Hansard Transcript - Thursday, October 1, 1998


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): In the absence of the Premier, I'll direct my question to the Deputy Premier. As you will know, your Premier made a promise in the Common Sense Revolution to enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act within your first term of office. You will also know that your Premier promised to resign if he didn't keep any of his promises. Time is ticking away, Minister, and Ontarians who care about this issue, particularly Ontarians with disabilities, want some reassurance.

Today I would like to ask you, Deputy Premier, to commit that Mike Harris will not call an election in Ontario until an Ontarians with Disabilities Act receives first, second and third readings, royal assent and proclamation.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): I'd refer this question to the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation.

Hon Isabel Bassett (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): I just want to say that of course this government is committed to bringing in an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Over the summer, as you are well aware, we have sent out our discussion paper to over 7,000 interested parties, we have had consultations, led by me and by my parliamentary assistant, in eight communities right across the province, we have met with representatives from 283 groups and organizations and we've received over 240 submissions from individuals who want to talk about priorities for preventing and removing barriers to people with disabilities, and they want to add what could be in the legislation and what could complement that legislation. We have been moving forward on this very important initiative and we are committed to following through. You will be hearing more about that as time goes by.

Ms Lankin: You've fudged the answer. They wanted a clear commitment that there will not be an election call until this legislation is passed. Quite frankly, they are concerned that your government isn't listening.

You dragged your feet for three years and then in July you released the discussion paper that you put out and you said that the consultation had to be over and done with in the month of August. You forced it through on people and they said that's not enough time, but you went ahead and you made them respond in that time frame. After all that rush, for over a month the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee have been waiting for you to release the results of the consultation with them so they can provide you with their feedback.

The commitment I want from you now, today, is that you will release the consultation results by the end of this week to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee so they can provide you with feedback, and that you will meet with them to receive their feedback before any final decisions are taken with respect to the content of the legislation.

As you know, you've committed to introducing the legislation this fall, so there's a time crunch coming. Will you release the information by the end of the week, and will you give us a commitment today that you will meet with the committee before any final decisions are taken with respect to the content of the act?

Hon Ms Bassett: I was waiting for the question. The member for Beaches-Woodbine was there for five years, and you did not bring in such an act, although the members of the Ontario disabilities committee were waiting breathlessly, trying to get you to do something.

We have taken the steps that no other government has done. We are committed to doing it. We have already forwarded my reply to David Lepofsky that we would meet with him in the next week or so. He knows that. We have the results. We are meeting with him.

You had five years to do nothing. We are not going to be hurried up one more week to get the results just because you have asked the question. He knows that we are going to meet with him. I am totally happy with what we have done -

Ms Lankin: Oh, I'm sorry, Isabel. My goodness, I expected instant action because I asked the question.

Hon Margaret Marland (Minister without Portfolio [children's issues]): Do you remember Gary Malkowski's bill? Your government wouldn't even support your own member's private bill on disabilities.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Minister, can you come to order, please.