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September 25, 2001

On Tuesday, September 25, 2001, during a speech in the Legislature
outlining his Government's fall agenda, Premier Harris clearly committed
to bring forward the Ontarians with Disabilities Act this fall.


Ontario Hansard Tuesday, September 25, 2001


Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): When we formed the government,
we had a bold vision for the people of Ontario. We believed that
Ontario was indeed a great province, but it was a great province
that could offer its citizens a great deal more. We knew that a
strong economy was the key to improving people's lives. We knew
that Ontario families should be able to do more than just pay the
bills. They should be able to save for the things that matter to
them, like a family vacation, or new hockey equipment for their
kids. We knew that a strong economy means that our government
will have the resources we need to invest in priorities like
health care and education.

As we begin this fall sitting of the House, we remain more
committed than ever to our vision of a province that offers all
citizens good jobs, prosperity and the promise of a better life;
quality health care close to home; an education system that
teaches children reading, writing and math; a clean environment;
and communities where people feel safe in their homes and on the

One of the challenges facing all countries is the changing global
competitive economy. The events of the past two weeks have indeed
been traumatic and they have affected many areas of our lives,
including the economy. But we believe these effects will be
short-lived. Just as Mayor Giuliani said of New York, we believe
that Ontario will be even stronger in the future.

Here in Ontario our economy is stronger than many others. But
despite the jobs we have helped create and the lives we have
helped turn around, we must do more to protect jobs and the
financial security of our hard-working Ontario families.

This fall we will begin phasing in literacy testing for welfare
recipients. Tests will identify those who need extra help so they
can get the skills required to get a job and to get their lives
back on track.

Ontario's entrepreneurs and small business owners are an
important part of our competitive edge. During Small Business
Month we will recognize the important role they play in our

In October we'll launch a new task force on competitiveness,
productivity and economic progress. Headed by Roger Martin, one
of Canada's leading experts in the field, it will monitor
Ontario's competitiveness compared to other provinces and to the
United States. By moving ahead with the task force
recommendations, our government will help protect existing jobs,
create new jobs and build a stronger province.

As we open the fall sitting of the 37th Parliament, we're
reminded of the recent start of the school year. As parents we
expect big things from our education system. We expect that when
graduate, our children will have the skills they need to succeed,
not just in a job but in life.

Ontario's teachers are professionals, and we believe that, just
like lawyers and dentists, they should continue to develop their
professional skills. On June 29 the Stability and Excellence in
Education Act became law, allowing us to phase in teacher
testing. This legislation provides existing teachers with the
opportunity to update their skills through ongoing skills
enhancement, training and mandatory re-certification.

Later this fall our government will introduce legislation to move
forward with our teacher testing plan. If passed, our legislation
would introduce a qualifying test for new teachers that would
help them with the province's curriculum and ensure that their
knowledge and their skills are sound before they start teaching.
It would also create clear performance appraisal standards for
all our teachers. Every parent knows that one great teacher can
make a big difference in a child's life. That's why this
government will encourage excellence in every teacher in the


A strong economy will help ensure we have the resources needed to
continue improving Ontario's education system. But it will take
more than money. It will take excellent teachers, committed
students and new approaches. We believe that parents can help us
meet those goals. That's why we have promised to consult them on
the future of our education system. Starting in November, we will
send out our first-ever parent satisfaction survey. We are proud
to be the first government in Ontario to reach out to every
parent, every student, every teacher and taxpayer and ask, "What
can we do to make our education system better?"

We also have a responsibility to protect our children, to keep
them safe from abuse, including in our schools. Ontario has many
excellent teachers who are devoted to their students and who hold
themselves to the highest ethical standards. Unfortunately, there
have been a few cases where teachers have abused their position
of trust, and all parents agree that even one case is one too

In 1999 we asked the Honourable Sydney Robins to make
recommendations to prevent sexual abuse in our schools. We have
already addressed many of his recommendations. Later this week we
will introduce legislation to help protect students from sexual
abuse by teachers. If passed, this legislation would help
eliminate loopholes that allow these criminals to hide their
actions and to escape punishment. It would establish tough new
requirements. It would streamline the steps teachers must take to
report suspected abuse. Our children deserve to be safe. This
government will do everything it can to protect them.

All of our citizens deserve to live in safety. This fall we will
introduce legislation that, if passed, would help our police to
do an even better job of protecting Ontario communities by
cracking down on biker gangs and others who use fortified
buildings for criminal purposes.

