the not-for-profit
sector and the business sector about what can be done to make
this bill better so that people with disabilities are able to
live with dignity in Ontario.
I was a bit disappointed because the minister decided to try to
attack the member on this particular issue by saying that the NDP
government never did anything when it came to services for the
disabled. I want to remind him that we're the government that
said, "Any time a bus is bought in the province of Ontario, it
must be fitted in a way that makes it accessible to people with
disabilities." It was your government that cancelled that
particular project when you stopped funding transit in Ontario.
In the Planning Act, we had said that you had to do a number of
things in order to make municipalities more accessible by way of
legislation -- not by way of requiring that maybe somebody should
do something voluntarily --things such as cutting curbs on street
corners and making sure that public buildings are accessible. We
had policy in place, such as employment equity, that said to
people with disabilities, "You have a place within the
I'm proud of what we did as New Democrats, but I also want to
work with this government to make this bill better, and that's
why we have to allow this to go to committee.
Hon John R. Baird (Minister of Community and Social Services,
minister responsible for children, minister responsible for
francophone affairs): I was disappointed that the member opposite
didn't talk more about people with developmental disabilities. I
was surprised he didn't mention the unprecedented investment made
to help people with developmental disabilities in Ontario in the
recent budget, where more than a $197-million baseline increase
was announced, which will be phased in over five years, in
addition to $67 million in capital funding that will provide a
lot more support to help aging parents of people with
developmental disabilities like the 78-year-old woman I met when
we did the consultations on reforming this act who said that she
just wanted some confidence that the care would be there for her
son when he needed that support. When she and her husband, who
fought for more than 50 years to make community living a reality
in this province, who fought to make a more inclusive education
system, who fought to change attitudes -- now, at a time when her
and her husband's health is failing them, she wants the
confidence that there will be a place for her son when she is no
longer physically able to provide that care.
Increases have happened just about every year with special
services at home funding, one of the most popular programs that
the provincial government operates to support families in
communities. A little bit of support can certainly go a long way
to make that a reality.
Nobody talked about respite care. We're putting more money into
respite care: $17 million to both in-home and out-of-home respite
care to help families deal with and cope with a child with a
developmental disability, or day programming, or a foundations
initiative to help young people at the age of 18 or 21 leaving
the school system to have a place in the world for them after
they leave school.
I know some will say these investments aren't enough, and I know
those responsible people and legitimate critics will want to come
to the table and say exactly how much more they would spend than
we're spending and exactly how they would propose to pay for
these important investments.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands): So what you're
saying is you don't have any meaningful money to put into it.
The Deputy Speaker: If the member for Kingston and the Islands is
finished, I will recognize the member for Sault Ste Marie for up
to two minutes to respond to the questions and comments he's
heard here today.
Mr Martin: I want to thank the two ministers who responded, the
member for Sarnia-Lambton and my colleague from Timmins-James
Bay, and to say to the minister that he obviously wasn't
listening or doesn't want to hear when we talk about some of the
things that we as government did to enhance the opportunity for
people with disabilities to participate in this province, which
you summarily threw out almost holus-bolus not six months after
you became government.
You mention Gary Malkowski. Well, you know --
Hon Mr Jackson: I had to.
Mr Martin: Yes, and the facilities that we put in place to make
sure that Gary could participate fully in this place, the lights
that still go on and off here in this Legislature whenever the
bells ring to indicate to anybody with a hearing disability in
this place, are a legacy to Gary Malkowski.
Gary used to be an MPP in this Legislature, for those who don't
know. He's a member of the Ontario Association of Former
Parliamentarians, who had their first meeting in this building
last spring. Gary is deaf. To take part in meetings, he requires
interpretive services. When he requested them for the former
parliamentarians' meeting last spring, he got a letter from the
Speaker's office informing him that they would not be providing
the services he needed. He had to get them on his own.
When a former member of this Parliament can't even get the
services he needs in this Legislature, what does that say about
access for the deaf? I think the attitude of this government, and
when they were in opposition as a caucus, toward Gary and the
money that we were spending to make sure he could participate
fully in the debates in this place is indicative of their
attitude where all disability issues are concerned. I would just
hope they will work with us to make sure we can improve this
piece of legislation.
The Deputy Speaker: The floor is open for further debate.
Mr Frank Mazzilli (London-Fanshawe): I'm certainly privileged to
be able to speak to this Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001,
I want to start and convey some key information about the
important role of municipalities in this bill. This role began
with the best practices of certain municipalities which formed
the model that underlies the legislative approach. Municipalities
are among the stakeholders that will be directly affected by the
proposed legislation if it is passed. They have a crucial role to
play in implementing change to make our province more accessible.
Municipalities have a direct impact on our daily lives -- a more
direct impact than any other level of government. The plans and
decisions of municipalities determine the character, safety and
convenience of our streets, parks, public transit and the public
buildings that we use every day. Municipal governments oversee
and enforce the bylaws that affect accessibility and mobility of
our residents. Municipalities implement the building code and the
Planning Act. Their professional and experienced staff oversee
the renovations and retrofits.
Because they affect our everyday lives in such an important way,
municipal governments are pivotal to successful barrier
prevention and removal. That is why we have included mandatory
measures for municipalities in this bill as part of the machinery
for realizing this government's vision. It is also why the bill,
if passed, would mandate the creation of accessibility advisory
committees at the local level to ensure that persons with
disabilities have structured and sustained opportunities for
input to influence the work municipalities do to improve
At the same time as my honourable colleague Mr Jackson met with
many municipal representatives and the Association of
Municipalities of Ontario, he came to recognize that each
municipality would be coming to the table with a different
starting point. Each local government is unique. Its community is
unique. Its circumstances and priorities are unique. It became
clear that a one-size-fits-all solution certainly would not work.
Representatives of persons with disabilities recognized this as
well. So from this consensus and stakeholder input grew a bill
that respects the municipal need for autonomy and flexibility. At
the same time, it puts in place measures to ensure that
municipalities will improve accessibility steadily until our
vision of an inclusive Ontario is achieved.
