in the Ontario Legislature
re: ODA Legislation
October 4, 2000
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES LEGISLATION
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My first
question today is for the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and
Recreation. Minister, we in our party believe that people with
disabilities should have every possible and reasonable
entitlement to opportunity and to getting everything they need
to find success in Ontario. Mike Harris promised to enact a
strong Ontarians with Disabilities Act by the end of his first
term, and he broke that promise. Last November, you promised a
tough new act to meet the needs of people with disabilities.
Minister, you will shortly be breaking that promise too. I have
here in my hand a copy of a secret cabinet briefing document
presented by you. It's dated Tuesday, August 29 of this year.
This is presented to cabinet's most powerful committee, and in
this you make it abundantly clear that you have no intention
whatsoever of putting into place any kind of legislation that
is going to advance the cause of persons with disabilities here
in Ontario. Why are you continuing to betray the rights of
people with disabilities in Ontario?
Hon Helen Johns (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and
Recreation, minister responsible for seniors and women): Let me
just say that the government has made a commitment that we
would put forward an action plan in the first session of the
House, and we intend to do that. We also made a commitment that we
would come forward with legislation by November 2001, and we
also intend to do that. We've made a promise in the
Let me say that I completely disagree with the member opposite
when he says Mike Harris didn't keep his promise. He put
forward a bill that the disability community wanted to have
another look at, to have more discussions on, and we certainly
have been doing that over the summer. We've done that in the
past, and we will continue to do that in the future. We did
what the disability community asked us to do: we withdrew the
bill and we're working on it again.
Mr McGuinty: Minister, I have a copy of your recommendation to
cabinet. It talks about a recommended approach, it talks about
your action plan and it talks specifically about a new
Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This is really good stuff,
Speaker. Listen to this: "This new act is going to use existing
mandatory requirements and enforcement." They're going to use the
existing Human Rights Code definition of disability, they're
going to reference other statutes-
Mr McGuinty: -and here comes the real teeth of this matter.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Order. Would the member take his
seat. Rude comments back and forth are not helpful, I say to
the member for Hamilton East. The leader of the official
Mr McGuinty: In addition to merely referencing existing
legislation, the new and compelling legislative objective will
be the following-and listen to this; this is nothing less than
earth-shattering, groundbreaking and something we're all going
to want to write home to our mothers about-it says this
government is going to strengthen penalties for unlawful use of
disabled parking spaces. That is the earth-shattering, compelling
commitment being made by this minister.
I ask again, Minister-this is your document, your
recommendation to cabinet-why are you continuing to insult and
betray Ontarians with disabilities?
Hon Mrs Johns: Let me be very clear: the legislation in the
action plan will be fair and reasonable. We have every
intention of moving the bar forward so that people in Ontario
have more access to more facilities in the province.
I have to say to the member opposite that I think disabled
parking is a problem in this province. I think it's a disgrace
that we have people who aren't disabled who have parking passes
and use them. I think it's a disgrace that there aren't spots
for people with disabilities to be able to park. If you
disagree with us, please tell me.
The Speaker: Final supplementary.
Mr McGuinty: It's of passing interest to see that the minister
is showing a little passion when it comes to parking spaces.
What about everything else that Ontarians with disabilities
need so they can enjoy opportunities in Ontario?
The cynicism which is found throughout this document is nothing
less than breathtaking. On page 4 of this minister's document,
this champion of Ontarians with disabilities, this is what it
says: "Public-opinion research has shown that the general
public has little awareness and interest in an Ontarians with
Disabilities Act." It goes on to say, under "Anticipated
Stakeholder Reaction," that "the general public may not have
much interest." I want to tell you that we have one hell of a lot
of interest in making sure Ontarians with disabilities have
every opportunity. We want room for them at the Ontario table.
Why don't you admit you have given up as any kind of champion
when it comes to the cause of Ontarians with disabilities?
Hon Mrs Johns: I couldn't disagree more. I see me job as
minister responsible for disabilities as building bridges
between the disability community and the private sector, the
public sector-all communities-so we can all move forward
together and lead by example. As everyone in the House will
know, the ODSP that we have is the most generous plan in all
Canada. This government spends $6 billion annually on services
for people with disabilities. That's an increase of-
The Speaker: Order. Would the member for Essex come to order,
Hon Mrs Johns: This government spends $6 billion annually on
services for people with disabilities. That's and increase of
more than $800 million ...
The Speaker: Order. Member for Essex come to order please.
Hon Mrs Johns: This government spends $600 billion
annually on services for people with disabilities. That's an
increase of more than $800 million since Mike Harris came to
government in 1995. I don't think anyone can complain about the
way we're moving forward and let me once again confirm that
we're coming forward with an action plan, as promised, and with
legislation, as promised, to make sure that we move forward in
the province of-
The Speaker: The minister's time is up.
