Image of black text with drop shadow that reads: Ontarians With Disabilities Act Committee

Members Statements in the Ontario Legislature
ODA Legislation

November 23, 1999



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My first question is for
the Premier. This afternoon we'll be debating a motion put forward by
the Liberal caucus in the name of Steve Peters, our critic for disabled
issues. The motion calls for the enactment of an Ontarians with
Disabilities Act no later than two years from today's date.
This will afford you a third occasion to endorse a motion that is going
to be adopted by this House. The last two times this motion was
adopted--unanimously, by the way--you did nothing. Ontario's disabled
now know that the single greatest barrier they face in reaching their
full potential is not their disability; it is your inability to keep
your promise.

We've got the technology today to overcome virtually every conceivable
disability. All we need is a Premier with the integrity to follow
through on his promise and the leadership to get the job done.
Will you show your integrity? Will you take some leadership and pass a
real Ontarians with Disabilities Act today?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I don't believe we're in a position to
pass an act today. I think that was the question. There is no act before
us today. What we have, though, is a government, for the first time in
the history of Canada, that had the courage (a) to commit to an act and
(b) to bring forward a piece of legislation to the Legislature. When
some of the groups for the disabled, who must have been sorely
disappointed that the Liberals for five years did nothing, that the NDP
for five years did nothing, that no other government in Canada had the
courage either to commit to or bring forward a bill--we said, "Just
being the first, the best and the most comprehensive in Canada is not
good enough." So we complied with the wishes of the disabled community
and those who support it and said, "We'd like some more time."

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): The Premier's time is expired.

Mr McGuinty: I'll do the Premier a favour. Since he forgets his record,
I will remind him of his record. Five years ago, you delivered a written
promise to pass an Ontarians with Disabilities Act in the first term of
office, and you did nothing. In fact, you did something worse than that.
You introduced a sham, a gutless and toothless bill, which was an
embarrassment and an insult to the 1.5 million Ontarians who have
disabilities. That's the record. That's exactly what you did.
We have put forward another resolution. We intend to keep bringing this
matter forward again and again, Premier. When are you going to have the
decency to honour a commitment that you made over five years ago?

Hon Mr Harris: I reiterate for the Liberal Party, who are
johnny-come-latelies to a disabilities act, that yes, we committed to a
bill; yes, we honoured the commitment and introduced it in the
Legislature; yes, we had the courage when those groups said: "We'd like
the bill to be more comprehensive or changed here or changed there. We'd
like some time for some more consultations." Not only did we have the
courage to be the first in Canada, to be the first Legislature--and I
know the Liberals looked at it. It's in the records in the ministry--

The Speaker: Please take a seat. The member for Windsor West, please
come to order. I cannot hear the Premier's answer.

Hon Mr Harris: I know the Liberals looked at it when they were in
office. The records are in the ministry. You rejected it. You said, "Oh,
too difficult to do; too expensive to do; not a priority for Liberals."
I know the New Democratic Party did the same, "Too expensive to do; not
a priority for New Democrats." We accepted the challenge, and we will
meet the challenge, just as we have with cutting taxes, with bringing
excellence in education, with revamping the health care system. We

The Speaker: Order. Premier, time.

Mr McGuinty: You continue to insult the 1.5 million Ontarians who have
disabilities. If you wanted to act in a flash, you could. That's what
you did when it came to 200 squeegee kids in downtown Toronto. You had
that law on the books and passed in short order. But now, when it comes
to dealing with 1.5 million Ontarians who suffer from disabilities--and
remember, Premier, they're not asking for goodwill here. These are
people of ability, who merely want a place at the table, who want to
make a contribution, and you are the guy who stands between them and
making a contribution to the Ontario economy. This is a lot more than
just social policy; it's good economic policy. If you had a feeling for
what's happening in this province, you would understand that.
Premier, I want you to stand up now and explain one more time to the
disabled community why you are continuing to let them down.

Hon Mr Harris: The overwhelming vast majority in the disabled community
understands very well that this is the first government with the courage
to actually come forward, commit to a bill and to bring a bill before
the House. I would not say it is unanimous. I don't expect unanimity; I
don't expect everyone to agree. But I think there is unanimity in the
fact of this: The Liberal Party didn't have the courage, the NDP didn't
have the courage and this party, this team of men and women, had the
courage to say, "As challenging as it is, as difficult as it is, we're
going to strive to bring forward a bill for the disabled of this
province, and we're prepared to lead Canada in that."
I understand you have a resolution today. You committed in the campaign
three years; the New Democratic Party two years. I understand you're
playing catch-up with the New Democratic Party. We all know the hokey
politics you play. We know the hokey politics of your resolution today.
Now you've caught up to the NDP, a party that did nothing, just like you
did when you had the chance.


Mr Steve Peters (Elgin-Middlesex-London): My question is for the
Minister of Community and Social Services. On November 9, I had the
opportunity to meet with Penny Hartin, the executive director of the
Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and tour their facilities.
While on my visit there that day, she relayed to me a most disappointing
fact. She would like to know something, and Ontario's thousands of
people with visual impairments would like to know something: Why are the
self-assessment application forms in the Ontario disability support
program not available in Braille?

Hon John R. Baird (Minister of Community and Social Services, minister
responsible for francophone affairs): Obviously, providing services to
people with disabilities is a priority for the government, particularly
under the Ontario disability support program. We proclaimed that new
legislation just this past year, designed to provide a higher benefit
rate for recipients, designed to provide greater employment supports. I
will be very happy to take the issue back to the ministry. In fact, as
the member opposite has suggested, I would think it would be a rather
easy opportunity to pick the solution. I'll certainly commit the
undertaking to the member opposite that we'll look into the matter and
make the change if it's required.


Mr Peters: This is not a new program. As you've just relayed to us, the
program has been in place for over a year. You've been minister for over
five months, and I appreciate your comments today.
Minister, there are copies of the resolution that I wrote two weeks ago
already available in Braille. I wouldn't want any people attending the
debate this afternoon to be unable to receive and read a copy of that
motion. You've had years to put this application in Braille and your
office and your department obviously haven't done that. Do you know what
your staff is telling people? "Come in and we'll fill out the forms for
you. We'll treat you like an illiterate child and rob you of your

Minister, I appreciate your comments today because I believe you're
doing the right thing, but I would really appreciate an apology to those
visually impaired people who have been discriminated against by this
government because of your thoughtlessness.
Hon Mr Baird: The Canadian National Institute for the Blind does some
tremendous work around the province of Ontario. They provide a
significant amount of good work to citizens in Ontario. They provide the
government with a substantial amount of good advice. I certainly will
commit and undertake to the House that I'll take the issue back to the
ministry and we'll have the necessary forms put into Braille so that all
Ontarians can take advantage of an outstanding program, the Ontario
disability support program.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Broadview-Greenwood): My question is for the
Premier. Today is the one-year anniversary of your government's pathetic
excuse for the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It was an embarrassment
and an insult and another broken promise. Your government has continued
to treat persons with disabilities like second-class citizens. As the
NDP has pointed out repeatedly, the Ontario disability support program
is in a state of chaos because of your mismanagement.
Premier, you're obsessed with cutting red tape for everybody else, but
when it comes to persons with disabilities you are satisfied to create
more barriers. A year has passed and all you can come up with is some
vague promise of an action plan. Tell me why it is that your government
can turn around record amounts of legislation overnight, but when it
comes to the needs of 1.5 million Ontarians with disabilities you stall,
delay and make excuses. Tell us why, Premier.

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I'm surprised, actually, after the
abysmal record that the Liberal Party has on this issue that they raised
it and I'm surprised, after the abysmal record of your party, that you
raise this issue.

Clearly this is a challenging issue, to find the right balance.
Obviously, it is challenging and difficult, because if it was easy even
you would have done it. Recognizing the challenges and the difficulties,
just as we tackled the $11-billion deficit you left us, just as we
tackled the record-high taxes that were destroying any ability to have
programs in this province, just as we tackled hospital restructuring
that you and the Liberals talked about, we have tackled coming in with a
meaningful disabilities act, the first of its kind in the history of
Canada. I would have thought you would have stood up and said, "Thank
you, Premier, for having that courage."

Ms Churley: Premier, since you came to power in 1995, your government
has made things worse for people with disabilities. You got rid of the
NDP's Employment Equity Act and replaced it with nothing. Disabled
people would be able to find work if you hadn't gotten rid of that act.
You dumped our transportation accessibility programs. You've even cut
the Human Rights Commission. On top of that, the Ontario disability
support program is in a state of chaos.
Premier, don't you stand there today and tell me that our party did
nothing. Your government has the worst record of any in the history of
this province on disability issues. You're the government. You made the
promise. You commit today to keep that promise. Enough of this nonsense.
Hon Mr Harris: Nice speech today in opposition, but here's your record

in government: The last New Democrat who actually cared enough to bring
something forward was Gary Malkowski. He brought a bill forward. We got
it forward to committee. You had a majority government. Your government
buried his bill, refused to carry it forward. You would not deal with it
and you would not act on it.

Interjections: Shame.

Hon Mr Harris: "Shame" is right.
Now, the same Gary Malkowski has expressed concern. He would like to
have a Premier with the courage to deal with the bill. This is the Gary
Malkowski who came here of his own volition, now that he was no longer a
member, probably discouraged with the New Democratic Party, and when we
created a separate category and took those with disabilities out of
welfare, stood up and said, "This move by Mike Harris and the Ontario
Conservative Party is the best thing to happen to the disabled in my



Mr Steve Peters (Elgin-Middlesex-London): It gives me a great deal of
pleasure today to move the following motion:
That an Ontarians with Disabilities Act that is strong and effective
should be enacted no later than two years from today, November 23, 1999.
This resolution today is not about publicity and it's not about which
party has done what or has not done what. This resolution is about
improving the lives of 1.5 million Ontario citizens.

Today is the first anniversary of the introduction of Bill 83. That was
a piece of legislation that did not do justice to the idea of an
Ontarians with Disabilities Act. However, we now have an opportunity to
move beyond that bill and to set a deadline for the introduction of a
strong, effective and enforceable Ontarians with Disabilities Act--an
ODA with its own enforcement mechanism; an ODA with relevance to the
private sector, government agencies and ministries; an ODA with some

Let me explain why this resolution must be passed today, and passed
unanimously. Here are some basic facts that are beyond dispute. There
are fully 1.5 million Ontarians right now who have a disability, and
probably many more. That number is growing because our society is aging.
As each of us gets older, each of us is likely to get a disability.
Looking at our future, the rate of children with disabilities is also
growing significantly.

Disability touches everyone's life, and getting rid of barriers facing
Ontarians with disabilities should be everyone's business. This is not a
partisan issue. What party could possibly be in favour of preventing a
person from getting a job and getting off social assistance? What MPP
could vote to keep children from having a chance to educate themselves?
Who could even consider voting to deny 1.5 million people the chance to
participate in public life in Ontario? That is what a person would in
effect be doing if they voted against this resolution today.

People with disabilities face unfair barriers every day of their lives,
and Ontarians as a whole suffer as a result. They face barriers if they
seek a job that they are qualified to do. They face barriers when they
try to use services and facilities that others take for granted, like a
bus, library, school, university or this very building. These barriers
hurt us all. These barriers help no one. People with disabilities
deserve to live in a province that is barrier-free.

When you walk into a skating rink to watch a child play hockey, count
how many stairs you have to walk up. Think about the parent, though, who
uses a wheelchair, who can never get to the rink to see their child
play. Think about how a ramp would not be a costly modification to make,
particularly if the building were designed to be accessible.

Consider the difficulties that a person with a visual handicap faces
trying to work for a government ministry. Documents are rarely if ever
available in Braille. Government Web sites are not designed to be read
by audio reader computer programs. The elevators in most government
buildings do not have Braille on the buttons to tell you the floors.
This is how easy it would be to change things on a system-wide basis.
Children with hearing problems face a number of barriers in school.
Because of a lack of qualified sign language interpreters, some students
who are deaf have had to rely on unqualified, untrained interpreters
such as family members and friends when they are at school. Teachers are
given insufficient training to meet the needs of students with

Even this building, designed to be open to all the people of Ontario, is
closed to those with disabilities. Both the east and west doors are
completely inaccessible to those with disabilities. The front doors are
completely inaccessible. The only doors open to the public lead into the
basement. What is the symbolism of that?

Sign language interpreters are difficult to find and expensive to hire.
Ontario Interpreter Services for sign language interpretation are only
available for certain types of appointments, and with a problematic time
limit. Assistive listening devices are not routinely available in the
House. Poor acoustics in this chamber tend to amplify background noise,
making it very difficult for people who are hard of hearing. During
question period, it is almost impossible for someone in the gallery with
a hearing problem to make out what is being said in the debate. The two
public galleries are inaccessible to the public if they are in a
wheelchair. There is room for fewer than half a dozen people with
wheelchairs in the Speaker's gallery.

Government documents are rarely available in Braille or on tape. The
same goes for large print, which is needed by those who are hard of
sight. When people with visual impairments come to the Legislature, many
of the documents they request are not available in a medium they can

There is no Braille in almost all the elevators of this building. The
pay telephones are not accessible for people in wheelchairs. This
building has an exceptional number of small curbs and steps that limit
access to many offices. A person who is powering his or her own
wheelchair can find even a half-inch rise in the floor an insurmountable
barrier. There is a lack of facilities where opposite-sex caregivers can
accompany their employers into the washroom to undertake attendant care

Our offices are not marked in a medium that is legible to the visually
impaired. It makes it very difficult for those who are visually impaired
to find an office for the first time if a sighted person is not
accompanying them. Parking spaces for drivers with disabilities are not
always wide enough, and there are only a handful of accessible
handicapped parking spots in the legislative parking lot.