Let me add also that these measures are based on municipal
experience of what works. I'd like to take a few moments to give
some examples of municipal success stories that the government
heard of as it developed the model for this bill.
Let's take a look at the city of Brockville. Within the city, two
private citizens, John and Elaine McClintock, have worked
tirelessly to raise awareness of disability issues through a non-
profit organization called Education for Quality Accessibility.
This organization provides education to people who are providing
accessibility so that physical barriers can be appropriately
removed and persons with disabilities can be more independent.
The city has incorporated the services and assistance of
Education for Quality Accessibility for many years.
Within the city of Kawartha Lakes, the former town of Lindsay has
had a municipal advisory council for the disabled since 1990. The
council acknowledges businesses that incorporate accessibility
features into their renovations by giving them certificates of
merit and promoting their endeavours in the local media. I've got
to say that I think many people are taking that sort of approach.
It's a positive approach and one that at all levels of government
we need to do more of. If you look at the issue of stolen cars, I
know the Metro Toronto police department was publicizing some
models and giving credit to some manufacturers that were putting
in locking devices and so on. In this case, what the municipality
of Lindsay is doing is giving credit to businesses that are
barrier-free and promoting those businesses within that
community. That's an approach that, and I think it's no secret,
has positives for everybody involved. It has developed a booklet
of retail stores that are accessible. The council has also
produced a set of standards which is used to review site plans
for new public buildings and renovations when considering
applications for building permits.
The town of Gravenhurst has taken the initiative to ensure that
its public facilities -- the new library, the sports centre, the
performing arts centre and the municipal offices -- are fully
accessible. The town is currently in the planning stages of a
renovation to the old library building and is making
accessibility one of the key objectives for this project.
The Minister for Citizenship has often referred to the city of
Windsor, where for 20 years the municipality has worked with its
accessibility committee to bring about change. The accessibility
committee, with the support of the city, conducts its own
accessibility audits on private and public buildings and
publishes the results. In Windsor, the casino, the big new hotel
and the arena were not built until the municipal accessibility
committee had reviewed the plans and had their input into how to
make these buildings accessible. Windsor has become a model for
what co-operation, goodwill and partnership can achieve. It's
also a splendid example of what can be done when everyone has the
will to do it and the rights for persons with disabilities. This
bill would provide the means by which municipalities across
Ontario can follow the example of places like Windsor and others
to remove existing barriers and prevent the building of new ones.
These municipal experiences are part of a strong foundation we
have in Ontario for persons with disabilities, a foundation that
includes other legislation: the Human Rights Code, other
government programs and services for persons with disabilities,
and the talent and energy demonstrated by the municipal and
disability communities as well as others of the public and
private sectors. If passed, Bill 125 would harness this energy
and talent to create innovative solutions, locally driven, for
the greatest impact.
Now I'd like to take a few moments to outline the specific
provisions in the bill that will apply to the municipal sector.
Most of these provisions affect municipalities with 10,000 or
more residents. That amounts to more than 160 municipalities,
representing more than 90% of the population in Ontario.
The bill would require that these municipalities mirror the
provincial government and develop accessibility plans that would
identify barriers, set out specific actions to prevent and remove
those barriers, and report on progress. The bill would require
these plans to be made public.
It would also require municipalities of 10,000 or more residents
to establish accessibility advisory committees, which of course
would include representation from the disability community. These
committees would report to municipal councils, advising on the
development and implementation of accessibility plans. The
committees would provide input on the purchase, construction,
renovation or leasing of buildings. Other specific functions of
these committees would be developed through regulation, in
consultation with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
Municipalities would also have to change their planning process
to include accessibility when approving a subdivision plan. No
new subdivision or construction could occur without the
consideration of accessibility features. Curb cuts, audible
traffic signals and inclusive designs would become more common
features in Ontario communities.
Municipalities would be required to consider needs of persons
with disabilities when purchasing goods or services, and they
would be given the authority to set accessibility as a condition
for issuing a municipal licence. This would not only enhance
accessibility in day-to-day life for persons with physical,
visual and other forms of disability; it would go further and
bring disability issues to the forefront in municipal planning.
It would create more public understanding and awareness of
accessibility issues and it would enhance public accountability.
An ongoing and participatory role in decision-making for persons
with disabilities would be created.
Currently, 15 municipalities have passed resolutions in support
of an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Seventeen municipalities
have advisory committees related to improving accessibility for
persons with disabilities. Since introducing the proposed ODA,
government has received several calls from other
municipalities saying they are eager to get started and asking
for information on how to improve access for persons with
Many municipalities have expressed their support for the
government's mandatory proposals. The city of Windsor says,
"We're thrilled that the proposed legislation mandates committee
involvement in municipalities across this province." The city of
Peterborough says, "Our city is pleased that the proposed ODA
requires municipalities to address accessibility issues with the
disabled community." The city also says that the proposed
legislation will give municipalities the right framework,
guidance and tools to ensure that Ontario will be the most
inclusive province in this country.
Last but by no means least, Ann Mulvale, president of the
Association of Municipalities of Ontario, says, "The organization
supports provincial policies that facilitate our planning and
implementation, as we anticipate this legislation will do just
that." Municipalities are key players in making Ontario
accessible to persons with disabilities. I'm proud to support the
I've also listened intently in this debate to members on the
opposite side of the Legislature. I will say that in speaking to
members of the disabled community -- and let's acknowledge that
there are different levels of disability and accessibility,
especially on the high-needs end, where some high-needs children
who now are adults are living with older parents. They've been
through, in those cases, all three of our parties; they've been
through all three governments. They've heard these arguments, and
those people are not buying, if you will, the criticisms that are
not constructive. They have lived through Liberal governments,
they've lived through NDP governments, they've lived with
previous Tory governments, and, quite frankly, they are tired of
the constant arguments that are brought forward.
