Members Statements in the Ontario Legislature
April 28, 1999
Excerpt from Frances Lankin, (NDP MPP Beaches-Woodbine)
April 28, 1999 Afternoon Session
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): To the Minister of Citizenship: Last Thursday, after the throne speech, you made quite an amazing statement to a room full of people from the disability community. You stated that your government had never promised to pass an Ontarians with Disabilities Act, that you had only promised to introduce it. You repeated that statement to a group of reporters and CBC Radio news reported on your quote the next day.
It was a breathtaking attempt at rewriting history, and I have to say I think a cynical attempt at covering up a broken promise. Will you tell us today, is that still your version of history or will you revise it again and admit that your government promised to both introduce and pass an Ontarians with Disabilities Act within your first term of office?
Hon Isabel Bassett (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): I would say that we have not broken any promise. We did introduce an Ontarians with Disabilities Act of which I was proud in that it is the first act of that nature to be introduced in Canada, to prevent and remove barriers to people with disabilities. It is far more than you did in five years in office. Over the period of time, before the Legislature came back, since it died on the order paper before Christmas, we listened to the people who phoned in. We read our mail and we decided that we will now consult, and we proceed to move forward with this issue.
I can't promise you anything because we are in the House hearings. We may be here in three weeks and we may be moving forward. I am consulting with people.
Ms Lankin: Let me contrast what you claimed last week with what your Premier said in writing in his May 24, 1995, letter to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, where he promised "to enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act in the first term of office."
Let me go on to remind you that on May 16, 1996, one year later, the Ontario Legislature passed a resolution with unanimous Tory caucus support - and I'm going to quote from that too - "to keep its promise as set out in the letter from Michael D. Harris to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee dated May 24, 1995, to enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act in its current term of office."
Minister, what do you think the word "enact" means? Where is the commitment? What do you mean you can't make a promise? Mike Harris, the guy who's out there, who said he's kept every promise, has obviously broken a promise to persons with disabilities. A promise reneged on is a promise broken.
Minister, let me put this question to you. You have two options. You can either admit that you've broken a promise or you can recommit to pass this legislation within your first term. Which will it be?
Hon Ms Bassett: The Premier has certainly not broken any promise. He did what he said he would do. This government has brought in an ODA and it died on the order paper, as we all know. We were all upset that that happened. I felt that this bill would prevent and remove barriers for people with disabilities.
We are -
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order.
The Speaker: Member for Ottawa West, please come to order. Thank you.
Hon Ms Bassett: We are moving forward. We have paused to listen to what Ontarians have told us. They wanted us to re-examine what we are doing and then to bring it forward. We are in the process of doing that. We are sitting here, and you know the legislative process as well as anyone in this room. You know that there is an order in which things come forward.
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