I understand that this is a historic building, but leaving persons with
disabilities on the outside looking in marks Ontario's history. That
must change. We need to eliminate these barriers and free persons with
disabilities from a prison constructed through our own ignorance and

How are we going to get to that goal? We need a strong and effective law
that is designed to achieve the goal of a barrier-free Ontario for all
persons with disabilities. This is what a disabilities act must be. It
is not good enough to point to the Charter of Rights and the Human
Rights Code. In the most recent annual report, the Ontario Human Rights
Commission itself acknowledged the need for this new law, and one that
is strong. In its report last year, the commission told the Minister of
Citizenship that "The Human Rights Code alone has not been enough to
achieve equal participation in society by people with disabilities." It
stressed the need for meaningful legislation with "teeth." The
commission recommended to this government that "a regulatory approach"
is needed and that "barriers should be defined more broadly than those
related to physical impediments."

In any event, the party that wants to cut red tape surely can't think it
is better to have a system where every barrier must be removed using a
costly and time-consuming human rights process when they could be
prevented with strong and effective legislation. Surely the operators of
small businesses would rather know the rules ahead of time than be faced
with complaints after the fact.

This government should not only pass a strong and effective Ontarians
with Disabilities Act because it is the right thing to do and because it
is good for all Ontarians; it should do so because it promised it would.
In fact, during the 1995 election campaign, Mike Harris promised in
writing in a letter dated May 24 that "a Harris government would be
willing to enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act in the first term of
office...." That promise was twice reiterated and reinforced by this
House through unanimous resolutions. On May 16, 1996, three and a half
years ago, this House voted unanimously to pass a resolution calling on
the government and the Premier to keep those promises. Then again last
year, on October 29, 1998, this House unanimously passed a resolution,
proposed by my colleague Dwight Duncan, repeating this commitment and
approving the 11 principles that this legislation must incorporate to be
strong, effective and enforceable.

Where are we today? The Premier, who got re-elected saying he keeps his
promises, has had four and a half years to keep the one that almost 20%
of Ontarians care about most. During that time, there have been three
ministers responsible, two elections and two unanimous resolutions from
this House showing strong bipartisan support for this new law. But there
is no law. There is no Ontarians with Disabilities Act. None has been
enacted; none is before this House.

Whatever your political stripe, whatever your feelings on this
government's track record on the treatment of people with disabilities,
no member can credibly vote against this resolution.

What does this resolution say? It says that an act must be passed. All
three of our parties have endorsed this. It says that an act must be
"enacted no later than two years from today." This government has
already had four and a half years to put legislation together. It shows
that it can turn legislation around overnight, though, when it wishes.
Two years is more than enough time.

This resolution requires legislation to be strong and effective. Who
could say no to this? Who could argue that the law should be weak and
ineffective? Who could vote to keep one and a half million of Ontario's
people imprisoned in prisons constructed through our own apathy?
We need to pass a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act,
and we need to do that within two years from today.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Tony Martin): Stop the clock. I'd like to
recognize in the members' gallery the member for Nickel Belt for the
36th Parliament, Mr Blain Morin. Welcome back.
Further debate? The member from--

Ms Marilyn Churley (Broadview-Greenwood): Broadview-Greenwood.
The Acting Speaker: Broadview-Greenwood. How could I forget that?
Ms Churley: As a former Deputy Speaker, I understand and forgive you.
I'll bet you're at home studying photographs a lot, trying to match us
up with our ridings.

Let me start by saying that I am supporting, as is my whole caucus, this
resolution before us today. All I can say at the outset is that I'm
disappointed, as I'm sure the people who are watching this debate at
this very moment are, that we're here yet again debating another
resolution on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We have been through
this. Our party, through Marion Boyd, introduced a resolution in
October, 1998, which got all-party support, and furthermore, Marilyn
Mushinski, the Premier's parliamentary assistant at that time, supported
it. There has been a resolution, as mentioned, by the Liberal Party.
I have to say that this is one area where there's a lot of partisan
politics, because that's what politics is all about in many ways, but
the opposition have been working closely with persons with disabilities
and the committee who have been pushing for this act for some time.

Together, we've been wanting to work co-operatively with the government
to make sure that a strong, effective act is passed. That's how we began
after the Mike Harris promise in the 1995 election that he was going to
pass such an act. We all said, "We'll support you," and we were
supportive of proper consultation and coming forward with a bill.
As we all know, that is not what happened. What the government did was
delay and delay and delay. Then, after some sham, by
private-invitation-only consultation, they came forward with a pitiful
excuse of a bill that was so embarrassing. As the Ontarians with
Disabilities Act Committee said, it was like a kick in the stomach.
That's exactly what it was after all of that. That was the best the
government could do.

I want to spend a few minutes responding more to what the Premier said
today in question period, because I can't tell you how disgraceful it is
that the Premier continues to say over and over again, in jovial-type
terms, "We're doing this, and we're doing that, and we're the only
government that has had the courage to do anything," when he knows that
isn't true. He knows, or he should know if he'd look at the sad history
of why we are here today, that persons with disabilities have tried over
the years to find the right avenue by which to make sure that their
rights were upheld in Ontario. They've tried through the Constitution;
they've tried through the Human Rights Commission. It was, I believe, in
1994 that the idea of an Ontarians with Disabilities Act came forward,
after attempts through other avenues didn't work.

Essentially what this government has been doing is saying, "Go to the
Human Rights Commission." In the meantime, they cut, for the second time
in the latest round of cuts. There have been even more cuts to the Human
Rights Commission, which is already backed up. That has been their
answer so far.

I want to say clearly that when we were in government and were
consulting with communities, including persons with disabilities
communities, on what some of the biggest barriers were, it was made very
clear to us that employment was a major barrier. If people have work,
then they have much more likelihood of getting a roof over their heads
and having the money to achieve some of the other things that we count
on in our society. So employment was one of the top priorities.

We chose, at that time, to focus on the Employment Equity Act. As you
remember, we consulted for a very long time with all kinds of people
across Ontario. The final act was passed, and what did this government
do? One of the very first things they did--in fact, they ran on it--was
to get rid of that act. They said they would replace it with something
else; they didn't. They got rid of it. They wiped it out and left
persons with disabilities and others who were among the target groups
high and dry. They did that. They put nothing in its place. They took
away the accessible transportation policies that our government had put
in place. What is so disturbing and why I'm so upset today that we're
standing here debating this resolution is that this government has in
fact created more barriers for persons with disabilities.


It's one thing to stand here and talk about the fact that Mike Harris
did not keep his 1995 promise, which he made so clearly, but they have
made things even worse. The Premier got up today and spoke as though
they've improved things, when we had members from the committee sitting
there listening to this. I can warn the Premier that he will hear back,
that his remarks today were well noted. He will be hearing back; let me
just leave it at that.

I don't think there's a person in Ontario who does not support moving
forward on this. When the government talks about "real people"--as they
did in the throne speech--they certainly do not consider persons with
disabilities as some of the deserving real people in our province. It's
like they're not on the radar screen as far as this government is

What they've done is a disgrace. I would say that not only those of us
in this House will not stand for it, the people of Ontario will not
stand for it any more. I would say to the people--through you, of
course, Mr Speaker--the persons from the disabilities community who are
watching this debate today, that they should know there is strong
support for the disabilities act. I know they know a poll was done and
it was made very clear that the people of Ontario support them.

What do we have? The bill the government put forward did not even come
close to the demands of persons with disabilities who participated in
the government's own hoax consultation. They made their demands heard.
They fought their way into those hearings. I congratulate them for that.
They forced the government to hear the principles that had to be
contained in the Ontarians with Disabilities Act to really provide
access. The government chose not to hear them.

The pathetic bill we keep hearing about, which they had to remove in
embarrassment, had no enforcement mechanism and no penalty for failure
to comply. It did nothing to address barriers to people with
disabilities in the broader public sector, in municipal services and in
the private sector.

I want to give you just a few examples of the barriers that exist. One
of the barriers that is most disturbing, and totally unacceptable to a
wealthy, caring society, is that we have disabled people living on the
streets now, disabled persons who are homeless. That is such a crying
disgrace. That is directly due to the policies of this government.
They've gotten rid of rent control, so rents are skyrocketing. They're
not building any more affordable housing, so the waiting lists are
longer and longer. They cut welfare and even though they came up with a
new category for persons with disabilities, they under-resourced it,
underfunded it, so it's in chaos.

Furthermore, there are people who used to get benefits who have been cut
off, because their goal is to actually get people off the rolls. When we
tried to find out how many people were actually on the family benefits
before the new program, we couldn't get the numbers, which is
interesting in itself. We will keep trying to get those numbers.
Let me give you a few examples of the barriers. Students with
disabilities face incredible barriers when they try to get an education.
For example, far too many of our schools are inaccessible buildings.
This government's own former minister responsible for people with
disabilities had planned to go to an all-candidates debate in her own
riding in the last election in just such an inaccessible school

Limited availability of Braille and other alternative formats for print
information creates barriers for people who are blind or who have visual
impairment or other print disabilities. This includes information as
basic as circulars about job postings, which are rarely provided in
alternative formats.

As we know from Queen's Park itself, people encounter doors that are too
heavy to handle. Even accessible housing designed for people using
wheelchairs requires that people have significant upper-body strength,
which means that some people with certain problems may be sitting out in
the cold until someone comes along to help them open the door.

Let me give you one personal example of that. In my riding of
Broadview-Greenwood, a Bank of Montreal, my own local bank which I use,
for many years did not have a ramp. When I would go there, quite
frequently there would be an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair, an
elderly woman pushing him in that wheelchair and waiting patiently at
the door, no matter how cold it was, until somebody, an able-bodied
person, came up and opened the door to let them in. One day, after I'd
helped them a few times, I spoke to them about what was going on. They
told me that they had been trying to get a ramp in that bank for years
and they kept being put off. I don't think it was the staff in the local
bank; they were very supportive. But head office kept saying, "We have
to look at our master plan and blah, blah, blah." It took a letter from
me, a strong letter, to the bank saying: "Please move on this. This is
the result of your inaction. If you don't, I'm going to go public."
Shortly after that, there was a ramp put in at that bank.

That's just one example, and we shouldn't have to do this piecemeal, bit
by bit, when we discover when we're walking in our own ridings that
there are disabled people waiting for an able-bodied person to come
along and open the door. The kind of act that we're talking about today,
the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, would mean that those kinds of
situations wouldn't happen. That's pretty basic, isn't it?

I want to end by talking briefly about government waste and red tape.
The government's failure to put in place a strong and effective
Ontarians with Disabilities Act has wasted time and resources and those
hard-earned taxpayer dollars that they are always talking about. As I
said earlier today, the government seems very clear that they want to
cut red tape for everybody else, it seems, particularly business in
Ontario. They're cutting red tape, or attempting to, although some of
their cutting of red tape gets them into trouble because they don't
think it through. That's another story for another time. But what is
really disturbing is that, as they do all of this cutting of red tape
and push through bill after bill after bill in this House, they can't
find the time and they can't make the commitment to put forward an
Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which frankly, in my view, doesn't need
further consultation. However, because the government, in the last term,
didn't consult with people and because the minister, who is here today,
did say that she was open to consultation, real consultation--although
we're very worried now. Today, a couple of months afterwards, we hear
that there has been no follow-up and the minister now seems to be
consulting privately about how to consult.

Minister, let me say to you that in committee rooms 1 and 2 right now
are many people associated with, involved with this committee, and have
been for years, who are here today, any time, to assist you in getting
this act in the House. The resolution before us today gives you two
years. Who could not support that? Personally, I don't believe it should
take another two years, because every day that goes by that we don't
pass this act means that more people are experiencing health problems
and accessibility problems in all walks of life that they shouldn't have

What I would like to see happen today, once and for all, is for the
minister to get up and tell us, not only that she supports this
resolution but that she is coming into the House before we break for
Christmas with a strong act that we can take a look at and have
committee hearings on and go out there and get on with it.


Enough is enough. These people who are here today and who have been
involved since 1994 in trying to get this going, have seen accesses
taken away since this government came to power. They've seen things get
worse for them. It's not just me saying that. Speak to the people who
are here themselves today, Minister. They will tell you that. That's
where we're hearing it from. We see the results of your cutting and your
policies. The time is now. The government made the promise pre-election
in 1995. So far they have been silent and done nothing except bring
forward a bill which was a disgrace, which embarrassed them and
embarrassed us all.

Hopefully we will not have to come back here with yet another resolution
a few months from now or a year from now, but the minister will commit
today to meet with those people who are sitting here--they're accessible
to her today; they're sitting in those two rooms--to get input to start
the consultation if that's what she wants to do and just get on with it.
No more excuses, as the Premier gave today. He's the Premier, you're the
government and you're the ones who made this promise in 1995. Other
governments before you have done things to increase accessibility. This
government has taken those away. They have the opportunity today to
remedy all that.

I would ask the minister if she would come forward today and tell us
that is exactly what she is going to do.

Hon Helen Johns (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation,
minister responsible for seniors and women): I am pleased to have the
opportunity today to rise and participate in this important discussion
that's affecting persons with disabilities throughout the province.
I will be sharing my time and will be speaking for a very short period
of time as a result of so many of my colleagues wanting to be involved
and on the record with this debate.

This topic is of interest for all Ontarians, but before I begin, I would
like to address the rhetoric that happened today in the House from the
two opposition parties.