We have to have a starting point. It's pretty hard for
governments of all sorts to go out and say, "We want a community
to do something that we're not doing," if government buildings,
say, are not accessible and yet we expect someone else to do
that. So we have to have a starting point. If it's the provincial
government that needs to lead by example, then we have to
retrofit our buildings, the ones that are not currently
retrofitted. I will say that in most parts of this country, in
urban centres, all governments have done not a bad job of it.
They certainly have a long way to go in some communities. In
rural communities, in northern communities, I imagine much of
that has not been done in any of the buildings, by governments or
otherwise. That certainly needs to be dealt with.
The one thing I hear from business owners and otherwise on
accessibility issues is that if you start with construction
that's 100 years old -- if you look at this Legislature, if it
were not for the elevators and some of the other issues, there
are some structural problems to deal with. But with new
construction, those things can be addressed very easily and very
cost-efficiently. But the will needs to be there to do those
The approval of subdivision site plans is very important. We talk
about some of the aging parents with high-needs kids. Even if
they do have financial resources to move, what's the point of
moving if you're only going to move to another subdivision that's
not accessible? There is no point. Although we wish we could make
every existing subdivision accessible, I think the fact that
we're moving that new subdivisions have those types of structures
in place is a big step forward and a progressive step.
When you look at some of the other things -- and I think as able-
bodied people, we sort of make everybody's decisions for them.
The disability councils that will be created will avoid the fact
that any engineer or any designer or any civil servant at city
hall will overlook something, and it's not a question of that
person not being qualified or that that person may not have
thought of something. But these are people who are actually going
to use something. So you want their input right at the design
stage. I think having that is enormous, and it's important to
commend communities that have already been doing this.
We've heard of communities like Windsor, and I know in London
many of the new buildings, all I would say, are accessible. There
are always issues when there's new construction, something that's
overlooked, and I've got to tell you when something is overlooked
it's embarrassing. It's embarrassing for the designers and it's
embarrassing for the municipal and provincial governments that
may have provided the funding to build those structures that
something in the design stage was overlooked. Why was it
overlooked? It was overlooked exactly because the disability
community was not at the table overseeing the original design;
something that they would have noticed right away and said, "This
doesn't work." This second-floor issue, this elevator, the height
of these buttons, all of those issues that became embarrassing to
people were things that, had the input been there right from the
start, would not have occurred.
The other thing is that having the disability community at the
table overlooking everything at first will actually be cost-
effective, because, as I've said, on some embarrassing issues
it's not an issue of money; they've obviously been overlooked.
You end up going back and redoing things. We all know that in
construction when you have to go back and redo something that was
done two weeks ago, that is brand new, you're effectively being
inefficient and wasting taxpayers' money. The disabled community
being at the table making those recommendations right from the
start will in fact save taxpayers' money.
The legislation also, as I said, looks after municipalities with
10,000 or more, about 160 municipalities. The big municipalities
for the most part have become accessible and continue to be
accessible. In the remote areas of Ontario, certainly areas with
less than 10,000 population, it will be a continual struggle to
address the needs of those people in those communities without
I'm very supportive. I know the disabled community has been
through all three of our parties. They want to get on with it,
they want some positive change, and I'm prepared to support this
The Deputy Speaker: Members now have up to two minutes for
questions or comments.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): The member has put forward
the government case for this legislation, as we expect he would;
and, as he might expect I would, I want to find what I think are
ways the bill can be strengthened.
One of the things you have to look at with each piece of
legislation is, can it be implemented? Is there sufficient
funding to implement it? I recognize that the bill isn't by any
means only about funding; it's about rules and regulations, it's
about effecting change in Ontario. But what I would like to
ensure, as I'm sure he would, is that the necessary funding is
provided to the minister and to those in charge of implementing
the bill to ensure that its provisions can be implemented.
I know there's always a concern about smaller communities and an
imposition on smaller communities, but we have to recognize that
people who are disabled reside not only in major metropolitan
areas, but in rural areas and in smaller communities. It is fine
for the government to impose obligations upon those smaller
communities, with the proviso of course that they assist
financially and with the degree of expertise that the provincial
government has in the implementation.
We believe the bill is a step forward. There has been a lot of
consultation, or at least a lot of talk, about this legislation.
We think there are amendments that could be provided, and if the
government were to support those amendments, it might be
reasonable to support the bill. At this point in time, we would
consider the progress to be of a modest nature, so modest that it
would be difficult to support it in its present form. I hope the
member will work to get support for opposition amendments.
Mr Martin: I appreciated the comments from the member from London
who, yes, spoke of the very good work that is going on in some
municipalities across this province where accessibility is
concerned. However, he did not in any way enlighten us in terms
of what he would do in cases where municipalities simply don't
want to or couldn't afford to do this work. The voluntary nature
of this bill is one of the issues that is raised. What of a
mandatory nature is there to make sure that every community
across this province is able to live up to some of the
He also spoke about the need for consultation with the disabled
community. I just wanted to enter into the record some thoughts
from a member of our Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee in
Sault Ste Marie, a woman by the name of Clare Walker. She goes on
to say that everyone is what she refers to as "temporarily able-
bodied." She says, "It takes only a stroke, a car crash,
increasing age" and you can become disabled; and before you reach
the age of 75, one in six Ontario citizens will be.
She goes on to say that it's essential "that stakeholders be an
integral part of the final decision-making process as to what is
included in the act. We have to get away from the paternalistic
attitude of the TABs," as she calls them, "who seem to be experts
at telling members of our society who have a disability what it
is that they need and what could be best done to help them. How
"Our Native citizens have a wonderful saying about walking in
another person's moccasins!
"The act must be able to be enforced.
"Compliance must not be an option.
"It must have a timeline by which various actions of compliance
must be accomplished."
I know from talking to her the other day that she would also say
we need to take this act out around the province so that she and
the many others who have very important experience and knowledge
to share will in fact be able to do that.