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): This is for the
Minister, a short while ago I got off the phone with David
Lepofsky who represents Ontarians with disabilities. You met
with him on September 8-I want to remind you that your document
here that you presented to cabinet is dated August 28. You met
with him a week later. You had already taken a hard and fast
I told him about this document. He said that during your
conversation you assured him that you had an open mind and that
you were in still in a consultation phase. Now I want you to
tell Ontarians with disabilities right now-because they are
very, very interested in your answer-why is it that you told
their representative-you sat across from him, face to face-he
asked you, "Are you still consulting or is your mind made up?"
You said, "No my mind's not made up. I'm still consulting," and
yet a week earlier you submitted a recommendation to cabinet
which clearly said that your mind was made up.
Tell Ontarians with disabilities what this is all about, right
now. Hon Helen Johns (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and
Recreation, minister responsible for seniors and women): Let me
say that we continue to work on the action plan and the
legislation as we speak. I'm always looking for information. In
fact, the week before the House came back I was in Washington
looking at the Americans with Disability Act and other
legislation that the States have, because, as you know, when we
come forward with legislation here it will be the first in
Canada that we will be presenting. I'm looking at jurisdictions
all around the world. I'm talking to all of the different
ministries within the government to make sure that I understand
that services we provide for people. Let me also say that I've
met with Mr Lepofsky more than once. I met with Mr Lepofsky
last year at this time and this year at this time. In fact, Mr
Lepofsky has had the opportunity of meeting with 13 ministers
over the time that this government has been elected.
Mr McGuinty: Minister, if I go back to your document which you
presented to cabinet, it says here under strategic goals:
stakeholder management and issue containment. It says that: "we
will seek controlled opportunities to frame the discussion and
get government messages to the media." That's what your
document says. See?
Well, I want to tell you, Minister, you can forget about issue
containment and you can forget about controlled opportunities
to frame the discussion. You may not believe in the dignity of
Ontarians with disabilities and you may not believe in
opportunity for Ontarians with disabilities but we in this
party do and there will be no such thing as issue containment.
The Speaker: Member take his seat. Minister of Education come to
order. Order. Order. Thank you very much.
Mr McGuinty: Ontarians with disabilities, Minister, are looking
for somebody in the inside of government who's going to
champion their cause. Now it might be one thing if this
document had been prepared by the cabinet or by the Harris
inner sanctum and sent back to you, but for you to prepare this
on behalf of Ontarians with disabilities and to introduce this
into cabinet is nothing less than disgraceful. You have betrayed
those people whose cause you're supposed to be championing. You
should do the honest and honourable thing here and now: you
Hon Mrs Johns: It's hard to take criticism from the members
opposite. As we all know, both of these governments were in
power in the last 10 years and neither of them did one thing to
help people with disabilities in this province.
As everyone knows, when the legislation is passed in the
province of Ontario it'll be the first legislation all across
Canada and I think that's a milestone for it.
When we were campaigning-
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Member take her seat. Member for
Elgin-Middlesex-London, this is your last warning. Minister?
Hon Mrs Johns: In 1999, when we were all campaigning, the
Liberals told the ODA committee that they could introduce
legislation within the first three years of the mandate. We
said that we'll be able to do it by November 2001. I don't want
you to forget that we're moving ahead of you faster.
Let me also say that the NDP, who are sitting quietly here,
even had a private member's bill with respect to this, and they
did nothing with that bill.
The Speaker: The minister's time is up. Final supplementary.
Mr Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings): My question is to the
same minister. The number one priority for people with
disabilities is opening doors, not parking spaces. It's the
dignity of entering a public building by the front door. It's
the dignity of having access to education. It's the dignity of
Your government has a mantra about jobs, but for thousands of
citizens in Ontario they cannot even get to a job interview.
There is 85% unemployment among our deaf community because of
your funding cuts to translators. A real Ontarians with
Disabilities Act would open the door to employment for people
Your plan will raise yet another barrier for the disabled.
Minister, you are a barrier to 1.5 million disabled people in
this province. Will you do the right thing now and resign?
Hon Mrs Johns: We've introduced $800-million worth of new
programs over the last five years to ensure that people with
disabilities have more access, one of the best things that can
happen for people with disabilities if they need supports, and
we've doubled those supports in the province of Ontario.
We're going to move and we're going to be fair and we're going
to be reasonable, not only for people with disabilities but
also for those who are in a position to accommodate people with
disabilities. That's an important balance that we intend to
meet. The action plan and the legislation will come together by
the end of the session and by November 2001. That's the
commitment we made and that's the commitment we're moving
forward to make.