Letter to Premier Harris
January 4, 1999
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE
c/o Marg Thomas
1929 Bayview Avenue, Toronto ON M4G 3E8
Tel: (Voice direct) 416-480-7686
Voice mail: 416-480-7012
TTY: Care of Susan Main, 416 964-0023 ex. 343
January 4, 1999
The Hon. Michael Harris
Rm. 281 Legislative Building
Toronto ON M7A 1A1
Dear Premier Harris,
I am writing on behalf of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, the broad community coalition you promised to work with to make Ontario a barrier-free society by developing and passing an Ontarians with Disabilities Act in your first term. Three and one half years of inaction by your Government followed that 1995 election promise. Then your Government introduced Bill 83 last November 23. That short, empty, three-page bill did not require a single barrier to be removed anywhere in Ontario, ever. Confronted with widespread criticism of this bill from across the province, your government chose to allow the widely denounced Bill 83 to die on the order paper on December 17, just over three short weeks after this Bill's introduction.
At this point, many seriously question whether you are committed to keeping this important election promise. We are now at an important point in time in this process. If you are serious about keeping your promise, there is still time to draft and pass a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act that is consistent with the 11 principles that the Legislature adopted unanimously on October 29, 1998. It is now apparent, beyond any doubt, that this goal will not be met unless you personally agree to meet with representatives of our coalition to discuss the content of a new bill. Without a meeting before the Bill is reintroduced, the one and a half million Ontarians with disabilities will have no hope that you will in fact keep your election promises to remove the barriers facing them by strong and effective legislation.
Since you promised during the 1995 election that if elected you would work with us to develop this new legislation, we have repeatedly asked to meet with you so that we could move forward together on this important project. Your continued and unwavering refusal over the past three and one half years to take even this step of meeting with us certainly raises serious questions about how deep your commitment is to this promise.
We have spent three and one half frustrating years attempting, without success, to work with your successive Citizenship Ministers. We have submitted several briefs outlining key points and have tried to work with the Ministry in a constructive way. We even participated in the process that your Minister called a public consultation process despite our concerns about the very short time frame and closed, secretive nature of the process. It is now clear from Bill 83 that your Minister has either not listened to us or that she did not have the authority to incorporate into the bill anything that she heard from the disability community. We have been frustrated in our attempts to get access to all the briefs and submissions to find out what the Minister did hear during what she herself called a public consultation process. It is clear that meeting with any of your Ministers at this point is absolutely no substitute for meeting with you.
We therefore ask you to immediately lift your three and one half year long boycott against meeting with us. We welcome the opportunity to meet with you at any time that your office can reasonably arrange. We, as well as all voters with disabilities, and all voters who care about people with disabilities, look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.
M. David Lepofsky, C.M.
Co-Chair Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee
cc: Hon. Isabel Bassett, MPP
Dalton McGuinty, MPP
Howard Hampton, MPP
Marion Boyd, MPP
Gilles Morin, MPP
Frances Lankin, MPP
Dwight Duncan, MPP
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