Mr John O'Toole (Durham): I'm very pleased to stand and respond
to Minister Jackson's initiative to improve the identification,
removal and prevention of barriers faced by persons with
disabilities and to make related amendments. I listened to the
member from London-Fanshawe; that's why I came back to the House.
As parliamentary assistant, I believe he's trying to make the
public more aware of this important initiative. I know Minister
Jackson has worked tirelessly as an advocate, in many respects,
to make sure there's a place for them at the table.
If you look at the explanatory notes in the bill, which isn't one
of these larger, more complicated bills, in section 5 it says,
"The government is required to accommodate the accessibility
needs of its employees and applicants for positions as government
employees." There's a case where the government can only control
those things it has responsibility for.
In section 13 of the bill it says, "The minister responsible for
the administration of the bill is required to establish the
Accessibility Advisory Council of Ontario."
As Mr Mazzilli outlined, there is really an opportunity for
municipalities to take a full leadership role, supported by the
government, to include those people who have needs. Those people
are the best people to advise either the municipal, provincial or
indeed the federal level of government.
So I believe this is an important first step. It's an opportunity
for those people to be at the table where the decisions are made.
I commend the minister for bringing it forward. It's difficult.
It's not everything everyone wants, but it's a commitment by this
minister to make sure that the right people are at the table and
that they will be heard.
Mr Dave Levac (Brant): The member from London-Fanshawe, in one of
his rare moments, has stood up in the House this evening and
basically said that, my goodness, three sets of different
governments -- and he had trouble coming out with it -- and even
the Tory government had some difficulty with this, trying to come
up with this piece of legislation. He gave us a little bit of a
history lesson. I appreciate the member actually saying that
previous governments, plural, have had difficulty with this
particular act. The minister has indicated that before in a less
nice way that basically pointed fingers at the two sides of the
government, but the member for London-Fanshawe did us a favour by
giving us a little bit of a history lesson, that this is a topic
that needed to be done and it had to get done today.
Quite frankly, I want to continue his history lesson by saying
that more than six years ago, on May 24, 1995, Premier Mike
Harris made a promise to enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act
within the first term of his office. Unfortunately, that just
didn't happen, just to make sure people understand that. Bill 83,
the government's 1998 attempt at the ODA, actually embarrassed
everyone. The bill, which was only three pages long, demanded
only voluntary compliance and was applicable to only the Ontario
government. The legislation would not have required that one
single barrier be removed.
The important part that we need to put out today is that there
should be consultation across the board that makes sure that
everyone, inclusively, takes care of this problem, and we have to
act together to make sure that people with disabilities are seen
as equal and contributing citizens in the province of Ontario.
The problem that I have with the legislation is that one of the
biggest components in my riding is the elderly parents taking
care of their disabled children, and it does not have any housing
component in it, as the minister himself had indicated to someone
else in his own riding that they would take care of. But
hopefully that will be rectified.
The Deputy Speaker The member for London-Fanshawe has up to two
minutes to respond.
Mr Mazzilli: Certainly, when you look at this legislation, there
is some flexibility for municipalities. The last thing you want
to do is, for municipalities that have been doing things right --
as I said previously, there are municipalities that have been
doing some of these things for 20 years.
The interesting thing as we move into this debate is people who
want to make legislation so encompassing. They want to cover
everything in this bill, and they say, "I would be able to
support that if it had this to it," or "I would be able to
support that if it had a few more things in it." Just look at
what's in the bill and say, "Do I agree with it or don't I agree
with it?" If further things need to be done, there will be a
point in time by this Legislature, by other governments, to make
those changes. But look at this bill and say, "Do I agree with it
or don't I?" and vote in good conscience. Don't say, "Well, I
would if it included the elderly parents."
I've spoken to experts and I have asked, "Why do we have so many
high-needs kids now into the adult age?" It's because of medical
technology. So we are going to have more people to look after.
I've said that those parents are tired. They've been through all
three of our parties governing. They want positive change. Not
one of our parties has a monopoly on their sympathy or their
votes. I ask members across the Legislature, do you or do you not
agree with the present legislation? Vote in good conscience on
The Deputy Speaker: The floor is open for further debate.
Mr Gerretsen: Actually, I'm enjoying the debate tonight because
it has less of a partisan tone to it than usual.
I think the Minister of Community and Social Services probably
put his finger on it unintentionally when he stated earlier,
"We're already spending $5 billion to $6 billion," or, "We've
increased from $5 billion to $6 billion," the amount that we
spend on the disabled in our province. Whether that amount is so
or not, I'm not sure. We've got a figure here of $3.6 billion.
But what his comment conveyed to me was that it's all a question
of money, and it is all a question of money. How much money does
the government want to spend or does the government want private
business to expend in order to make facilities accessible to the
handicapped, to the disabled? That's what it's all about.
As the last member said, some municipalities have done it for
years. Many municipalities decided many years ago -- I know in my
own municipality they decided about 20 years ago that every
sidewalk that was going to be built was going to have these off
ramps at corners so it was easier for wheelchairs to come off and
on. It was a step in the right direction.
The real question is, is this step far enough to tie in to the
promises that were made to the 1.6 million people with
disabilities in the province of Ontario, to satisfy their needs
or to satisfy the promises that were made to them? That's really
what it's all about, and I say that when you look at what this
House has done over the last six years and what the 11 principles
that have been adopted by this House on three separate occasions
unanimously indicate, then I say that what is contained in the
bill -- and I will go through it, not section by section but area
by area -- is greatly deficient.
Is it a step in the right direction? As the member for Durham
admitted himself, it is a step in the right direction. Yes, it is
a step, but how big a step is it? When you get right down to it,
it is a very, very small step because, just to go over the
history once again, on May 24, 1995, Mike Harris said that he was
going to enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. I suppose
people could even argue, "What did he really mean by that? How
far was that act going to go?" I don't know. Maybe he thought
Isabel Bassett's bill that she introduced a couple of years ago,
which was basically a voluntary program on government ministries,
went far enough. But he made the promise, and since that time
that promise has been approved in this Legislature on three
separate occasions that I'm aware of.