To be quite truthful, I'm a little surprised that the Liberals and the
NDP are all so ready to add empty bluster to their words. Oh, there are
the cries of outrage from the opposition benches and there are the cries
of anger, but mostly there are the empty cries of opposition parties
that failed to attempt to come up with their own legislation.

We are here to debate a resolution that demands that within two years
this government table strong and effective legislation to remove
barriers for the disabled community. Frankly, I don't know why the
Liberals are in such a hurry. They certainly weren't in that hurry when
they formed the government under David Peterson.

The Liberals continue to be all over the road when it comes to this
issue. Today I have in my hand a letter to the Ontarians with
Disabilities Act Committee signed by the Leader of the Opposition. It
reveals the timeline the Liberals agreed to when they were going to
enact legislation for an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It reads, "Our
goal is to complete this work during the first three years of our
mandate." Wait. It doesn't say, "two years," it says, "three years."

Yet today the member for Elgin-Middlesex-London proposes a resolution
that calls for legislation in two years. I know that the question of
leadership has been a distraction for the Liberal members of late and I
would just like to know which member is really speaking for the Liberal
party. There's a lack of leadership in the Liberal Party of Ontario and
I fear they're just not up to the job.

The NDP is no better, I have to admit. In the third session of the 35th
Legislature, one of their members introduced Bill 168. This was a
private member's bill called the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This
happened in 1994.

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-St Clair): On a point of order, Mr Speaker:
The minister referenced a letter from our leader with respect to the
ODA. He's not here to make sure that his words were correctly
interpreted. She did not cite the date, which was seven months ago, so
in fact the opposition is on time and the minister, in my view, has
misled the House.

The Acting Speaker: That's not a point of order and I would ask the
member to withdraw that comment.

Mr Duncan: I would withdraw it and say that it does not accurately

The Acting Speaker: Just withdraw the comment.

Mr Duncan: I withdraw the comment.

Interjection: Read the letter again.

Hon Mrs Johns: "Our goal is to complete this work during the first three
years of our mandate."

I was talking about the NDP, and in the third session of the 35th
Legislature they introduced Bill 168, a private member's bill. The NDP
was so committed to this legislation that it didn't even pass second
reading--not even second reading. They could have moved it up on the
legislative calendar.


Hon Mrs Johns: I'm obviously touching a nerve here. It's beautiful to

They could have moved it up on the legislative calendar. They could have
shown that they would match their calls for social justice with
legislative action. But sadly, they did not. Instead today they're
howling for action when they could have produced it themselves. The
government of Ontario will produce action as a benefit for people with
disabilities in this province.

In our communities, in our public institutions, in our workplaces, we
are all striving to reduce and to eliminate barriers that limit

I believe that all of us here today share a common goal actually: to
create opportunities for all members of Ontario society. That is why I
continue to meet with and listen to individuals and groups that have
ideas or opinions on how to achieve this goal.

While I'm proud that this government was the first in Canada to
introduce the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, debate in this House and
concerns expressed by people from the disability community made it very
clear to the government that additional consultation and planning were
required before we proceeded.

Earlier this fall, the speech from the throne recognized this
government's commitment to further consultation and to moving forward
with a new action plan during this session. But I think it's important
to recognize--and I know from the people I've been talking to within the
disabled community--that legislation is only part of the picture here
today. In Ontario we have already made considerable progress and we can
build on that progress. Our new action plan will continue to build on
this progress. It will build upon the progress that has been made by all
of those who had a stake and responsibility in making Ontario more
accessible and creating more opportunities for all members of our

We all understand that there is a great deal more to be done, and nobody
in this House refutes that, but the advances that have been made are
certainly significant and they inspire all of us as we look forward to
the future.

Through advances in public policy and through dedicated financial
resources, our public institutions and services in the community are
becoming more accessible. Investment in new technology has improved
access to information, communication and learning.

This year, our community access-ability program is supporting the work
of approximately 200 community partners working together towards a
barrier removal project--partners from the not-for-profit sector, the
business community and the municipalities.


Business and industry have also made advances. They have recognized that
making workplaces accessible to people who want to work makes very good
business sense. They are recognizing that persons with disabilities are
productive and industrious, given the opportunity to compete in the
workforce and in our economy.

I and my colleagues on this side of the House are very proud of the many
advancements that have been made for people with disabilities by this
government since 1995. We have announced more than $500 million in
spending on disabilities programs. The government's economic policies
and achievements have resulted in record job creation. In fact, 615,000
new jobs have been created for Ontarians since this government took
place in 1995. Without job creation, employment programs cannot and will
not work. Without job creation, barriers to employment are truly
insurmountable, and we need to break down barriers.

There are many stories to be told, and today I am very pleased that we
have the opportunity to consider both our achievements and the important
next steps as we continue to move to create opportunities for absolutely
every member in our society.

Like many people in Ontario, I believe that we can work together and,
working together, we can create important advances in many areas. I
believe that the private sector, the broader public sector, the
voluntary sector, persons with disabilities and those who advocate on
behalf of the disabled community are all prepared to work with the
government to make further advances for Ontarians with disabilities.
We are committed to the principle of eliminating barriers, not because
they extend the hand of charity; indeed, they allow us to take our
places at the table of humankind, at the table where our seats are
marked by the true spirit of fraternity. We know that only then can we
enjoy the great bounty of a province that celebrates its equality.

Mrs Marie Bountrogianni (Hamilton Mountain): I've worked with disabled
children and their families for 20 years, and I'm proud to support my
colleague's important motion.

Of all of the actions of this government from 1995 to 1999, the draft of
their Ontarians with Disabilities Act was definitely the hardest one to
accept. It was a sham. Everyone knew it; they even knew it. It was a
blessing that it did not pass. In effect, the provincial government
attempted to wash its hands of the responsibility for the disabled.
I have three issues to bring forward in this short time: the first is
stressing the need for appropriate funding for disabled children in the
school system; the second is a property tax issue with the disabled; and
the third is operational in nature and has to do with the assistance for
the disabled, specifically the inefficiency of ODSP, the Ontario
disability support program.

Seven years ago in Hamilton, the psychology department ran an outcome
study regarding the progress of our disabled students. The results were
promising. The majority graduated from secondary schools from regular
programs, and 50% went on to college and university. This was a vast
improvement from over 20 years ago, when the majority dropped out of
school at the age of 16 and/or were institutionalized. With the recent
cuts to the education system, the parents of children entering the
system today are worried that their children will not be able to have
these outcomes.

There is an important link between appropriate educational opportunities
for the disabled and an act that embodies principles that are just. The
lack of this education is a barrier and does not provide for equal
opportunity and full participation in the life of the disabled.

The second issue is a property tax issue. I hope that we consider, all
of us, granting property tax breaks to people who build new homes for
disabled members. Not all existing homes can be modified for
accessibility. There isn't enough time to go into this in detail, but it
is a major issue for the disabled.

Now we go to the ODSP office. Next to the FRO, the ODSP office is the
most frustrating. In a general sense, the problem with ODSP is that on
the application it states that one should get a reply in four to six
weeks. In reality, it is four to six months if you are lucky. Then, once
a person goes to the pains of being deemed disabled, there is something
wrong in the system between when the decision is made, from the
disabilities adjudication unit, to the local office in getting the
benefits to the disabled.

One case I had was Judy. She was deemed disabled on January 29, 1998.
She phoned our office on October 7 because she was getting the runaround
and no one in Hamilton knew that she was accepted because it didn't show
on the system. My constituent assistant phoned a supervisor, who told
her the same thing. She then called ODSP, which told her that a certain
code was on the file and that was a problem. That wasn't true. She just
recently got an appointment with the counsellor to see if she qualifies
for income. This is totally unacceptable. We have spoken with two
supervisors on the general problem and they concur that the system is
horrible and has to be improved.

Another case: Jason received his forms on July 9. He still hasn't
received any money for his disability. These aren't people who are
fortunate like us. They need this money to survive. The ODSP has to be
looked at.

I would also like to challenge the minister, given that she has said we
can all work together, to go down and speak with the 300 people in
committee rooms 1 and 2. Tell them how we can all work together to make
their lives easier, to give them the rights that we all have in Ontario.

Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph-Wellington): It is a pleasure for me to rise
this afternoon and participate in this very important discussion about
issues affecting Ontarians with disabilities.

Not only for those who are personally struggling with their
disabilities, this is an issue that affects families, their friends, our
communities as a whole. Disability issues are important to institutions
and to businesses all across this province that provide services to all

Issues affecting people who live with disabilities in our community are
important to this government and important to all of us. I want to
emphasize that this government is committed to promoting opportunities
for people with disabilities, and the minister is continuing to meet
with interested parties. We are committed to seeking further input on
this initiative, with a goal to introduce a new action plan this

In the lead-up to the 1995 election, we listened closely to Ontarians.
In fact, our major election document, the Common Sense Revolution, was
based on the advice of ordinary Ontarians. The Premier was listening
closely to the people of Ontario, who indicated they wanted some sort of
disability legislation, and we took action.

Clearly, the advice we received when that legislation was introduced was
that further consultation was needed. Again, we are listening and
further consultation is underway, with an eye to altering that original

But just as we promised in the last election that at some point in our
term of government we would balance the budget, that we would reduce the
$11.4-billion deficit down to a balanced budget and that we would reduce
taxes, the people of Ontario have come to know that we keep our
promises. We have reduced taxes 99 times--far different from our
colleagues across the way, who increased taxes 65 times. The people of
Ontario in the last election not only recognized that we keep our
promises, but appreciated that and returned us to government.

We have already taken significant advances to improve accessibility for
persons with disabilities and to create opportunities for all members of
our society. This government has already announced over half a billion
dollars for disability programs since taking office in 1995.

I would like to take the opportunity today to inform the House of some
of these very important initiatives. Our government has taken action to
improve the transportation needs of the disabled by supporting building
and motor vehicle modifications. An Ontario retail sales tax exemption
provides an exemption of sales tax paid on purchases of motor vehicles
for those who are disabled.


As well, we know very clearly that those who are disabled want to be as
independent as possible. We are enhancing community living and
independent living facilities instead of requiring those who are
disabled to be in institutions. We are helping students who have
disabilities, from preschool right through to post-secondary education.

We are implementing a new income support and employment program that
better meets the needs of persons with disabilities. And we have
established tax relief measures, including tax relief for low-income
property owners with disabilities and tax credits for individuals with
disabilities to help them get jobs and, of course, to help accommodate
employers who modify their workplaces to meet the needs of their
disabled employees.

Before I go further to discuss the initiatives our government has
undertaken to help those in our disabled community, I think it's very
important, because we are today debating a motion on an opposition day,
to be sure that all members of the House, and those who may be watching
us, understand what all the parties have stood for on this very
important issue. I examined the election platforms of both the Liberal
Party and the NDP prior to the last election and, interestingly enough,
despite what you might have understood from the rhetoric today in the
House, neither one of them had any position iterated in their election
platforms. Absolutely nothing in the 20/20 Plan and nothing in the
election document of the NDP.

This was particularly unusual for the NDP because in their
administration they had enacted the employment equity legislation, which
was of course the law that required Ontarians to have job quota laws.
People overwhelmingly voted against this because the people of Ontario,
and rightly so, supported by our government, support the idea of
promotion based on ability and merit, not on quota.

I think it's very important that this is clearly in everyone's mind as
we debate this issue today. We not only made a promise through the
Premier, but we in fact introduced legislation. That is being refined.
Our government did what we promised, and clearly we will be doing this
again. Our actions have spoken louder than empty words.

As I said, we have undertaken initiatives since 1995 to spend over $500
million in new spending on various disabled programs. This year the
government announced a $2-million partnership between the Ministry of
Community and Social Services and the Ontario March of Dimes to deliver
a new home and vehicle modification program for adults with physical
disabilities. This program is offered in 60 locations across the
province. Just this past week I had a constituent visit my office who
will receive over $12,000 for modifications to their home.

The Human Rights Commission was mentioned earlier. In 1995 the waiting
list was 28 months on average for cases to be heard. That has been
greatly reduced, because we know that is so very important for people
seeking redress through that commission.

In the area of community living and independent living, we have made
important progress. Disabled individuals often require specialized care.
In 1996 the Ministry of Community and Social Services announced a
four-year plan to provide community living opportunities for people with
developmental disabilities. This includes $60 million annually for local
community agencies to develop and provide services in the area of
community living.

This is interesting, because in 1997, in addition to that $60 million,
an additional $15 million was added to support adults and children with
developmental disabilities in the community. In 1998 that was increased
to $18 million a year, and in 1999 an additional $35 million in new
resources over and above the $60 million was added for additional
support and programs to help persons with developmental disabilities
live in our communities. We are putting major investments in place.
New resources are also being allocated for people with physical
disabilities living in the community. The Ministry of Health announced
an important and innovative new program that enhances the independence
of adults with physical disabilities by allowing them to manage their
own support services and attendant services. This $18.7-million
attendant program provides people with greater flexibility, choice and
control over the services they receive. It also results, from the
government's point of view, in a more efficient use of health care

I actually have a constituent by the name of Rick Goy who uses this
program, and from the very first time I was elected has been a great
supporter of this. He was very pleased our government took this on and
made such a tremendous investment in it. He's very pleased because it
provides him with independence, with control and with freedom, for the
attendant in fact is his employee. He's very supportive of the strong
stance our government has taken in this regard.

We have also invested a tremendous amount in health care dollars to
provide services that would allow patients who have suffered brain
injuries to return home to their families and communities here in
Ontario; $8.4 million is spent in this program. Again, one of the very
first constituents I ever met when I was elected was from a family who
had a brain-injured person. They were pleading with us to find a way to
have this person return to the family and the community, and were
thrilled, quite frankly, when we made this large investment. Their
family member has been returned now for several years and is receiving
care close to home. This means a lot for families, particularly when a
disability is involved; it's so much better to be near to those who have
a special concern for them.

