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Members' Statements
November 23, 2000



Mr Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings): My question is to the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. It is now exactly one year since this Legislature unanimously approved that, "The ODA will be in place and effective one year from now." It has been five years since the Premier first promised that he would pass a meaningful act.

In this whole five years, there has been no public consultation whatsoever. The Premier will travel anywhere in the province to meet with a contributor, but will not walk down the hallway to talk to people with disabilities.

The member for Elgin-Middlesex-London has presented you with a set in English, French and Braille of the results of his consultation tour around the province. We have another set here for the Premier when he is next in the House.

Minister, in this entire process you have held no public consultations whatsoever. You have met only with selected individuals. If Helen Keller were alive and well in this province, she could not get the opportunity to speak with you. I would ask for a pledge that you will hold a full, open, public process to allow all Ontarians to consult with you and make suggestions regarding a meaningful Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Hon Helen Johns (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, minister responsible for seniors and women): It's certainly a pleasure to stand up and talk about disability issues in the Ontario because of course they're very important to all of us.

Let me say that I can't believe what I hear from the opposition. The opposition knows full well that Isabel Bassett, the previous minister, had consultations in 1998. We heard from 300 organizations from all the cities. She went to eight cities across the province. I continue to meet with people, like this week. I was out this morning and met with a group who were talking about employment opportunities for people with disabilities down at the convention centre.

We continue to talk to individuals. At that meeting, I asked any of them to comment on any issues they had with any of the services the government offers. I asked them to talk to us, gave them phone numbers, e-mail numbers--

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): The minister's time is up.

Mr Parsons: Minister, I could have written that answer for you. You speak in code when you talk about your consultation. It is not open to the public. It is with selected groups. The bottom line for your government is that everything is a money issue. This is not a money issue. I am sure that back in 1920 someone said, "If we give women the vote, it will cost money." This is not a money issue. Ontarians with disabilities are not asking for money. They're asking for the right to work. They're asking for the right to shop. They're asking for the right to be full citizens of this province.

Your code really means we want everything voluntary. We know how voluntary water tests worked. I am asking for a commitment that you will present to the Legislature, in time to be implemented one year from today, an act that will be meaningful, that will provide for mandatory components and that will be enforced.

Hon Mrs Johns: Let's talk about what everybody else was prepared to do. Let me say that Mr Peters offered to me that he would give me the results of his consultations maybe five or six months ago. I understand more than anyone in this Legislature how long it takes to consult with people across the province and to make sure we have it right. I sympathize with how long it took him. Let me tell you I'm doing exactly the same thing. I'm out weekly talking to disability groups to ensure that I understand all the issues and that I understand what's going on.

Let me say that I actually agree with some of the issues that are in the report that was presented to me. He says we have some programming issues. I agree with that. I'm working with my colleagues here in the House to make sure that we look at all the programs the government provides, that we look at how we can better make those available to people with disabilities. On top of that, we have made a commitment that we will have a legislative and a non-legislative solution by November 2001.





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