I know that Marion Boyd, a member of your caucus, came up with a
resolution back in 1996, passed unanimously in the House, that
Mike Harris live up to his promise to pass an Ontarians with
Disabilities Act. Nothing happened. Then in 1998, Dwight Duncan
of our caucus came up with the same idea and he actually
enunciated the 11 principles that should be encompassed in an
act. What happened? Passed unanimously by this House. We all
said, "Yes, that's what we want to do." Steve Peters, on November
23, 1999, basically brought a motion forward which again dealt
with the 11 principles as to what should be contained in the act.
It was again unanimously passed by everybody. We all want to be
good guys. We all passed it.
In the meantime, we also saw Isabel Bassett come up with a very
lame bill --
Hon David Turnbull (Solicitor General): You guys did nothing.
Mr Gerretsen: Well, the minister keeps saying, "You guys didn't
do anything in the 1980s, and they didn't do anything in the
1990s," and I agree with you. Nobody has done anything. The point
is that you are trying to make it sound as if the act that you're
now passing is going to resolve all the problems or is going to
deal with these 11 principles, and it isn't. I will just
reiterate very quickly those 11 principles that were contained in
the resolution that has now been passed twice by this House.
The first principle is that the act should "effectively ensure to
persons with disabilities in Ontario the equal opportunity to
fully and meaningfully participate in all aspects of life in
Ontario based on their individual merit, by removing existing
barriers confronting them and by preventing the creation of new
barriers." A very laudable goal.
Secondly, it "should supersede all other legislation, regulations
or policies which either conflict with it, or which provide
lesser protections and entitlements to persons with
disabilities." In other words, if the act is in conflict with
other acts, the new act should supersede. I will turn to this act
momentarily after I've gone through the 11 principles. This act
doesn't do any of that at all, in any way, shape or form.
The third principle: it "should require government entities,
public premises, companies" -- private companies, public
companies -- "and organizations to be made fully accessible to
all persons with disabilities through the removal of existing
barriers and the prevention of the creation of new barriers" --
and here's the crucial wording -- "within strict time frames to
prescribed." There is nothing in this bill that requires anybody,
either on the government side or within private
industry, to implement whatever the guidelines are within any
period, whether it's one year, 10 years, 20 years, whatever. The
principle clearly addresses this and says it should be done
within strict time frames.
Fourth, the act "should require the providers of goods, services
and facilities to the public to ensure that their goods, services
and facilities are fully usable by persons with disabilities."
Fifth, it "should require public and private sector employers to
take proactive steps" -- in other words, not just a plan, not
just a guideline; no, to take proactive steps -- "to achieve
barrier-free workplaces within prescribed time limits." That's
what the fifth principle states. This act does not do that in any
way, shape or form.
Sixth, it "should provide for a prompt and effective process for
enforcement." Well, there is one area where it suggests a $5,000
fine if somebody, I don't know, either parks in a handicapped
zone or sells a handicapped permit without authority. Although
that sounds very good, a $5,000 fine -- why not throw them in
jail for six months as well? -- the real effect it will have, and
you know this as well as I do, is the reluctance of the officer
to issue a ticket for $5,000, knowing full well that's going to
be challenged, because whoever parked in that spot is going to
find some sort of excuse, that they had to take somebody there on
an emergency basis. Nobody is going to say, "Oh, well. Here's a
parking ticket for $5,000. Let's just go in and pay it." A $5,000
fine sounds good, but I would like to know how often that is
going to be implemented. There's going to be great hesitancy by
any enforcement officer to issue a $5,000 ticket and there's
going to be even greater
hesitancy to pay it, because they'll come up with any excuse and
probably take it through every court.
It really fits in with this government that they always believe
the way to get rid of offenders is by slapping on these huge
fines. That's the way we get rid of squeegee kids and everything
else associated therewith. Anyway, that's a bit of a side issue.
Seventh, it said it "should provide for a process of regulation-
making to define with clarity the steps required for compliance
with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act."
Eighth: "to provide education and other information resources to
companies, individuals and groups who seek to comply with the
requirements" of the act. I suppose that's included in there to
some extent, the educational component of it.
Let's see. Finally, the 11th principle is that the act "must be
more than mere window dressing." I suppose the real question is,
is this act merely window dressing? Is requiring each ministry,
each large municipality, to at least come up with a plan to deal
with overcoming disability problems good enough or is it just
window dressing? Some people in the government will undoubtedly
say that it's a step in the right direction. Yes, I agree with
them that it's a step. How big a step? Does it actually confirm
or are they actually in compliance with the promise they made in
passing this act? I guess you'll have to ask the people who have
been asking for this act. I don't think it does.
Let's take a look at the act now -- I've gone through the
explanatory notes and made some observations -- to see how far
government or private industry really has to go to deal with the
barriers. When it's all said and done, it isn't going very far.
"1. In consultation with persons with disabilities and others" --
and the government makes a great to-do over the fact that they're
setting up all these committees now. Wonderful. I suppose I would
say, why haven't we don't that before? If the Liberal government
in the late 1980s didn't do it before, I say the same thing: why
didn't they think of that before? To establish a committee so
that you can have the committee look at various laws that are
being proposed to make sure that those laws are in compliance
with the act is a very laudable goal. It doesn't cost you very
much. You may get some very good suggestions as a result of doing
that, and I suppose that's one of the goals, but is that such a
revolutionary step? Maybe to some people it is. Maybe to some
people the fact that you're actually going to listen to the
disabled so that they can have input into what kinds of rules and
regulations you've got is a big step. I don't regard it as a big
step because I would have thought we would have done that years
ago, and if we didn't do it years ago, shame on us. But to me
that's not a large step. To me that is window dressing. Is it a
step in the right direction? Yes. Is it a big step? No.