In 1997, the Ministry of Health committed to a five-year, $25-million
contribution to match the money raised by the Ontario Neurotrauma
Foundation for research into spinal cord and brain injuries. Of course,
this is a personal commitment of Rick Hansen, who's worked all across
Canada to make sure this is an issue at the top of the mind for many

Through a joint initiative with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term
Care, and in coordination with education and social services, we are
expanding programs for preschool children who have medically based
speech and language disorders.

Students are also benefiting from a new program we enacted, a
$30-million, five-year project called Task Force on Learning
Opportunities. Big words, but what it really means is seven pilot
projects that have been undertaken to help students with learning
disabilities to make the transition from high school to post-secondary

I'm proud to say that my own local university, the University of Guelph,
is involved in this pilot project. To quote Maclean's magazine, which
ran an article on September 13 of this year, this is an excellent
program that helps "professors teaching first-year courses adapt their
methods" to assist the learning disabled. This program is funded by our
government; 13 schools are involved, 400 students. We're very excited
about it. In fact, one of the things noted in this article is that
Ontario is a leader in this area. Other provinces like Alberta are
watching it very closely. It's one of the most formalized programs. So
they're expecting wonderful results from this program.

We've had major program and funding announcements to assist children
with disabilities and their families. This includes $20 million in
annual mental health services and $5 million, increasing to $19 million
for intensive early intervention for two- to five-year olds whose
children suffer from autism. This is very welcome in my riding and in
the area of Waterloo. We actually had a group of parents who organized
to bring this very important issue to my attention. They were most
pleased with our government's actions in this area.

As well, we've recognized that care for medically fragile or
technologically dependent children is very important; $17 million, which
will serve up to 1,700 families has been earmarked for this program.
It's very important that employment opportunities are available to those
who are willing and able to work. That's why our government introduced a
program called the workplace accessibility tax incentive. Under this,
Ontario businesses are able to offset the costs of support services and
physical accommodations when they hire new employees who have
disabilities. We estimate this will cost about $7 million per year, but
it's worth every penny. As you know, creating jobs is important to our
government. We've already created almost 650,000 new jobs. Our original
plan over five years is 725,000, 825,000 the year after.

We're very pleased to see the Ontario economy booming, and if we can
find ways to allow the disabled to be more and more part of our
employment community, that makes us all very happy.

The employment supports program provided under the Ontario disability
support program was established in 1999. This program will double the
funding for persons with disabilities from $18 million to $35 million.
This is a program that was long discussed prior to the election. We've
received quite a bit of support for this program. What it did was move
people off the welfare system into a program more specifically designed
to meet their needs. I'd just like to mention some of the things that
are hallmarks of this program. For instance, we removed the label of
"permanently unemployable" and recognized that many people do, are able
and want to work.

We reinstated disability benefits if a job attempt failed. We no longer
require individuals with disabilities to go through eligibility testing
every one or two years except in cases where their condition is expected
to improve. We allow people to keep more of their assets and benefits
from gifts and inheritances from their parents and from their families.
We provide individualized employment planning which assists people with
technological aids and devices so they can secure and maintain


This was something that was wanted by many prior to the election. It had
been requested during the administrations before us. Interestingly
enough, it was not supported by the Liberal caucus and I was very
pleased to see our government take action on this file and to separate
the welfare program from the disability program.

Last spring we also introduced the partners enabling change program,
which is an important part of our initiative. This is about $800,000 to
support strategic alliances with businesses, not-for-profits and broader
public sectors, to begin to undertake new programs that will have
assistance for Ontarians with disabilities.

One of the groups that I think every government quite frankly is
obligated to assist in any way possible is the group that we call the
vulnerable adults, particularly those with disabilities. We've been
pleased to fund 123 community projects to strengthen local co-ordination
and partnerships among those working on behalf of vulnerable adults.
We've also increased funding to enhance access for women with
disabilities to domestic violence court. The violence against women with
a disability prevention education grant program provides $1 million
annually for various community programs across the province that address
the issue of abuse of women with disabilities.

Something that's often forgotten in the programs to do with disabled is
the Good Neighbours program, which assists in developing informal
support networks at the broad community level. This is a program that
assists not only those who are disabled but seniors and others who are
vulnerable and in need of assistance.

We have a broad range of new and enhanced initiatives that translate
into personal stories of better accessibility, of greater independence
and of new promise for people in all parts of this province. These
programs and new resources are providing access where before there were
barriers. They are helping people with disabilities to participate and
become more productive. They are making new opportunities and greater
independence a reality in the communities in every part of the province.

We are committed. We have said over and over that we understand not
everyone in Ontario starts with an equal opportunity in life. But we
have moved, for instance, to take people with disabilities off the
welfare rolls and into programs specifically designed to meet their
needs. We have streamlined the Ontario Human Rights Commission and now
72% of cases, and this is interesting, are now resolved by up-front
remediation and mediation, as opposed to having to go through long court
cases that could last up to 18 or 36 months.

Our government is the first in Ontario's history to have the courage to
introduce a law which would have required, by the way, every government
ministry and agency to review its policies and operating practices in
order to remove barriers to employment and service for disabled
citizens. It wasn't perfect, but it was a wonderful start. It was the
first, it was the best and it was quite comprehensive. Because of
concerns expressed, we did withdraw the bill and we are consulting
further on improvements before reintroducing an action plan.

What is important is that we did have the courage to act on our
principles and we are working to develop a new action plan. I might say
though that one of the things we do have to consider as we're under way
is that in the development of any legislation or any action plan the
people of Ontario and my colleagues would know that we established
something called the Red Tape Commission. This was established to reduce
needless red tape for businesses and institutions that provide service
and carry on activities across the province of Ontario. Former
governments added layer upon layer of red tape, tax upon tax. In fact,
former governments added 65 total taxes. We responded to the people of
Ontario by trying to find ways to reduce unnecessary red tape, and
that's important in all the legislation and policies they undertake, no
matter what file. This can be a crushing burden for small businesses

Some have suggested that an act like the American disabilities act, for
instance, creates a great deal of red tape. More manageable red tape is
not the way we want to go. If that in fact is a consequence, it's not
something we want. It's not something we would want to introduce if
unnecessary. This is important, not just to a business community but to
the disabled as well, because if time is spent, resources are spent on
unnecessary red tape, no one's objectives are accomplished. A prosperous
economy, business taxes and the taxes that employees pay are what allow
our government to provide the services we all want to provide across
this province, whether they be for health, for the disabled communities
or others.

As we approach a new millennium, we pause to take stock of our
achievements just as we surely look to the future. Today, Ontario is
indeed a better place for people living with disabilities, better than
it has been before in our history, but we acknowledge there is a great
deal more to be done. As Minister Johns stated earlier this afternoon,
we all have an important role to play in the ongoing task of eliminating
barriers that limit participation. We look forward to this important
task of creating opportunities for all members of our society.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I'm pleased to rise in support of
the resolution by my colleague the member from Elgin-Middlesex-London.
The sad part in all of this is that we're here today still debating this
issue. The reality of the situation is that if Mike Harris and the
Conservative government had kept the promise they made in 1995, we would
not be here supporting another resolution, trying to again force this
government to deal with the issues of an Ontarians with Disabilities
Act, a meaningful act.

In the last term we saw this government take great pride in what they
did on this. The promise in the Common Sense Revolution was clear. You
said that within four years, within your first mandate, you would bring
in an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. What did you do? You went through
this process of public consultation, you went through the process of
talking to people across Ontario, you consulted. The problem was you did
not listen and your bill reflected that.

Clearly, we had a bill that was an absolute sham. It was a joke. It was
universally condemned by the disabled community. You could not find any
credible spokesperson at all to suggest there was anything worthwhile in
that bill. Now you go back and say, "We're going to consult further."
You consulted all you had to. All you had to do was listen to Ontarians
who were disabled, listen to their views, listen to their suggestions
and you would have had a decent bill. It was a disgraceful performance
by this government. It was a clear betrayal of the disabled community
four years ago. The disabled community does not believe and trust this
government now, after their actions. They believed in 1995 that Mike
Harris was sincere about bringing in meaningful legislation. They
trusted you. They trusted your process of consultation. What did you do?
You turned around and simply betrayed and denied the disabled community
a basic right that we expect for all Ontarians. You have failed

This resolution today sets a clear timeline to bring in a meaningful
piece of legislation. What did this government say? We heard the two
previous speakers go on and on about all these government programs and
all this rhetoric in regard to what this government has done for the
disabled community. What you have done in dealing with this ODA is
nothing more than a pure betrayal of the principles that we believe in,
in this province: the principle of equality and the principle of
fairness. Now you stand here and talk about something called an action
plan. You're going to bring out an action plan. You had the opportunity.

The problem is very clear: The political will is not there. This
government does not have the political will to help the disabled
community. This government cannot stand up to the few out there who
criticized them for bringing in this legislation. You don't have the
guts to do it. You can bring in squeegee kid legislation in a week. You
can ram everything else through this House in a month or two months and
bring in 50 or 60 bills and get them through, but in five years you have
not had the courage to bring in a meaningful piece of legislation to
deal with the disabled community and bring us in line with what the
Americans did, frankly, well over 10 years ago--15 years ago. That's all
we're doing here, and you have failed. Why should the disabled community
trust you today? Why should we trust this government when they promise
anything to do with this? You have let them down once. You're going to
let them down again.


We made it clear during the campaign we would act on this. This
resolution today by my colleague Mr Peters brings that in line. We've
had two speakers from the government, but you know what? Not one of them
has yet stood up and said whether they're going to support this
resolution that's in front of us. Two speakers have spoken for well over
half an hour on behalf of the government. Not one has yet said if
they're going to support this resolution.

I would ask and challenge the minister, every member of the House on the
government side, the members sitting here, to go down to rooms 1 and 2.
Look at the disabled community and ask them very clearly if they feel
that you betrayed them. Ask them. I challenge the minister to go. If the
minister is sitting in the House, as she is, I would ask her to take
five minutes, go down to rooms 1 and 2 and speak to the community. Let's
see if you have the courage to meet them face to face and tell them why
you betrayed them four years ago and tell them why all we have is an
action plan and no real help for the disabled community.

I urge the House today to support this resolution. I ask this government
to carry through on the commitment you made four years ago. There have
been enough betrayals; there have been enough letdowns; there's been
enough disappointment. The community worked with you. They consulted.
They spoke to you. They gave you ideas. What you gave them is the back
of your hand. It was an absolute disgrace. You should be ashamed of
yourself. You have betrayed the disabled community, to no end. It is now
time to act. I ask this government to vote in support of this. Bring in
some meaningful legislation and bring Ontario on a par with the rest of
North America when it comes to dealing with the disabled community.

Mrs Tina R. Molinari (Thornhill): I'm pleased to have the opportunity to
speak today about this very important topic. We have heard a great deal
today about Ontarians with disabilities. We have heard from the
opposition their concerns about disabilities, the Ontarians with
disabilities being serviced.

I would like to remind the Liberals of the letter that was put forth by
their leader, Dalton McGuinty, and I quote from the letter: "Our goal is
to complete this work during the first three years of our mandate."
Well, they did not complete it in the first three years. Now they've put
a resolution forward for us to implement it in the next two years.

The previous government, the NDP government, put forth Bill 168, which
didn't go anywhere. This government has the courage to do what needs to
be done and to serve Ontarians with disabilities. This government is
very supportive of Ontarians with disabilities. We have a range of new
services and initiatives that this government has undertaken since
taking office in 1995, new services and initiatives amounting to more
than $500 million.

Today I would like to provide members with a sense of what this means to
local communities all over Ontario. To illustrate my point, I'm going to
talk about just one of our many programs and what this program means for
people and communities across this province. This government's community
access-ability program, which was mentioned by the minister earlier in
her speech, was announced in November 1998. The community access-ability
program encourages community partners, such as not-for-profit
organizations, local businesses, service organizations and clubs and
persons with disabilities, to work together to make their communities
more accessible. Community access-ability also supports community
education about the barriers faced by persons with disabilities,
including physical, communication-related and attitudinal barriers and
shows how to prevent and remove these barriers.

The community access-ability program provides project grants up to
$5,000 to match financial and in-kind support from the community. In
every case, tangible community support is a prerequisite to project
funding. This year, 18% of overall project funding will come from
private sector sources. In the first six months of this program, there
are almost 200 organizations working co-operatively in communities
across the province on barrier-removal projects that respond directly to
needs identified by the community. It is a program which is creating
tangible results.

This year community access-ability projects will directly involve more
than 3,000 persons with disabilities in the planning, development and
implementation of these projects. Thirty-two community access-ability
sponsored events will be staged in communities across the province,
ranging from conferences to artistic events. More than 600 community
access-ability sponsored workshops will be conducted which will provide
information, orientation and specialized training for persons with
disabilities and help raise awareness of the needs of persons with
disabilities and the services available in the community. More than
10,000 people are expected to attend or participate in the community
access-ability sponsored events, conferences and workshops, and more
than 20,000 pieces of information will be produced and distributed as a
result of community access-ability projects.

However, as I said a moment ago, I want to focus on what this important
and innovative program means locally. In communities all over Ontario,
the government has been asked to assist, and we are responding directly
to community needs. For the Windsor and Essex County Transportation and
Coordination Centre, it means additional resources for the promotion and
advertising of their services assisting persons with disabilities, and
others, with their transportation needs. In that same community, the
Victorian Order of Nurses is working co-operatively with the Windsor
Chamber of Commerce on a community access-ability project that will help
to implement a voluntary access-ability survey and a complete physical
access-ability checklist for local businesses.

