Members Statements in the Ontario Legislature
Re: Bill 83
November 25, 1998
| Howard Hampton, Hon. Isabel Bassett, Frances Lankin   |
| Dwight Duncan, Hon. Isabel Bassett   |
Mr. Hampton, Ms. Bassett, Ms. Lankin
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): In the absence of the Premier, a question to the Minister of Citizenship. Your government's shameful bill on persons with disabilities comes from a Premier with shameful attitudes towards the disabled.
I'm quoting from an article that was in the Toronto Star on Tuesday, May 30, 1995, where Mike Harris, leader of the Conservatives, says:
"Now here is a disabled person, only 50% as good as an able-bodied worker, but you must hire them and pay them as much as an able-bodied person. That's nonsense. Why should that employer? It doesn't make any sense."
That's the Premier's attitude towards the disabled, a shameful stereotype.
Minister, I want to ask you this: Did the Premier tell you to produce your bill? Did he tell you, the Premier who thinks that people with disabilities are only half as good, to produce a bill that's not even half as good?
Hon Isabel Bassett (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): I would say that I totally disagree with what you say about the Premier. He has been totally supportive in moving forward to make Ontario more accessible for the disabled. We have been the first government in Canada to move forward with legislation to reduce and remove and prevent barriers for people with disabilities. I am proud of our bill.
I want to say that in addition to the bill, what people tend to overlook is that we are also bringing in an employment committee that is going to work for employment for people who have disabilities. We are announcing an $800,000 incentive fund that is going to work towards broad-based and community access projects that again are going to reduce barriers for people with disabilities and lead to their employment.
I have had the total support of the Premier in moving forward with this bill.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Supplementary.
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): No doubt you have the total support of the Premier in doing nothing, because that's what you're doing for persons with disabilities: nothing, a big, fat nothing.
You say you're going to strike a committee. Bill Davis's government had the same committee in 1980. There's nothing in your bill that the NDP Bob Rae government wasn't already doing. In fact, there's nothing in your bill that you are not committed to do by virtue of the charter. The charter compels you to do it.
Minister, in your own discussion paper you said: "Getting to work, borrowing a book from the library, using a pay phone, going to the movies, eating in a restaurant, these are ordinary activities for most citizens, but this is not the case for many Ontarians. Barriers can prevent Ontarians from participating in the community." Well, your bill doesn't do one thing to address any of that. It won't help them get to work, it won't help them borrow a book, it won't help them use a pay phone, it won't help them go to a movie or eat in a restaurant.
They are tired of talking to you. They want to meet with the Premier face to face. Will you withdraw this bill, will you set up a meeting and will you have the Premier answer directly to persons with disabilities in this province?
Hon Ms Bassett: Of course I will not withdraw the bill. We are doing more than your government ever dreamed of doing.
Mr. Duncan, Ms. Bassett
Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I have a question for the so-called Minister of Citizenship about her failed sham of an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. I want to quote to you from a letter dated October 26 that you received from the Ontarians With Disabilities Act Committee: "This was brought home to us most pointedly when attention turned to the feedback that you received from the late Chief Justice of Canada, Brian Dickson. You agreed...that you could receive advice from no greater legal authority then he. You are well aware that he advised you during the consultation process that this legislation must be compulsory. Yet you indicated during our...meeting that you were given parameters for the project - parameters set out in" your own "discussion paper." Among other things, that discussion paper said in its introduction, in its very first sentence, "Getting to work, borrowing a book from the library, using a pay phone, going to the movies, eating in a restaurant, these seem like ordinary activities to most citizens."
Can you tell us how your bill does these things? Can you tell us how your bill responds to your own discussion paper?
Hon Isabel Bassett (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): I would say to the honourable member, as I said again and again yesterday, that we are going to mandate a systemic review of all government activities in all government ministries. Literally thousands of activities that affect the lives of Ontarians directly and indirectly will be changed because of this legislation that we brought in.
In addition to that, what we're also going to be doing is bringing in other initiatives such as our employment committee. We are going to be having an information service referring people to how they can alter their workplaces. Since taking office in 1995, we have also brought in many initiatives that are going to help move forward the agenda for people with disabilities.
Mr Duncan: We in the Ontario Liberal Party are disappointed that, like the NDP before you, you failed to deal with a real Ontarians with Disabilities Act, completely failed to deal with that.
Minister, you just outlined a number of initiatives that refer -
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Is that a prop? Yes, that's a prop. Member for St Catharines. Who wrote that book?
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Oh, I didn't realize it was a prop.
Mr Duncan: The minister's bill provides no legal authority for meaningful, certainly not compulsory, enhancements. The minister, on the second page of her two-and-a-half-page bill, provides for $800,000. Minister, can you tell us why it is that you've got $800,000 for the disabled in this province when you've got $47 million for your lousy advertising campaigns to sell your own propaganda? Will you withdraw your bill and bring forward meaningful ODA legislation before this Legislature dissolves?
Hon Ms Bassett: I will not withdraw the bill. I am proud of this bill. This moves the agenda forward for people with disabilities and it is going to change what happens in this province for people who formerly have not been able to move forward because of their disabilities.
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