It says, "In consultation with persons with disabilities and
others, the government is required to develop barrier-free design
guidelines for buildings, structures and premises." So there's no
time frame. We're talking about a guideline, so it's not
mandatory. Is it better than nothing? Yes. Is it living up to
their promise? I don't think so. Maybe they do.
Then it goes on to say, "When entering into a lease for a
building, structure or premises ... the government is also
required to have regard to the extent to which the design of the
leased premises complies with the guidelines." It's that old one,
"have regard to." In other words, you have to contemplate it for
a moment and then you can basically disregard it. You can't
totally ignore it but, as long as you put your mind to it, you
can say, "Yes, I've had regard to it and I've decided not to do
anything about it." In other words, having regard to is not a
very strong commitment at all. We've gone through that same
argument with respect to the Planning Act. I know that you and
other members here are fully familiar with it.
"2. In deciding to purchase goods or services through the
procurement process for the use of itself, its employees or the
public, the government is required" -- again -- "to have regard
to their accessibility for persons with disabilities." In other
words, there's no need to ensure that when the government buys
something, those services are going to be available to the
disabled. Somebody will just have had to sort of bear it in mind
in deciding whether or not to buy from that particular private
individual and then, if they want to ignore it, they can do that.
I don't think that's very strong. That isn't really giving the
disabled community the kind of act that I think they were looking
Another principle says, "The government may include requirements
with respect to accessibility to persons with disabilities as
part of the eligibility criteria for certain projects." Remember,
I said, "may include." In other words, the government is not
obligated to include requirements with respect to accessibility
to persons with disabilities at all. It just "may include" that.
It's permissive legislation. They can ignore it. This is the
government's bill. I'm not reading my own propaganda. I'm reading
right from the government's bill. It's right in the explanatory
Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener Centre): You're just putting your
own interpretation on it.
Mr Gerretsen: Yes, I'm putting my own interpretation on it, and
we'll let the people themselves decide. I'm just reading exactly
what's here and what the government is obligated to do. In no
part does it say that the government is obligated to do anything,
sir, nowhere at all.
"Municipalities having a population of not less than 10,000 are
required to have an accessibility plan that addresses the
identification, removal and prevention of barriers to persons
with disabilities in their bylaws." I think that most
municipalities -- and it would have been interesting. Maybe the
minister will comment on how many municipalities of over 10,000
in this province don't already have this in place. I doubt if
there are very many, if any at all.
Hon Mr Jackson: There are only 15.
Mr Gerretsen: OK. I'm interested in listening to him later on. If
those municipalities are there, then it's a good thing that you
make it mandatory that they at least have those accessibility
plans or make those accessibility plans. But let's not let the
disabled community or people with disabilities believe that
somehow this is radical and revolutionary, because it isn't.
It goes on to say in number 9, "In deciding to purchase goods and
services through the procurement process for the use of itself"
and "its employees ... the council of every municipality is
required" -- here we have it again -- "to have regard to their
accessibility for persons with disabilities." "Having regard"
again; in other words, it's not mandatory. They can put their
attention to it and either do something about it or not do
anything about it.
"Organizations that provide public transportation are required to
have an accessibility plan" -- nothing about implementation,
nothing about implementing it within five years or within 10
years. Wouldn't it have been nice to have an act that says,
"Look, every new building that gets put up, every new lease that
we enter into with an organization or whatever, shall be
accessible to the disabled." Presumably, when you're leasing
buildings as a government, you can put that demand in because you
know there are an awful lot of landlords out there who love to
rent to the government. They know that if you rent to the
government, you're going to get your cheque every month. There's
very little risk involved. It's usually a long-term deal.
Why didn't it deal with some of those issues? Make it mandatory
for those particular individuals. If they had to modify it, the
cost may be reflected in the amount of rent you have to pay. That
gets me back to the first argument. We're talking about money
here, the spending of either public money or private money of
corporations on behalf of shareholders etc.
In other words, yes, this is an attempt. Are some of the disabled
groups happy with it? I suppose from their viewpoint it's better
than nothing and it's certainly better than the bill that came
forward in 1998. Is it the real, meaningful disabilities act that
everybody was hoping for, or that we had all agreed to by way of
this resolution that we passed in this House adopting these 11
principles on three separate occasions over the last five or six
years? No, it is not.
I say to my friends on the other side that you can attack me all
you want and, yes, I realize that a lot is left open to
interpretation. I know what your bureaucrats would have offered
you in advice, that you can't get involved in a requirement
situation, that it's much better to do it in a permissive
situation because it's ultimately less costly. But let's be
upfront about that with the disabled community. The Minister of
Community and Social Services said earlier, "We have increased
their budget from $5 billion to $6 billion in the last six years.
How much would you spend?" That's really what it's all about.
I have no idea what it would cost to make every public building
in Ontario completely accessible to the disabled or what it would
cost the government, if for example it gets into new leasing
arrangements, to make sure those buildings are accessible to the
public. You're probably talking about a wad of money. But I
believe that if you at least had an attempt to put some timelines
in this bill, some framework that you're working toward that you
can measure your own accomplishments against as a government,
then you'd have something.
Right now, all you're going to have are just a whole bunch of
guidelines and plans that may or may not be enforced by a
particular ministry, depending upon whether or not they want to
do it and depending upon whether or not they've got the money to
do it. That's the real shortcoming of this bill, that there
aren't any mandatory requirements in it, even over a long period
The Deputy Speaker: It is now time for questions and comments.
Mr Bisson: I want to take the opportunity while the minister is
here to make a couple of comments. I am one, as is the member for
Sault Ste Marie, who wants to work with what's in this bill. The
bill may not go as far as some people in the disability community
want it to go. They want more mandatory-type provisions in the
bill that force people to make access an issue when it comes to
both private sector and public sector buildings, and I agree in
general with that. But at least it's a step in the right
direction. I've got to give the government some credit for
actually rolling out the bill and getting to the point where we
are now. But I'm worried that the government, by way of what's
going to happen here over the next month, is going to be in a
hurry to pass this bill without proper committee hearings,
without proper time for study of the bill and amendments in order
to fortify the bill, and will want to get it passed sometime
before Christmas. Why? Because we know the House is going to be
For people who are watching and don't know what that means: we're
going into a leadership race. The Tories are going to choose a
future leader who will become the Premier, and the House will not
sit until some time in April, after the leadership convention.