In Kitchener, the Canadian Hearing Society and the Kitchener Public
Library are working together to deliver educational workshops for an
estimated 320 participants. These are workshops for and about persons
with disabilities in Kitchener and the surrounding area. The workshops
will focus on barrier removal, needs awareness and information about
local services and resources available in the area.

In the London area, Participation House Support Services will develop a
manual using peer trainers to assist young adults with multiple
disabilities to become more independent. This innovative pilot will
begin by training young adults who will, in turn, provide training to an
anticipated 100 participants.

In southwestern Ontario, the community has looked to the government for
partnership, and community access-ability was able to answer that

Here in Toronto community access-ability is helping the Toronto
Association for Community Living to create a Toronto chapter of Youth
Involvement Ontario, which is a partnership between youth with
disabilities and youth without disabilities.

The Brain Injury Association of Toronto is working with Toronto's parks
and recreation department and Brain Injury Rehabilitation Inc to develop
and deliver a pilot project to integrate individuals with brain injury
into recreational and social activities in that community. Peer
volunteer program leaders will be trained to operate the program on an
ongoing basis.

Transportation Action Now of Toronto, in a partnership with the
Bloorview MacMillan Centre and the Canadian Paraplegic Association, will
develop a new information bulletin to assist drivers with disabilities
to find answers and learn about options, components and devices that are

In my own riding of Thornhill, the community access-ability program
helped the Reena Foundation in funding their international conference on
developmental disabilities. Over 300 people attended this conference
celebrating achievements in the field of developmental disabilities and
sharing information on social, technical and medical achievements and

Organizations in Toronto and the GTA have asked the government for
support, and they are receiving the support they requested.

In Peterborough, the Canadian Mental Health Association, together with
five other partners in the community, will provide a series of workshops
to train people with mental health disabilities to deliver employment
readiness and life-skill workshops to other persons in the community
with mental health disabilities.

The Tayside Community Residential and Support Options will use a
community access-ability grant to provide leadership training to youth
on all aspects of living with disabilities. These young leaders will be
able to share their knowledge with other young people of all ages
through presentations in schools.


In southeastern Ontario, communities have asked the government to work
in partnership, and community access-ability is making those
partnerships a reality.

The Canadian Hearing Society in North Bay is participating in community
access-ability by developing and implementing a community awareness
campaign. One hundred front-line staff from participating agencies will
develop and deliver presentations and distribute information packages to
local businesses, institutions and community organizations in the
Nipissing area.

The Physically Handicapped Adults Rehabilitation Association in North
Bay is also putting community access-ability to work. This organization,
along with five other partners in the community, will develop and
distribute a new employment resource booklet entitled Plain Talk. The
booklet discusses the employment services and supports available for
persons with disabilities in North Bay. The booklet, which will be
introduced in alternative formats, will help to improve access to
employment information for persons with disabilities and employers.

Persons United for Self-Help in Northwestern Ontario, or PUSH Northwest,
is developing a resource guide with the assistance of a community
access-ability grant. The guide will explain how to remove access
barriers and establish barrier-free designs in buildings and public
locations. Some 1,500 copies of the guide will be distributed to persons
with disabilities, families, caregivers, businesses and the public.

In Thunder Bay, with support from community access-ability, the
Independent Living Resource Centre is organizing Celebrating Ability, a
one-day arts and crafts show in February 2000 that will showcase the
talent of 30 local artists and craftspersons with disabilities.
In northern Ontario, community access-ability is supporting important
partnerships in the community. Community access-ability is also
supporting the effective use of technology. The program is assisting the
Niagara Centre for Independent Living to complete the development and
launch of a Web site to provide information about accessibility to
residents and tourists visiting the Niagara region. The new accessible
Niagara Web site will list and provide information about all accessible
attractions, businesses and community services in the area.

In Stoney Creek, the Disabled and Aged Regional Transit System, or
DARTS, is leading public transit travel training with the assistance of
community access-ability funding. This training will allow individuals
with physical disabilities to learn how to use the regular transit
system. The project will provide the level of individual training,
coaching and support that each participant needs in order to make the
transition from parallel transportation to the regular transit system.

In south-central Ontario, community access-ability is responding
directly to requests from the community for the government to
participate in important new initiatives. I have provided just a sample
of these important community projects. These projects reflect new
partnerships, leadership in the community, and the ongoing commitment of
Ontario's disability organizations to working together to remove
barriers to accessibility.

I'm very excited about this kind of programming. Community
access-ability mobilizes community resources, including private sector
support. It engages persons with disabilities in determining the kinds
of supports and services that are appropriate in their communities. It
also supports activities in the community that address barriers to
participation and create new opportunities for Ontarians with

Mr George Smitherman (Toronto Centre-Rosedale): It's a great pleasure
for me to have a chance today to participate in the debate on the
resolution brought forward by my seatmate, the member for
Elgin-Middlesex-London. One more time on behalf of the Liberal Party, I
challenge the minister to spend a little time, if she's half as good as
she thinks she is by the speech she gave earlier, go down to the
committee rooms and meet with the 200 people who have come from across
this province because they think this is an important matter. Madam
Minister, these are your constituents in your ministry. Earn that extra
pay packet: Go downstairs and talk to these constituents in a very
direct way.

She refuses to do so, I believe because this is one more example of
narrowcasting on behalf of this government--that term coined by
pollsters which essentially says as long as policies appeal to an
electoral majority, then damn the rest. That is nothing short of an act
of discrimination. The government of Ontario, by its very own policies,
is a government for the few. They reflect that today in the way they
reject this motion and moving forward on this item, that matters to 1.5
million Ontarians. There's no commitment to help those who struggle
against bigger barriers, who have less.

I wanted to speak about the Ontarians with Disabilities Act today and to
approach it on a very personal basis. In the members' gallery today is
someone who works for me: Doreen Winkler. Doreen is a social worker. She
lives in my riding. She was appointed to the immigration and refugee
board by then Prime Minister Mulroney and reappointed by Prime Minister
Chrétien. Doreen Winkler happens to be blind. We met during the
election, when she came to lobby me on behalf of Ontarians with
disabilities, because your government had failed to live up to the
commitments it made then. Since I hired her and she began to work here
in the legislative precinct, we've run fully into the problem that
exists. In the broader Ontario government service, there are access
funds available to managers who would seek to hire employees with
disabilities, but alas, here in the Legislature of Ontario, with its
budget of something like $100 million, if I have the numbers right,
there are no funds available to assist with computers that will read
information that's on the screens, to assist with scanners or to hire
readers who can help to get past the barriers that those who are
visually impaired are dealing with.

I think this resolution today is something that can be supported by all.
The time frames within it give the government a chance to act. I
encourage them to support it, but I also encourage all members to speak
to the House leader of their party to get to the point that the
Legislative Assembly of Ontario is able to say that we have the same
ability, as managers and as employers, to hire people and to access
funds that will assist us in employing people and assist them in getting
past the barriers that exist for them. Vote for the resolution.

Mr Michael Gravelle (Thunder Bay-Superior North): I'm very pleased to
add my voice to the opposition day debate and to call on all members of
the Legislature to support my colleague Steve Peters's resolution that a
strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act should be enacted
no later than two years from today. The truth is that we shouldn't even
be having this debate today. Had Mike Harris kept his word to the people
of Ontario and enacted legislation during his first term in office, as
he had promised, our party would not be putting forward a resolution

Having said that, we are proud to be taking the lead on this very
important issue once again, an issue that is about equality and fairness
and one that we will not and cannot allow to be ignored by this

I'm also very proud that the disabled community in Thunder Bay and
northwestern Ontario is at the forefront of this fight for equality.
Today in Thunder Bay, Persons United for Self-Help, PUSH Northwest, is
leading the charge in support of our party's resolution this afternoon.
The message I want to send to everyone back home and everyone else who
has fought for the passage of meaningful disability act legislation is
that your support continues to inspire us to press forward, to press
this government to meet this commitment. All of us in this Legislature
will be ultimately judged by our commitment to true equality in this
province. Today, 1.5 million Ontarians with disabilities are counting on
us to make a barrier-free Ontario a reality for them. That is what we
must do.

This debate is not about ideology. It is simply about holding the
government to its commitment to establish an ODA and to take some action
towards respecting the rights and equality of persons with disabilities
in Ontario. It's about reaffirming our belief that the barriers, whether
social, economic, physical, educational or vocational, are unjust and
that it is incumbent upon this government to take the needed steps to
remove them and to prevent the erection of new ones.


Quite simply, it's about respecting the dignity of persons with
disabilities, people who should enjoy equal opportunity and full
participation in the life of our province and share its prosperity.
On behalf of the constituents of the Thunder Bay-Superior North riding,
I will be proudly supporting my colleague's resolution this afternoon. I
implore all members of the House, particularly on the government side,
to stand in their place today, look deep within their hearts and cast a
vote today for equality and fairness.

Mme Claudette Boyer (Ottawa-Vanier): Permettez-moi d'abord de féliciter
mon collègue de Elgin-Middlesex-London pour son travail sur ce dossier
clé. Chapeau, cher collègue, pour tes efforts.

We have been waiting five years for legislation for Ontarians with
disabilities. The groundwork has been done in the Ontarians with
Disabilities Act Committee. What is this government waiting for to enact

Nous parlons aujourd'hui de l'absence d'une loi qui a comme but la
protection des droits des Ontariennes et des Ontariens handicapés. Je
suis profondément décue que le gouvernement conservateur n'a toujours
pas agi dans ce dossier. Nous sommes des législateurs et il est de notre
devoir d'assurer la pleine protection des plus défavorisés et des plus
démunis dans notre société. Il incombe au gouvernement de démontrer du
leadership et d'assurer pleinement cette responsabilité primordiale.
La situation devient de plus en plus lamentable. D'un côté, le
gouvernement parle d'une province pour tous les Ontariens. De l'autre,
il coupe les subventions et les programmes déstinés aux personnes
handicapées. Il restreint leur accès à une pension. Il ne présente aucun
projet de loi visant à éliminer des barrières et obstacles afin de
permettre à ces mêmes Ontariens et Ontariennes de participer pleinement
à la vie et de contribuer ainsi à la société ontarienne.

Two issues concern me particularly. They are universal access and the
unreasonable delays in obtaining a response from the Ontario disability
support program. Lately, I have received about 20 calls from
constituents regarding the delays in obtaining support through the
program. Let me remind the government that these calls are made by
people, human beings who need help. These people are not cases, nor are
they files or reference numbers. They are people like you and me.
While doing my best to help these people, I learned that the standard
response times established by the program are not met because of
bureaucratic hoop-jumping that can last from six to eight months.
Ironically, the government created the new program in order to reduce

As I stated earlier, I am also concerned about the issue of universal
access. Let me tell you about one of my constituents, who is in a
wheelchair. Lately, he could not obtain medical treatment in two
separate clinics in Ottawa-Vanier because he could not climb the single
step at the entrances of these clinics.

Following this distressing experience, he contacted two provincial
offices regarding the lack of access to the medical clinics.
Representatives in both offices told him that access is a municipal
responsibility, so he contacted the city, only to be told that the
building codes and guidelines are established according to provincial

So this constituent has started a small business. He builds and sells
lightweight, portable ramps. He may be handicapped, but he is working
very hard to improve the quality of life not only for himself but for
others. He is part of the solution, not part of a problem that exists in
the mind and in the arrogant attitude of this government.

Lastly, I would like to mention that I promised during the election to
have the entrance to my new constituency office modified to make it
wheelchair accessible. It was my understanding that the government was
to ensure accessibility to all MPPs' constituency offices, but I got
tired of waiting for the government and I decided that it was incumbent
on me to ensure that my office is accessible to all my constituents. We
live in a democracy, and accessibility is a right, not a favour to be
granted by the autocratic government.

C'est donc avec ferveur que j'appuie la motion de mon collègue et vous
enjoins d'en faire du pareil.

Mrs Leona Dombrowsky (Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington): Today I
am very pleased to speak in favour of the resolution before the House
that will affect Ontarians with disabilities.

My riding is one of the largest in southern Ontario, over 12,000 square
kilometres. The rural environment means that many disabled persons
seeking medical treatment have to travel long distances to appointments
with doctors.

Today the Premier has said that his government has had the courage to
pursue a disabilities act. Well, I would like to talk a little bit about
how Conservative courage has been translated in my riding.

The disabled persons of Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington want to
ask, where is the courage in denying them adequate support for travel to
medical appointments? This government is cutting mileage support for
persons with disabilities from 30 cents a kilometre to only six cents a
kilometre, and recipients must claim a minimum cost of $15 in order to
be reimbursed. In other words, that's a trip of 250 kilometres. In my
riding, a return trip from Bancroft to Belleville takes three hours, and
yet only qualifies for a $14.90 mileage expense; conveniently, 10 cents
under the $15 claim limit. I would only suggest that it does take a lot
of courage and nerve to say to disabled people that they don't deserve
compensation for that trip.

Mr Victor Fleming of Bancroft is a volunteer driver for a number of
public agencies. For 14 years he has helped people with
disabilities--children, young parents and adults who live in
Bancroft--to travel to medical appointments throughout the riding. For
example, he regularly drives a gentleman to Kingston for kidney dialysis
treatment. The drive takes almost five hours and is a 374-kilometre
round trip. Every agency for which he drives pays a minimum of 27 cents
a kilometre. He used to be reimbursed $100 to cover expenses for a trip
to Kingston when he carried a disabled passenger, and he will now
receive only $22. That doesn't even cover the cost of gas. At 66 cents a
litre, he cannot pay for his gas to take the disabled person from
Bancroft to Kingston.

