Ontario Hansard - Wednesday 10 December 1997

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is for the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, and I want to offer her my sincere congratulations on her new ministerial appointment.

Minister, you know that the Premier promised during the 1995 campaign that your government would enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act within your first term, and you know that he has in fact repeated that commitment here in the Legislature in response to questions from my leader and from myself. I'm not going to go through the quotes; I'm sure you're aware of the history.

The Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee has met with you and subsequently has had a telephone conversation. I've got to tell you they're very concerned. In that telephone conversation - and they've confirmed this in writing to you  they said they were concerned and that you indicated that you were, in effect, starting over again and reviewing all aspects of the process leading up to and including the introduction and passage of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

The commitment couldn't have been clearer. By now you were supposed to have been starting the public consultation. They demand full and open public consultation. When will that public consultation begin?

Hon Isabel Bassett (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): I am very happy and not surprised that my friend from Beaches-Woodbine would raise a question that is of concern to all of us in this House. As you know, all Ontarians - and I don't think this should be a partisan issue - want to have a province in which everybody, regardless of their ability, has access to fulfil their potential as best as possible. You know I am committed to that. The Premier is committed to working towards the enactment of legislation for the disabled.

That said, you will understand, because members move from side to side depending on elections, when you are a new minister put in a position, you can't automatically accept absolutely every movement that has been made along the way. It doesn't mean to say that I'm tossing them out. I met with David Lepofsky very early on and in fact I told David that if I wanted a lobbyist, he'd be the first I would -

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you very much. Supplementary.

Ms Lankin: Minister, this is not starting off very well. You're right that the ODA committee has been pushing very hard. They pushed your predecessor. It took months before we could get a meeting set up. Finally meetings were set up and things were moving. In fact, your predecessor made a very clear commitment. She said that legislation would be introduced by early to mid- fall 1998. If there is going to be appropriate public consultation and you're going to keep that promise, you have to be starting now.

I respect the period of time it takes a new minister to get up to speed. But this is an issue that we have been pushing in this House. We've had the Premier stand up and apologize, in response to a question from me, to the community for the lack of action on the part of your government in living up to this commitment that was in the Common Sense Revolution. There have been a lot of broken promises.

Let me ask you clearly: Are you committed to the introduction of this legislation by early or mid-fall of 1998 or is that another broken promise?

Hon Ms Bassett: There are no broken promises that I can see. I am committed to working towards this legislation as quickly as I can. Everybody in the community I have met is aware of that. Naturally, they are pushing for more.

We already have moved in some directions with the building code. We are making steps for the disabled. What you do not understand, or you do understand and aren't using it in this House today, is that members of the ODA committee do not represent a lot of people who are disabled who are consulting me privately. I have to listen to them the same way. There is going to be consultation.