They're going to want to wipe off all the legislation that is on
the books and start with a new slate after the election of a new
So I'm asking the minister responsible, Mr Jackson, to do what my
friend Tony Martin, the member from Sault Ste Marie, has
suggested: let's work with your bill. We'll agree as New
Democrats to allow a motion in this House that says that the bill
will survive prorogation and will be brought back next spring,
but this coming winter we take a month or two to do proper
hearings so that we can talk to people in the disability
community in other places and to our municipal partners and
private sector partners about how we can accomplish some of the
things we want in this bill.
I know we can do it. We all want to do the same thing, and that
is to provide for the best possible structure for the disabled
community. We in the New Democratic Party offer our assistance to
the government in order to make this bill even better so that
people with disabilities can live with dignity.
The Deputy Speaker: The Minister of Citizenship?
Hon Mr Jackson: I'd like to respond to the comments made by the
member for Kingston and the Islands, himself a former mayor of
the city of Kingston. I am quite familiar with Kingston, as my
family grew up in that part of the province. It's a great city.
But I'm surprised that the member opposite seemed unaware, nor
did he reference the fact, that his own city of Kingston had an
accessibility advisory committee that advised council and helped
council, nor, I would assume under his leadership as mayor, did
he feel that there would be a place for such a committee.
One of the pieces of this legislation which is so unique in North
America is that it mandates the disability community to actually
have a say in decisions that go on in their municipalities. The
member opposite has also indicated his concern, and just for the
record, the 10,000 threshold is a starting position in the
legislation, and we'll hear from municipalities of rural Ontario
and from northern Ontario municipalities who will express
concerns. Do communities of 100 or 150 people need a committee?
We'll hear all that during the discussions. But if it's the
official position of the Liberal Party that all municipalities
have this imposed, then they should say that and come forward
We have heard very little from the Liberal Party. I had hoped to
hear a little more clarity from the members tonight. That's why
I've been sitting here: to listen to every bit of the debate. I
will continue to hear all the debate until the bill is passed.
But their critic has gone on record as saying that they want to
gut this bill, that they want to start again with an ADA, the
Americans with Disabilities Act. Mr Levac's parting comment had
to do with supportive housing. Well, the Americans with
Disabilities Act doesn't include housing. It is exempt
completely, and yet our legislation here includes housing, very
clearly includes housing. So I would hope that the members
opposite would look at this legislation with more of an open
The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. Further questions and comments?
Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex): The real test of this bill after it's
passed will be, and I have no doubt that it will be, how do those
with disabilities in our province feel that it's going to help
them? Is it going to help them the next day? No. Is it going to
help them a year from now? I'm not sure.
As my colleague from Kingston and the Islands said, there need to
be timelines. This type of legislation is something that can't
just go halfway. You're either going to be sincere about it and
make recognizable differences in the way we treat the everyday
lives of those with disabilities or you're not. Committees can go
on forever. You can have all kinds of studies, but what is that
really going to do?
There are businesses in this province that make millions off
everyday, ordinary citizens, whom those with disabilities are
part of. These businesses should be required as well to provide
access to those with disabilities. Are we going to assist them?
Is the government going to assist them? That's a question, I
suppose, that should be asked. Are they going to have to do it on
their own under certain timelines? I think they should. If we
just simply send this to committee and if we allow municipalities
to study and have a plan without any definite timelines in which
those in our province who struggle through life every day -- if
they can't have any confidence in that, then I'm not so sure that
this legislation goes far enough.
Mr Martin: I agree with the member for Kingston and the Islands
when he says that this bill gives no guarantees that barriers
will be torn down at all, let alone within a reasonable time
frame; that this bill requires no mandatory compliance by the
private sector at all; that this bill does next to nothing for
anyone with a
disability other than that of mobility. It does not mandate such
things as sign language interpreters in hospitals, safe street-
crossing systems for the blind or even education supports. This
bill calls for accessibility plans with no
timelines or money to guarantee those plans will ever be put in
place. And to top it all off, this bill offers no enforcement
In the end, people with disabilities are stuck with the current
complaint-driven system, reliant on the incredibly overburdened
Human Rights Commission to do something about it. People with
disabilities have been fighting really hard for years to get
legislation that would open up everyday access to this province
for 1.6 million people who are excluded on a daily basis. These
people are counting on us at this time in this place to do the
right thing and amend this bill so that it in fact puts mandatory
requirements in, talks about money to support initiatives and
sets out some timelines.
At the end of the day, this bill does no more than set up
advisory committees that people with disabilities can try to join
so they can fight and lobby more to try and get the changes they
were promised this legislation would make. This law was supposed
to change that. Again, I go on record as saying that what we need
is to take this bill out across this province. We need to take
the time to do that so that we can make those hearings accessible
to all those people in small, medium and large communities across
Ontario who have a vested interest in making sure we do the right
thing this time around. I challenge the government to work with
the Liberals and ourselves to make sure that happens.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Kingston and the Islands has
up to two minutes to respond.
Mr Gerretsen: I'd like to thank the members for Timmins-James
Bay, Sault Ste Marie and Essex and the Minister of Citizenship
for their comments. I take some comfort in the minister's
comment. I believe he stated that there will be an awful lot of
discussion about this bill, so I assume that he will allow it to
go for full public consultation around the province, which
obviously cannot be accomplished between now and Christmas. I
noted the House may prorogue at that point in time, but I also
noted it would be easy for the House leaders to pass a motion to
have this bill carry on during the winter, and during that period
of time public consultations could be held throughout the
The real test is this: if the government really believes that the
disabled community and its various communities -- as the member
for Sault Ste Marie mentioned, there are people with all sorts of
disabilities. We have basically focused on people with sight
disabilities, but there are many other disabilities as well. If
they really believe that this bill is supported by all the
different groups out there, the best test is to put it out for
public consultation and to find out whether or not they really
do, as well as the able-bodied people who may have opinions about
it one way or another.