A 29-year-old woman in my riding with fibromyalgia must travel to
Kingston 12 times a month. She used to get $45 per trip to cover her
expenses, and now she gets nine dollars. She's out of pocket that
difference. This is a disabled person who has already had her support

Today the Minister of Community and Social Services called the Ontario
disability support plan "outstanding." This very morning I had a person
in my constituency office who has applied twice for ODSP and both
applications have been lost by this "outstanding" social service system.
Ontarians with disabilities need legislation to ensure they receive the
support and access to the services they need and deserve. I urge all
members to support the resolution before the House today.


Mr Joseph Cordiano (York South-Weston): I'm very happy indeed to speak
on this resolution by my friend from Elgin-Middlesex-London. This is an
important resolution because we have come to a point in time when enough
has been said about this matter and we need to move forward.

The disabled community of this province deserves better from all of us,
and as the minister sits in her place in this House, she needs to lead
the way. This is something she can stand up and champion. In fact one of
the more significant things I heard today came from the Premier. He
said, "We live now in a new era, an era of budgetary surpluses." So he
has signalled his willingness to move forward to invest in something as
significant as an Ontarians with Disabilities Act, because it requires
additional investment; there is no question about that.

I can't think of a better way for this government to lead us into the
new century than by investing in this worthwhile initiative. I can't
think of a better way to initiate a millennium project. Why not make
this a millennium project? Why not do that on behalf of the people of
this province? If it is true that we live in a new era, and many people
have referred to the new economy which has made us more productive--of
course largely led by the United States and the transformation that has
taken place in the economy with regard to technological change--and we
have greater productivity and an era of surpluses, it would stand to
reason that we're going to need every single person, disabled or
otherwise, to participate in our economy to make us as productive as we
can be.

It's not good enough to leave those people behind, to leave them out of
participation in our new-era economy. We need them. It's in our interest
to enable them to be involved in the economic life of this province, and
the only way they can do that is if we have a barrier-free society.
I urge the minister and I urge the members of this House to not only
support this resolution, because that's easy to do and many previous
parliaments have done the same thing, but it's far more important to
have someone champion this cause and the minister can do just that. I
urge everyone to support this resolution.

Mr Tony Ruprecht (Davenport): I rise in support of this resolution and
my colleague Mr Peters. Advocates for the rights of the disabled have
spent years trying to make government and the public aware of the needs
as well as the abilities of disabled persons. Especially today these
same advocates are saying to us, "You, as MPPs, have a special
responsibility," and that is that we must treat every citizen of
Ontario, not only with respect but we must open the doors so that
they're part of our family, open the doors so that every person is able,
not only to access a theatre and a library but also at least to some
degree to participate in the economic development of our nation.

Unless we pass this resolution today, I am confident that the ideas of
yesterday, the ideas of participation will be forgotten. I am confident
that unless we pass this act today, we will not make any progress.
These advocates are reminding us today that MPPs--indeed MPPs of all
parties--passed a special resolution in this Legislature over 10 years
ago, a proclamation of the Decade of Disabled Persons. I have a copy
right here. It says: "The government of Ontario fully supports the
principles and ideals set forth by the United Nations and is committed
to the goals of the fullest possible participation and equality of
opportunity for persons with disabilities in the social and economic
life of the province."

What is even more important, to the minister today and to all of us, is
to review the principles that are at stake today. These principles are
also found in this resolution of over 10 years ago. They read as

(1) The dignity, independence and potential of persons with
disabilities will be respected in all aspects of life.

(2) Persons with disabilities have equal rights and equal obligations,
in common with all citizens, to participate in and contribute to
community life.

(3) Efforts will be made to increase public awareness of the abilities
and needs of persons with disabilities in order to break down the
barriers which exist due to a lack of understanding and outmoded

I say to you today, let this minister go downstairs to those who are
waiting right now to hear whether she and this government will indeed
pass this act and give hope to all those who need access to institutions
and to our country.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton West): I appreciate the opportunity to
join in the debate. I wasn't in the House for the actual words that were
spoken by a member of the government--by the minister, actually, I
think--but the first thing I would like to do is correct the record.
Someone on the government side said there was absolutely nothing in our
election platform, and I know people watching this don't care too much
about that sort of thing, but nonetheless it is important to us to
ensure that the record is kept straight. Indeed, we did have a clear

You will recall that while the government implemented the 30% tax cut,
and the Liberals refused to do anything about it, when we made
commitments around education funding, health care funding, social
services, and within that of course disabled individuals, we said:
"That's where we'll get the money. We'll raise it by reversing the tax
cut for the top 6% of income earners," who got the lion's share of the
tax cut, and that's where we'd get the real money. There was a policy
paper that clearly articulated that point of view; it was part of our
platform. So the record should show that anything to the contrary of us
having a detailed position and an explanation of how we were going to
pay for it is at best inaccurate and at worst indescribable, using
parliamentary language.


Moving on, we know today that once again the Premier just doesn't seem
to learn. He again has invoked the name of Gary Malkowksi, a former MPP
for the New Democratic Party during the time we were in government from
1990 to 1995; indeed, he was one of the parliamentary assistants
responsible for this legislation. I just want to bring to the attention
of the House that the Toronto Star reported--and I do this for a reason;
that reason is Gary is here. He's downstairs in one of the committee
rooms watching the proceedings this afternoon, as are a lot of other
people who are leaders within the disabled community and supporters of
that leadership. They're watching very carefully, because this means an
awful lot to them. Gary is as furious this time as he was the last time
that Premier Harris insists on misrepresenting Gary's comments.

On December 4, 1998--this is straight from the Toronto Star--"former
provincial politician, says Mike Harris is taking his comments out of
context to bolster support for his 'useless, toothless and patronizing'
disabilities act.

"'I can't believe what Mike Harris has done, using my name the way he
has,' Malkowski said in an interview yesterday. 'He's using my name for
some benefit.'

"Last week, Harris stood up in the Legislature to defend his
controversial Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and said Malkowski has
publicly complimented the government on its disabled initiatives.

"'We have had more people with disabilities, including a former New
Democratic member who came forward and said of the move we made: "This
is the biggest breakthrough in the history of the Ontario Legislature,"'
Harris is quoted as saying.

"Regardless of the context, Malkowski is furious his name is positively
linked to anything the Conservatives are doing when it comes the

"Malkowski has written a letter to the Premier asking him to withdraw
the statement from the record, and to stop undermining his credibility
'by making false and public statements.'"

Speaker, I read this into the record because I assure you that Gary
Malkowski intends again to call on the Premier to stop using his name in
an inappropriate fashion in terms of saying that Mr Malkowski supports
anything that this government has done with regard to an ODA.

My point in putting this in the record is to show that it's not the
first time. The Premier knew better. When the ruckus is raised later
today and tomorrow over what he has done to Mr Malkowski and his good
reputation, I ask you, Speaker, and other members of this House to bear
in mind that this is not a slip of the tongue. This is a Premier who has
been here before, on this very issue, with the same member, which in my
opinion just points to the fact that this government will say anything
to make it sound like they care.

The reality, however, is in the bill they introduced: two pages. It's
insulting, an absolute insult to all the people who have worked so many
years. I know in our community Aznive Mallett and my former ward mate,
Councillor Geraldine Copps, have played a leadership role in making sure
that the issues in Hamilton--and my riding encompasses the largest
concentration of people with disabilities in terms of the downtown area.
So what Hamilton had to say, in my opinion, is important, and not just
in the Hamilton context but in an Ontario context, which will take me,
after I read one more quote into the record, to focus on process more
than anything.

A lot has been said about the government's track record, the things
they've done and the things they haven't done. I don't want to repeat
those things. I want to focus on the process that was followed last time
and the absolute, total requirement and responsibility this government
has to provide a process that is transparent, that is responsible,
accountable and accessible, much like the rights the disabled are asking
to have certified here in the province in terms of barrier-free access
in other matters.

I want to put again on the record, with regard to the last go-round,
that we heard the Premier say--it's amazing he could say these
things--the leaders in the disabled community were pleased--and I state
clearly that I'm paraphrasing--with what he has done and they were
supportive of what he has done. Let me assure you, Speaker, if that's
the case, I haven't heard it. All I have heard from the leadership in
the disabled community, and quite frankly anybody who cares at all about
disabled citizens, is that their rights are not being accorded to them
and that this government has shown no interest in sincerely honouring
the commitment they made both in the election campaign and in this

I refer members to the debate of this Legislature on Thursday, October
29, 1998, where the then member for Windsor-Walkerville moved a motion
that outlined 11 factors that must be included in any acceptable ODA.
It's interesting that some of the members who voted in favour--no one
voted against it--include the now chief government whip, who, as I
understand it, has a seat at the cabinet table and has great influence.
He supported this resolution that called for these 11 factors. Almost
every one of those factors was violated in terms of the insult that the
government tabled prior to the last election.

Aznive Mallett, whom I have already mentioned, was the co-chair of the
Hamilton ODA committee. She wrote an op-ed piece for the Hamilton
Spectator. She starts off by saying:

"Since when does government spend time and money to develop and
implement legislation, when an internal memo would achieve the same

"This provincial government is enacting a law to require its own
departments to write reports regarding access for persons with
disabilities. To me, this is like using a nuclear bomb to remove a wart
from Johnny's finger. And, isn't it ridiculous to remove a wart from
Johnny's finger when Johnny needs heart surgery?"

She then goes on at great length to describe and explain why she not
only doesn't support this legislation, but considers it an insult.
Speaking now to the process, I can recall when the government, as they
saw their election timetable looming, set out to ask people what they
thought ought to be--as if they didn't have enough information and
studies and opinions, but they asked for one more go-round. I'm assuming
it happened all across Ontario because it happened in Hamilton, and it
was ordered from the minister's office that, yes, they were inviting
people to make submissions about what an Ontarians with Disabilities Act
would look like, but no one was allowed to hear what anybody else was
saying. It was almost a Star Chamber. They literally ordered people to
stay outside the room while each delegation came in.

Why would they do that? Because they knew the kind of legislation they
were going to bring in, and if everybody sitting in that committee room
had a chance to hear the submissions of others then they would readily
realize--they did anyway which is what makes the thing so stupid and
juvenile but they would have realized maybe a little quicker--that every
one of us talked about maybe some of those 11 factors I've mentioned
earlier and the importance of having substantive barrier removals
outlined in legislation, and the resulting legislation was nowhere near

It's the only thing I can think of, that it was to try to keep
expectation levels lower. What other reason and justification could
there be for a government being so obviously undemocratic?
That's not just me. Al MacRury, a writer of some renown with the
Hamilton Spectator, writes about disability issues. The heading of the
article he wrote about that process is "Disabilities Bill a Waste of
Time, Money."

He said the following: "So now we know. No surprise really. A government
only attempts to muzzle the media, manipulate the masses and deceive the
disabled if it intends to railroad through its own Ontarians with
Disabilities Act in the form it, and only it, considers acceptable.
"What Isabel Bassett"--that was the then minister responsible--"has
brought before Queen's Park is an insult, say activists who've tried
their hardest and given their utmost in a vain attempt to get the
Ontario government's attention.

"Instead, Bassett's Ministry of Culture, Recreation and Tourism intends
to introduce a disabilities act that's basically a nonentity. Strange
behaviour, considering her family's wealth is rooted in the media--the
very institution ordered banned from all committee meetings on the
legislation except one.

"That was the August 12 session in Hamilton, which I attended and they
didn't like that one little bit. One ministry representative suggested I
could watch proceedings (nice of her to dictate my civil rights) but not
perform my job.

"The day my column ran in the Spectator, I received a call from
Bassett's executive assistant, wondering why I showed up.
"'We've decided the meeting are closed,' he said. 'We didn't think it
was a matter of discussion.'

"Well, it should have been. And if the Progressive Conservative
government rams through this eunuch of an act, the legacy it leaves
behind will cripple thousands of Ontarians with disabilities."


Mr Christopherson: Thank you for that contribution, Bert.
We know, of course, that the historical result of all this is that yes,
they did indeed introduce an insult of a bill, a couple of pages long. I
would agree with Aznive Mallett that the same could have been achieved,
given how little is in here, with a memo to most of the ministries. In
fact, a lot of what they put in this bill, we as an NDP government had
already directed ministries to do; and it was this government, as I
understand it, shortly after they took power in 1995, that stopped that
work. Now we know why they didn't want anybody in the committee room.
They wanted to play this as low as possible. They came in with this
insult of a bill. I think they realized at the end of the day that even
though this government is used to ramming things through and ignoring
the public, even this one, in the context of Tory legislation, was over
the top. So it didn't move and it died on the order paper.


That's what's so infuriating when we listen to Premier Mike Harris talk
about how much he cares about individuals with disabilities, how much he
really cares about making sure that barriers are removed. Then we heard
the Minister of Social Services, and it was aggravating at the very
least today to hear him stand up and talk. All he did was repeat a
litany of a list of expenditures, and quite frankly those expenditures
in most cases are nothing new. They were initiated by previous
governments, and if we've maintained the same funding levels with this
government, we're lucky, let alone see any increases.

The fact of the matter is this is the same group that decided it was OK
back in 1995 to cut the income of the poorest of the poor by 22%. "Oh
yes, but we didn't include the disabled in that. We made sure that they
didn't take that hit. It was only the rest of the people who are in
poverty that we hit," like somehow that makes it OK. One thing they
never addressed is the fact that some of the children of these families
that had their income cut by 22.6% are disabled. How can you possibly
argue that didn't hurt people who are already disadvantaged, vulnerable
and hurting? Then they had the audacity to stand up a couple of years
later and beat their chest and say what a great job they're doing for
the disabled and how much they care about people who are in poverty.

