Members Statements in the Ontario Legislature
October 27, 1999
Excerpt between Steve Peters, (Liberal MPP Elgin-Middlesex-London)
and Minister Helen Johns
October 27, 1999 Afternoon Session
Question Period October 27, 1999
Ontarians with disabilities legislation
Mr Steve Peters (Elgin-Middlesex-London): It was with great interest that I listened to the Minister of Community and Social Services make the comment that they're committed to doing something for people with disabilities in this province. My question is for the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. Minister, your Premier takes pride in saying that he is a man of his word. During the 1995 election he promised 1.5 million persons in this province with disabilities that he would enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act during his first term in office.
Minister, five years, three ministers and two elections later there still is no Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The Premier callously broke that promise to the people of this province. Because the Premier turned his back on them, 1.5 million people with disabilities continue to face countless barriers in every aspect of their lives, barriers that they wouldn't face if they lived in the United States
My question to the minister is: Will you commit today without qualification that you will make up for the Premier's lack of integrity and enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act during this term?
Hon. Helen Johns (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, minister responsible for seniors and women): I think, as a result of the way the question was worded, it's important for me to correct the record first off.
Let me say firstly that in the last term the government implemented a bill called the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. As we took it out for consultation, a number of people thought that changes could be made to that bill. So the Premier, in his wisdom, I consider, pulled that bill and said, "No, we're going to go back and we're going to look at this bill again because we want to hear what the people of Ontario, and especially the people with disabilities, have to say with respect to this bill."
So I think it's important that the member opposite-I know he's new, so I give him the benefit of the doubt that he might not have known-recognizes that we did put a bill forward. The Premier was good to his word, but he decided that we needed to go back and have a look at this bill one more time and we have planned to do that. We said in the throne speech we will do that and we continue to keep that promise.
Mr Peters: Minister, Bill 83 was a disaster. The government admitted as much during the throne speech last spring. You're hiding behind that legislation. Your own throne speech last spring portrayed that as inadequate.
Ontarians with disabilities deserve better-a million and a half people. Before the election you talked about introducing legislation. Now, after the election, all you talk about is a vague goal and an action plan. It's been five years, three ministers and two elections-still no ODA. One year ago this Friday this House voted unanimously in favour of a resolution asking the government to introduce an effective ODA. The Premier promised the people of this province that an ODA would be enacted in the first term. That pledge was broken. Today persons with disabilities want to know one thing: When will you introduce an effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act? This month, this year, this term? When will you fix the promise that you broke to the people of Ontario?
Hon Mrs Johns: Let me once again reiterate that the Premier truly is keeping his word. He has said we will come back, we will look at this again and even in the throne speech he made that commitment. We all made that commitment.
In the throne speech we said, as a government, that we were going to initiate an action plan. For those who may not know what an action plan is, it's a framework, which gives timelines, it talks about what we're going to study, when we're going to come forward with legislation. He said that would happen within this session and we intend to keep our word on that.
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