If they really believe that it's a meaningful bill that nobody
else has ever done anything about, that's all the more reason to
make sure we get it right and to have public consultation as much
as possible. But again, I look at this bill as just a very first
step, and I would certainly hope that amendments will be coming
forward to actually see the implementation of it and put
timelines in for that implementation.
The Deputy Speaker: The floor is open for further debate. The
rotation is to the government, so you have this opportunity. I
see a government member on his feet.
The Deputy Speaker: Order. As soon as your colleagues settle
down, you'll get the floor. The member for Oak Ridges now has the
Mr Bradley: And he's wearing a new suit, an expensive suit.
Mr Frank Klees (Oak Ridges): I want to thank the member for St
Catharines for his compliments on my suit.
I take pleasure in rising to participate in this debate this
evening. Before I say anything else, I want to compliment the
many people who have been working on this legislation over the
last number of months. Specifically I want to make reference to a
constituent of mine, Mr Barry Munro, who is the president of the
Canadian Spinal Research Organization, an individual who believes
very strongly that the actions of this government are a positive
step. I'd like to read into the record one of his comments, if I
"From this point forward, all sectors will have to embrace
accessibility as a value and incorporate it into their thinking
on a daily basis. This is a significant beginning and we commend
the government for demonstrating leadership and putting Ontario
at the forefront of mandating change."
I want to compliment as well the minister, the Honourable Cam
Jackson, for his leadership on this issue. I know that he has
worked diligently over the last number of months, together with a
number of my colleagues on this side of the House. I also want to
be assured that we do not forget the work that the former
Minister of Citizenship, the Honourable Helen Johns, put into
I think it's only appropriate that we also recognize members on
both sides of the House who, over the last number of years, have
advocated for an important step to be taken by this Legislature
to recognize that we must show leadership in this House on this
issue in ensuring that people with disabilities in this province
are recognized for some of the incredible challenges they have
just to do the day-to-day things that we take for granted in our
lives. Whether that's simply leaving the house in the morning and
getting into a mode of transportation, whether that's simply
accessing the front door of a building or making their way into
an office building, we, who are blessed with not having physical
disabilities, often forget the tremendous challenge that people
have who must exercise a great deal of energy and patience in
just simply getting through the day.
So I'm pleased to participate in this debate because it allows me
to tell not only members in this House but people across this
province about what I consider to be an historic opportunity for
us as members of this House to not only debate but ultimately to
pass this piece of legislation.
Let us not forget here that no other government that has sat in
this place has ever brought forward a bill of this magnitude as
it relates to people with disabilities in this province. No other
government has worked as hard to make it the right bill.
Is it perfect? I don't believe that any of us, whether we sit on
this side of the House -- certainly from what I've heard in the
debate so far, it's very clear that members of the opposition
here don't believe this is a perfect bill. In fact, I will look
at Hansard tomorrow because I cannot believe the degree to which
members of the opposition are suggesting that this bill isn't
even worth bringing forward; in fact, they would much rather have
it go back to more study, more consultation, defer it longer and
put further into the future yet the day when people in this
province, people of disability, can take ownership of at least a
meaningful first step, an important step, in entrenching in
legislation certain rights and privileges that will place
obligations on the provincial and municipal governments and place
a great deal of moral suasion into the private sector to do what
is right. So we can be justifiably proud of the bill that is
getting second reading today.
While we're focusing on Bill 125 today, we must not lose sight of
other measures this government has taken over the years in
implementing and improving independence and opportunity for
persons with disability. Indeed, the successful creation of an
inclusive Ontario will depend on a combination of legislative and
non-legislative measures, mandatory and voluntary initiatives,
and the ultimate success will depend on the co-operation and
commitment of every person in every part of this province.
Members of the opposition spent a great deal of time railing
about the fact that there is not sufficient mandatory obligation,
whether it be on the private sector or even on the public sector.
I suggest that there are some things that we really must look to
our partners to come to the table on in a willing way because
it's simply the right thing to do. This legislation clearly sets
out a framework of what can be done, a number of areas that will
place tremendous obligation and provide a position of leadership
to municipalities and in fact the provincial government to show
the way as to what can be done when there is a will. We know this
because persons with disabilities have told us that this kind of
mix of voluntarism, voluntary initiative, and the appropriate
mandatory requirements would work best. They told us that while
legislation is important, it is not the only route to take. This
is precisely why Bill 125 is designed the way it is. The
legislative and non-legislative, the mandatory and voluntary
measures proposed are cohesive and comprehensive. They will lead
us, we believe, to the goal that is outlined in our vision
statement, a province in which no new barriers are created and
existing ones are removed.
Our vision statement should be read very carefully. It
encapsulates this government's absolute commitment to and
absolute respect for persons with disabilities. It embodies the
clear principles behind our framework for change. It is not a
vision to which we pledge lightly. The persons with disabilities
that we have talked to understand the spirit of this vision and
understand the intent of this mission statement, and they support
it fully. Would that members of this House would all embrace it
fully, not only in letter but in spirit, and work together toward
Changes in public awareness and attitudes will be vital if
persons with disabilities are to share the same rights and
freedoms as every other Ontarian. Our vision was an important
first step toward independence for persons with disabilities
because it describes the principles that lie behind every
component of our framework for change.
Speaker, I know the time is coming to a close for this session
this evening, and I look forward to continuing this debate on our
next sessional day. I welcome the opportunity to work together
with all members of this House to be sure that this very
important first step is in fact a positive one for those of us in
this Legislature and for all persons with disabilities in this
The Deputy Speaker: It now being just moments after 9:30 pm, this
House will stand adjourned until 1:30 pm tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 2130.