I wanted to say to the members of the government across the way: You may
think that you can compartmentalize the rich and give them continuing
tax cuts and that's going to keep them happy, and compartmentalize the
poor and write them off because you know that demographically there's a
lower percentage of people with lower income and lower education who
vote, and hope that somehow the middle class will disregard both those
two categories and think that somehow this government's agenda is good
for them. The reality is that there's an awful lot of working
middle-class families out there who are scared of the future under Mike

Mr Brad Clark (Stoney Creek): A lot of them voted for us.

Mr Christopherson: Yes, you're right, member from Stoney Creek, a lot of
them did vote for you. That doesn't mean that what you're doing is the
right thing to do. Neither does it mean that there won't be a point in
time, which I'm willing to bet there will be, where people are going to
stand back and take a look at what these trade-offs have been and who
benefited and who was hurt. I believe that's going to happen very
quickly. Anywhere you look in the health care system, education system,
social services, environmental protection, labour law--go down the
list--the big losers in terms of mass numbers at the end of the day are
the group that you think aren't paying attention, of whom you so
arrogantly say, "Well, they keep voting for us." It's the working middle
class that is still the largest group in our society, and you cannot
continue to pamper the very wealthy and hurt the very poor and think
that somehow the middle class will believe that they'll remain
unaffected by this.

Ask that middle class whether they think it's a fair trade-off that
there be tax benefits for the very wealthy but not enough money to
provide a decent, appropriate Ontarians with Disabilities Act in this
province. Ask them if they think that's fair. That's what is happening
today as we, the opposition members, put that issue squarely in front of
the government through this opposition day motion.

The fact is that we're watching. You got away with it the last time.
They did, Speaker. It breaks my heart to admit it, but there you are.
There are the facts; can't deny it. They're still sitting on that side
of the House with a majority. So, yes, they got away with it. They
insulted the disabled community, they bamboozled the rest of the
population, and I guess they're hoping they can do the same thing again
this term because now they've got to cut another 20%. We heard $300
million the other day. There's another $600 million to go. Does anybody
honestly think that with those kinds of cuts on the table, they are
suddenly going to find the money necessary to make sure that disabled
Ontarians are having their rights entrenched in law? I don't think so.
At the end of the day, the government will not be able to get away with
this sham of a process, as they did the last time, where they tried to
manipulate who came into the committee room, who would hear what's going
on and who was excluded. You're not going to get away with that this
time. You're going to have to come to grips with the fact that there are
obligations and commitments that this government has given in election
times and in motions and resolutions voted upon in this Legislature and
that you're going to have to honour those commitments, unlike in the


Mr Christopherson: I want to end my comments not by talking about where
we've been in the past and what that means. Much of that was dealt with
in the last election. But I do want to say that you have an obligation,
members of the government--especially new members like the one now who
thinks he's been around here long enough that he can sit back and
heckle. I can't hear what you're saying. The first lesson of heckling is
to make sure you're heard.

Let me tell you something. I'm betting and I'm hoping that you would
have been embarrassed by what happened here the last time. I would hope
that as a new member you would say: "I'm not tied to that old process.
I've got an obligation as a new member to ensure the things that I ran
on are implemented." You've made commitments and you're now hearing from
us and the disabled community; the leadership is here today. They're all
saying to you and your colleagues, you have a moral responsibility to
provide the kind of legislation that you promised. Your colleagues
didn't do it in the last Harris government; maybe you'll be more
successful this time.

I see you nodding your head. I hope we can count on you to vote in
favour of this resolution as a first step in showing your good faith in
wanting to see the commitments made to the disabled citizens of this
community, who have rights, guaranteed in law so that they begin to see
their rights showing themselves in our communities.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-East York): I was going to say I'm pleased to
participate in the debate, but boy, oh, boy, I know there are a lot of
people watching this, many from their homes, many here in this building
from the disability community and supporters of Ontarians with
disabilities who have been fighting for fairness and access to full
civic life, who really wish they weren't having to listen to a debate
like this again, who really wish that government and all politicians at
this point in time would just live up to commitments.

One of the things that really distresses me--and it started again in
question period today, when our member from Broadview-Greenwood, our
disabilities critic, and others put questions to the Premier. The
Premier either sloughs off the questions or answers them in a way that
is so derisive of the serious nature of the concerns, so dismissive of
the realities of everyday life that persons with disabilities face,
whether it's needing to use a public pay phone that's too high to reach
or being mobility challenged and not being able to get across a street
in time, the way the street lights are sequenced, or not being able to
go into a restaurant, a theatre or transit. Let's talk about transit, to
be able to get to places, to be able to get to employment, to be able to
get to enjoy recreational life. There are so many barriers--to work, to
learning, to fully participating--and the Premier just, in such a
derisive way, dismisses those concerns and gives rhetoric about this
government having done more than any government in the history of the


Ms Lankin: Yes, he could get philosophical about this stuff. There's a
quotation, citation; actually, it comes from the Bible. I'm not really
good on biblical citations, but I can tell you the intent of it. It
talks about the moral bankruptcy of leadership, of governing leadership
when it uses hot buttons and plays on people's emotions and manipulates
emotions to get support for what they want to do. That's one of the
hallmarks of this government. But when you take it even a step
further--it's not twisting the facts, it's not selectively using the
facts in order to promote the case that you're trying to make, but you
totally ignore the fact and the reality of the situation. You have
citizens of this province, here in this building today and watching this
debate, who are demanding, rightfully, full access to full participation
in civic life. And he starts partisan shots about who did what when.


The minister herself, in the debate here this afternoon, spent most of
her time not giving full and valid facts about the record of your
government and simply pointed fingers across the floor. People in this
building and in this room and watching this debate want to know what
you're going to do as a government, want to know how you're going to
live up to the promise that you made to Ontarians with disabilities when
you promised an Ontarians with Disabilities Act, a full and effective
piece of legislation; want to know when you're going to retrieve
yourself from the sham of the piece of legislation that you brought
forward which did nothing to accomplish even the goals that you had set
out in the beginning of the discussion paper that preceded the
legislation. It was a terrible betrayal on the part of your government,
and you have done nothing to indicate to people that you are prepared to
take the steps necessary to retrieve yourself from that situation and to
bring about the equity that people are rightly demanding.

When I think about all of the pointing of fingers, when I think about
all of the promises that have been held out, I think about someone who
right now is perhaps sitting in a wheelchair in committee room 1, who
says: "You know something, I don't give a darn who said what when. I
just want to be able to have access to go to restaurants, to be able to
go to school, to be able to go to work. I want an end to the
discrimination against me in terms of full participation and in terms of
attitudinal discrimination." Quite frankly, I bet you they would also
say: "I want employment equity legislation, which got stopped in this
province. I want a policy of full access to transit, that transit must
be wheelchair-accessible, a policy which was ended, shamefully, in this
province. I want a piece of legislation that ensures that the new road
to prosperity program that the Conservative government has announced and
all of the building of infrastructure that they've talked about, that
everything that is built is going to be accessible to me as a citizen,
as a person with a disability."

I bet you that's what they want. They want a government that betrayed
them once to stand up and say, "I'm sorry and we're going to get it
right this time," instead of all of this nonsense--I was almost
unparliamentary--that we hear in the chamber today.

People with disabilities--1.5 million Ontarians--have made their voices
very clear. They have spent the time working with politicians,
legislators, policy-makers of all three political parties and of the
civil service, to articulate the principles that must be contained
within an effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This Legislature
endorsed those principles. What a PR move it was on the part of the
government members.

Obviously they stood--well, maybe with good intentions as individual
members, not knowing their government was going to bail out on that
commitment. I will give the benefit of the doubt to some individual
members. Now is the time to stand up and be counted. If you were here
and you stood and voted for that resolution, you should be part of the
voice being raised today by Ontarians with disabilities, and by elected
representatives on their behalf, demanding that the cabinet of this
province respond with effective legislation.

The time for finger pointing is over. The time for aggrandizing what
meager steps have been taken is over.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister of Tourism): That's a big word for a

Ms Lankin: There's a minister across who likes to snipe a lot. I say to
him: I remember him in opposition, I remember him at one point in time
being an advocate for persons with disabilities. I see him now sitting
there and not raising his voice in support of doing the right thing,
absolutely defending his government's lack of action. Worse than that is
the scam they perpetrated on the people of Ontario and people with
disabilities. Yes, I've provoked the minister. And you know what? That's
my job. My job here is to try and provoke these ministers to do the
right thing finally. It is shameful that we are here debating this one
more time.

I have seen this government stand and take credit for initiatives like
the Ontario disability support program. You will remember, Mr Speaker,
that I'm one of those people who, when I see something that has
potential and could be a good initiative, will say that. I stood and I
said that the creation of that program was one of the things that had
potential for persons with disability in this province, that it had
potential for delivering, finally, a self-support program for people to
live with dignity. I'm sad to have to stand and say that I was right at
the time when I also said, "The devil is in the details and will be in
the implementation."

When we see persons with disabilities coming into our offices, being
treated the way they are through the Ontario disability support
program--not through any fault of the staff; the staff and the offices
are totally under-resourced--with real changes that are being done
behind the backdoor and being pushed through without thinking through
the implications of what it means, people whose lives are dependant,
month to month, on receiving those benefits and receiving the support,
like transportation support to get to, perhaps, the hospital for
dialysis--one of the constituents I had had that money cut off and taken
off the cheque inadvertently, incorrectly, we now find out, because of a
rule change the minister put through and didn't understand how it would
apply to people who were actual participants of the program.

When we see people lined up for appeals around eligibility, we worry. We
all worried that the eligibility criteria would be implemented and put
in place in such a way as to unfairly limit the number of people having
access to that program. We were right about that. The line-ups, the lack
of adjudication ability, the capability within the system means people
are having to await their day and await justice. We don't at this point
in time know what the end result of that will be.

I know, as I look across at the members opposite, that they know what
I'm talking about. As constituents' representatives, your offices have
to be receiving the same volume and number of calls that our offices
have been receiving. You must know the nature of the problem. Who's
standing up and speaking about it? Who's standing up for persons with
disabilities and saying: "This model program we created that was
supposed to be something good, our commitment to the disability
community, is failing. We need to do something to show we were serious
about that"? Who over there is standing up on behalf of persons with
disabilities? Unfortunately, it sure isn't the minister.

That speech today was shameful. She was, I'm sure, being booed in the
rooms downstairs. I am sure that people who were there listening were
aghast that a minister who is supposed to be responsible for issues that
affect their lives, that affect their livelihood, that affect their
ability to live with dignity in our communities and to be full citizens,
would stand and give a speech like that, that didn't even give
acknowledgement to the legitimate concerns and the legitimate grievances
on behalf of that community--

Mr Christopherson: Shame.

Ms Lankin: People say, "Shame." It is shameful.

It would have been nice if once in today's debate someone on behalf of
the government had said what your plan would be--not simply more study,
not simply more talk--what is it you are going to do to fulfill your
promise to bring in an Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

I presume, although none of you will admit it, that having abandoned the
previous piece of legislation, you understand how woefully inadequate
that piece of legislation was.

What is you plan to replace it and to live up to the commitments you
have made? Who is going to stand and tell all the people who are here in
the Legislative Assembly today to watch this debate, and all the people
at home who have tuned in to find out about their future or the futures
of their loves ones, family members of persons with disabilities, who is
going to tell them what the government of Ontario plans to do with
respect to the concerns they've brought forward, with respect to the
legitimate demands they've made, with respect to the fundamental issues
that are going to affect the rest of their lives?

The silence is deafening. It's an interesting phrase to use as we are
talking about persons with disabilities, as we are talking about people
who are hearing-impaired, people who are sight-impaired, who are
mobility-impaired, people who have differing abilities, who want to use
those abilities but who find barriers in the way of using those
abilities because we as a society have not opened the doors. We have
built those barriers. It is incumbent on all of us to be part of tearing
down those barriers, and that can only be done under the leadership of a
government that is prepared to live up to its commitment and prepared to
do the right thing by all of the people of this province.


Those who are here today who have been watching this debate, who yearn
to hear a positive indication from the government of Ontario, have been
disappointed once again. But, boy, they're a resilient lot. They have
not given up. They are here. They will be back. They will continue to
fight for their rights, and we will continue to stand beside them. We
will continue to say that this government has failed 1.5 million
Ontarians and others of us who support them. We will continue to ensure
that you are held accountable for that. They will not forget.

Mr Duncan: It's with a mixture of sadness and anger that I stand today.
I want to briefly review the history of this issue.
First of all, the Davis government put disabled issues into the Human
Rights Code. The Peterson government expanded those rights. The Rae
government, to their credit, on a variety of issues responded to the
needs of the disabled community.

I listened and almost fell out of my chair today when I heard the
Premier of Ontario suggest that both of the previous governments failed
to do an ODA. What he forgot to tell the people of this province was
there was no request for it up until that time. What he didn't tell the
people was that he signed a letter in May 1985, promising that in his
first term he would bring in an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. He
forgets that their caucus voted for Marion Boyd's resolution on dealing
with an ODA in its first term. He forgot to talk about that, and he
forgot to talk about the fact that his caucus voted for a resolution a
little over a year ago defining the principles--it was a unanimous vote
of this Legislature. Then a year ago today your former minister, the
minister who was defeated, brought in a bill that your government found
so appalling, so lacking, that they in fact withdrew the bill in their
next throne speech and renounced the bill.