On September 11, the world watched in horror as tragedy unfolded
in Pennsylvania, Washington and New York. In the wake of those
events we will review ways to help the OPP fight terrorism more
effectively and determine what additional resources may be
required to keep Ontario safe. As a first step, I have directed
an ongoing review of Ontario's emergency measures capacity. We
will do everything we can to protect Ontario's citizens, and we
will co-operate with other jurisdictions and countries to
safeguard their citizens and the citizens of the world.

We want Ontario to be a province where all citizens are offered
opportunities and can participate freely in society. We must
build on what has already been done and continue taking steps
toward our goal of making Ontario as barrier-free as possible.
This fall we will introduce legislation that would continue to
tear down the barriers faced by those with disabilities in our

Ensuring that our citizens continue to enjoy a high quality of
life means tackling the complex and complicated issues of the
day. We must do a better job of reducing gridlock in our cities
and between our regions. We need to do more to ensure that
highways and transit are meeting the needs of our rapidly growing
communities. We need to do more to ensure that Ontario's
tremendous economic potential is not compromised by clogged
highways and crowded transit. That's why, this fall, we will move
forward with initiatives to address these issues. Part of that
will be achieved through our Smart Growth vision. We have
completed consultations in 17 communities across Ontario and a
full report is expected shortly.

Following the consultation process on the Oak Ridges moraine, we
will introduce new legislation to help protect this important
area this fall. If passed, this legislation would balance the
need to protect certain sensitive areas while allowing
development in others.

Also this fall, we hope to pass the Nutrient Management Act, the
next step in our clean water strategy. We're creating consistent,
clear standards governing the way materials containing nutrients
are applied on Ontario's farms. Many farmers are already meeting
these expectations, but this legislation would ensure that all
farmers follow high standards.

We're working hard to ensure our health care system stays strong
and viable today and in the years to come. It's an enormous
challenge, one requiring the resources that a strong economy will
provide, and one requiring adequate support as well from the
federal government. Our strong economy has allowed us to invest
record amounts in health care. We will spend close to $24 billion
this year alone. But at the moment, Ottawa contributes only 14
cents of every dollar that provincial and territorial governments
spend on health care in this country. Ottawa must pay its fair
share of health care costs.

That's the message that I took with me this summer when I met one
on one with many Premiers before the annual Premiers' conference
in Victoria. I'm proud to say that at the conference we
unanimously called on the federal government to restore health
care funding to where it was before Ottawa started its cuts. We
were united in asking the federal government to fund at least the
18% share of health care that they funded before this Liberal
government came to office in Ottawa. As well, we asked the
federal government to have an appropriate escalator to deal with
new costs so that Canadians can enjoy the benefits of new
technologies, new research, new therapies and an improved quality
of life so that each year in the future the federal government
doesn't fall further and further and further behind.

This summer, we launched our own province-wide dialogue on health
care. We're asking the general public and health care
professionals to work with us to help identify the best ways to
spend health care dollars and sustain our system over the long
term. I encourage everyone to participate, because we want to
hear from every doctor, from every nurse, from every caregiver
and from every patient.

Two weeks ago, we took another step toward our commitment to
create 20,000 new long-term-care beds in this province. Our $1.2-
billion investment is unprecedented, and it signals our
commitment to ensuring Ontario's health care system is prepared
to meet the needs of our aging population. In Windsor, in
Waterloo, in Alliston, in Ajax, all across Ontario, we opened and
broke ground for 1,500 new and redeveloped long-term-care beds.
Through a strong economy, this government will open thousands

We remain committed to ensuring families can get the professional
health advice they need, when they need it. In the next few
months, our Telehealth service will be available 24 hours a day,
seven days a week, all across the province. We will continue to
encourage doctors and specialists to join family health networks,
and this fall we'll also introduce privacy legislation designed
to protect personal information, including health information.
We're committed to developing privacy rules that ensure consumer
and patient information remains private and remains confidential.

As I look back, I can see how much has been accomplished. Ontario
has come a long way in a few short years. But as I look ahead, I
can see there is still a long way to go. In today's competitive,
constantly changing global economy, we cannot afford to be
content with past accomplishments, as great as those
accomplishments are. So the hard work will continue this fall.
We'll provide the strong leadership to continue moving forward
with our 21-step action plan, a plan introduced in the throne
speech last spring, which lays out our priorities for this
session of Parliament. We'll address any new challenges that come
our way. We'll be guided by our bold vision of a strong and
prosperous province, where hard-working people can make their
dreams and their children's dreams come true. We will continue
striving to improve the lives of people in every corner of
Ontario, striving to make our great province even stronger, more
prosperous and more generous toward those who need our help, and
striving to create a future that we will be proud to see our
children inherit.




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