Then I heard members standing up and talking about what this government
has done for the disabled people in this province. What you have is the
most sorry legacy, the most broken commitments, the biggest failure of
any government in this province or in any other province. You're behind
the Americans. We're 10 years behind the Americans today in terms of a
disabilities act with teeth that protects the people of this province.
Your minister has not responded to requests to meet with the Ontarians
with Disabilities Act Committee. You have an absolutely shameful record.
Today in Windsor at ALPHA House there are about 150 people watching this
debate. They read your commitment. They saw your vote on the last two
occasions. There are people in the north of Toronto--the member for
Thornhill--who have been calling in. They've been watching. There's a
group in Guelph. They've been watching, just as the whole province has
been watching.

This government should be ashamed of its failure to act, and I urge you
to vote for this resolution as you voted for the last two resolutions,
to ensure fairness for all Ontarians.

Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): It's my pleasure to rise today and join
the debate on the resolution made by the member from
Elgin-Middlesex-London. I want to congratulate that member for bringing
the resolution forward. I was very encouraged at the start of his debate
when he talked in very non-partisan terms about this issue, and for
quite some time he led the discussion in that direction.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Michael A. Brown): Order. Please keep the
conversations down so that I might hear the member from Niagara Falls.

Mr Maves: Thank you, Speaker.

I was quite encouraged, as I was saying, about the direction in which
the member opposite led off the debate, but then he let a couple of
things slip in that I really found offensive, when he then equated that
if someone decided to vote against this bill they'd somehow be against
the disabled, they would be opposed to the disabled working in the
mainstream in our society. Nothing could be further from the truth. When
you do things like that you frustrate people and you make them almost
want to say: "No, that's not fair. There could be very good reasons why
someone would vote against the resolution."

I had a resolution last week in private members' hour that I thought was
a way we could solve the doctors' shortage, the distribution problem
throughout Ontario and all the members of the Liberal party voted
against it. I didn't stand up and say they were against solving a doctor
distribution problem if they voted against it. That wouldn't be fair and
that wouldn't be appropriate, but he's done that and I found that
offensive. We don't do that on this side of the aisle and I'd appreciate
it if it wouldn't be done on that side of the aisle.

The second thing I'd like to talk about is that I want to congratulate
the minister, the member from Guelph, the member from Thornhill. I
thought they did an excellent job of talking about a lot of the things
this government has done in the ministries of Education, Transportation,
and Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, and Finance and on and on in
dealing with and putting in supports and trying to improve accessibility
for the disabled. I think they did a very good job and I think it's
appropriate during this debate that those initiatives were heard, so I
want to congratulate them for that.

One thing I've noticed in this debate is that with the exception of the
member for Elgin-Middlesex-London, who at the outset of his debate
talked about some general principles, not one Liberal in the entire time
has talked about any concrete ideas on what should be in an Ontarians
with Disabilities Act. During the time they were having this debate you
would think that they would stand up and talk about that, and that's a
frustration for us on this side of the aisle.

Another part of this I'd like to talk about is quite simply that when we
did brought in Bill 83--I have a copy here with me--we introduced a bill
after a lot of consultation, and it didn't go far enough and the
disabled community said it didn't go far enough, and so we're back at it

I've had people in my community asking me to do some more consultation
with them, and I'm doing that. I've got a person in my riding who I'm
dealing with--I'm not going to name her, a very capable person with
cerebral palsy--who is very tied in with the Ontario March of Dimes and
the disabled community. She's quite an activist, and we're working
together to put together a survey for the people in the Niagara
community. We're going to get some help with some of the local agencies
and we're going to ask the people of Niagara what it is they want in an
ODA. I think that's an important process to continue to move forward

We made changes to the building code, changes that the members opposite
when they were in government didn't make, and these were improvements to
access for the disabled. Let me just give you a few examples. Increasing
the number of building entrances required to be constructed as barrier
free: Currently only one entrance was required; we've changed that. We
addressed the needs of the visually impaired by requiring warning strips
and prohibiting escalators or stair designs that have no barriers or
construction underneath to warn the visually impaired. We required all
building controls accessible to the disabled to be operable using one
hand. These were some things, and there are more. I don't want sit and
read the list all day long, but there more things that we have done in
the Ontario building code.

In my survey that I'm working on, we're going to ask what are some more
things this government might be able to put in the Ontario building

The Ministry of Finance: We brought in the workplace accessibility tax
incentive program, which was announced in 1998 at an estimated cost of
$7 million. The program is going to offset the accommodation costs to
businesses when they hire persons with disabilities. This is an
incentive for the private sector to bring forward to make their
workplaces more accessible and to hire very skilled people who might not
right now be able to work in that workplace because of their disability.
That's an important initiative and maybe we can look at more things
along those lines.

I've recently had some more meetings. I've brought some people from the
March of Dimes in the riding to meet with the parliamentary assistant to
the Minister of Municipal Affairs, and we raised some of these building
code issues. That's important consultation that led to serious change.


I've had some more recent conversations with the schizophrenia society
in my riding. We had a very good conversation and we had a discussion
about the possibility of having one centralized access point in
communities throughout Ontario where people with disabilities can find
out: What are the resources? What are the whole pool of things that are
out there and available for me?

There are two groups here, under 21 and over 21. There are different
services available, depending upon your age, in this province, and I
find in talking to a lot of people in the community that they have
difficulty. If they have a son or daughter born with a disability,
what's available to them? It's very difficult to know. Their doctor
might tell them a few things. When their child is four or five years old
and goes to school, the teacher or principal might tell them what's
available. But it becomes very difficult to get a good sense of what
actually is available in the community. Maybe we can have something like
that in an Ontarians with Disability Act, some central access point.
When you turn 21, the basket of services that are available to you
changes, and I think there needs to be some kind of central access

We need to talk about these things. We need to be serious, to have
positive input from the other side about the specific things that they
think should be in the bill.

I don't have much more time to go into this. One of the things that
kills me about this debate is that the minister started off reading a
letter from the Liberal leader saying that they would bring in an
Ontarians with Disabilities Act within three years of being elected and
being able to govern. I don't understand--not one of them has answered
the question of why three years was okay for them but two years is what
the time line has to be on this side. If someone could come up with an
answer to that, I would like to hear that. We asked the question several
times and we never did get an answer.

There are a lot of things that were said during debate. The member
opposite, Ms Lankin, from Beaches-Woodbine, made a very impassioned

Mr Maves: Beaches-East York, she wants me to say. She made a very
impassioned plea. She's a very excellent public speaker, but we on this
of the aisle wonder, where were these impassioned pleas when she was in
cabinet and where was the Ontarians with Disabilities Act when they were
in government? That's not to say that we shouldn't have one, and that's
not to say we shouldn't have one soon. We will, and we're going to
continue to work on it, but hypocrisy can only going run so far. This
was what their bill was: non-existent.

Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): I am very proud to join
this important debate here today.

Today for the third time, this House is going to ask Mike Harris to make
good on his promise to the disabled community. While the two previous
resolutions received the unanimous support of this Legislature, Mike
Harris has ignored them both. Today we're going to send Mike Harris
another message. We are looking for, and in fact we are demanding, a
vote every bit as strong. 

Some people are going to ask: "Why bother? Why bring a motion like this
before the Legislature one more time? Mike Harris has ignored us before.
Isn't he simply going to ignore us again?"

My dad used to tell us a story about a prize bull. He grew up on a farm,
and apparently there was a farmer who owned this prize bull. People
would come from miles around to visit this magnificent and proud beast,
which was kept in a stall in the corner of a barn. When the people would
come in to visit the bull, the farmer would pick up a two by four and
hit the bull with all of his strength over the head. People would say,
"Why did you do that?" and the farmer would say, "That's how I get his

Today, for the third time, we're going to hit Mike Harris over the head
with a resolution. Some people would say that's a lot of hits, three
hits over the head, but I can tell you that when we're dealing with Mike
Harris, that's a lot of bull. Quite frankly, if we have to drag this
Premier kicking and screaming into keeping his own promise to pass an
Ontarians with Disabilities Act, then that is exactly what I and my
caucus intend to do.

It was in May 1995 that Mike Harris made a promise. Quite simply, he
said, "Elect me, and I will pass an Ontarians with Disabilities Act in
my first term of office." He also promised the members of the Ontarians
with Disabilities Act Committee, "Elect me, and you will be able to help
draft this important piece of legislation."

The painful truth--it's painful for the government to acknowledge this
truth and painful for the disabled community because of the betrayal--is
that Mike Harris broke both these promises. And not only did the Harris
government fail to bring in any kind of meaningful legislation, but in a
move that smacks of the worst kind of arrogance, Mike Harris refused to
even meet with the ODA committee, let alone consult them in any real
fashion on a piece of very important legislation.

Unlike the Premier, I believe that when you make a promise, you stand by
it. It's all about trust and integrity, and the people of this province
have the right to expect from their Premier that he will be someone who
can be trusted; he will be a person of integrity. Unfortunately, this
government's betrayal of the disabled community doesn't end with Mike
Harris's failure to enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Sadly,
there is more.

In the Common Sense Revolution, Mike Harris promised, "Aid for seniors
and the disabled will not be cut." He felt this promise was so
important, so essential to secure voters, that he bolded that statement
for emphasis. Well, a promise from Mike Harris was supposed to be
golden. This is the guy who was self-described as the only honest
politician in Ontario. He was the guy who said, "If I don't keep my
promises as Premier, I'll resign." Let's check out the record.
When it comes to keeping his promise not to cut people with
disabilities, he cut $50 million in direct services to people with
developmental disabilities; he imposed mandatory user fees on
prescription drugs for disabled persons on the Ontario drug benefit
program; he changed the definition of "disabled," making it harder for
people to receive financial support and reducing the benefits for many
who were not cut off entirely; he has underfunded the special services
at home program so badly that families needing support have seen an
average reduction of 30%. Finally, Mike Harris's cuts to education
funding have resulted in the tragic loss of programs like speech
pathology and special education in our schools. It turns out that Mike
Harris's promises were indeed as good as gold: Bre-X gold, absolutely

Like so much else in politics, it really boils down to a matter of
values and priorities. Either you believe, like this caucus, that an
essential role of government is to help people reach their full
potential and you make that a priority, or you don't. From our
perspective, a real priority of government, any government, should be to
ensure that there is room for everybody at the Ontario table, that
everybody finds opportunity, that everybody realizes their potential,
that everybody is able to make a contribution, that everybody is
enabled. This is not only a matter of good social policy; this is
fundamentally a matter of good economic policy.

I want to recognize the tireless work of David Lepofsky and his ODA
committee. If there is anybody in this province who thinks for a second
that disabilities can't be overcome, they should meet David Lepofsky.
David is blind, but his vision is crystal-clear. He sees a province
where disabled people are able to make a contribution not only to their
own success but to the greater success of our province. We are proud to
join David in his fight for a real Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
I want to let everybody know how proud I am of the hard work done by our
disabilities critic, Steve Peters. When I appointed Steve, I asked him
to champion this fight on behalf of the 1.5 million disabled Ontarians,
and he has not let me down and he has not let that community down. I
thank him for that.

In conclusion, I want to say clearly to the people with disabilities who
are watching or listening to this debate today that the single greatest
barrier you face in reaching your full potential is no longer your
disability, it's the man who is seating in the Premier's chair.

The Acting Speaker: Mr Peters has moved opposition day number 3. Is it
the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour will say "aye."

All those opposed will say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

Call in the members. There will be a 10-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1751 to 1801.

The Acting Speaker: All those in favour of Mr Peters's resolution will
stand one by one.


Agostino, Dominic Arnott, Ted Baird, John R. Barrett, Toby Bartolucci,
Rick Bisson, Gilles Bountrogianni, Marie Boyer, Claudette Bradley, James
J. Bryant, Michael Caplan, David Christopherson, David Chudleigh, Ted
Churley, Marilyn Clark, Brad Cleary, John C. Coburn, Brian Colle, Mike
Conway, Sean G. Cordiano, Joseph Crozier, Bruce Cunningham, Dianne
Curling, Alvin DeFaria, Carl Di Cocco, Caroline Dombrowsky, Leona
Duncan, Dwight Dunlop, Garfield Ecker, Janet Elliott, Brenda
Flaherty, Jim Gerretsen, John Gilchrist, Steve Gill, Raminder Gravelle,
Michael Guzzo, Garry J. Hampton, Howard Hardeman, Ernie Hoy, Pat
Jackson, Cameron Johns, Helen Kells, Morley Kennedy, Gerard Klees, Frank
Kormos, Peter Kwinter, Monte Lalonde, Jean-Marc Lankin, Frances Levac,
David Marchese, Rosario Martel, Shelley Martiniuk, Gerry Maves, Bart
Mazzilli, Frank McGuinty, Dalton McLeod, Lyn Molinari, Tina R. Munro,
Julia Murdoch, Bill Mushinski, Marilyn	Newman, Dan O'Toole, John
Ouellette, Jerry J. Parsons, Ernie Patten, Richard Peters, Steve
Phillips, Gerry Pupatello, Sandra Ramsay, David Runciman, Robert W.
Ruprecht, Tony Sampson, Rob Sergio, Mario Skarica, Toni Smitherman,
George Spina, Joseph Sterling, Norman W. Stewart, R. Gary Stockwell,
Chris Tascona, Joseph N. Tilson, David Tsubouchi, David H. Turnbull,
David Wettlaufer, Wayne Wilson, Jim Witmer, Elizabeth Wood, Bob Young,

Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 88; the nays
are 0.

The Acting Speaker: The motion is carried. This House stands adjourned.

The House adjourned at 1805.

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