Letter to Premier Harris
March 16, 1999
March 16, 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 Committee. On January 10, 1999, we wrote to ask you to lift your boycott against meeting with us, so that we could work together with you to develop a real, strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act which your government could introduce when the Legislature resumes. Over two months later, you have not answered that letter. Nor has your Government announced any intention or concrete steps to improve Bill 83 since it died on the order paper last December.
With an election call looming, and the date for the resumption of the Legislature still secret, Ontarians with disabilities are unfairly left in limbo. As we have warned you and your Government over and over again since 1995, your Government's protracted inaction on its election promises to us during the first three years of your mandate have created an unnecessary crisis.
We reiterate our request that you lift your boycott against meeting with us - the very group with whom you made a written election pledge to work together to develop the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We urge your Government to commit now to the following concrete steps:
- To introduce and pass a real, strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act when the Legislature resumes, not legislation identical or similar to the widely-denounced Bill 83. The Bill should comply with the unanimous resolution of the Legislature passed last October 29, which enumerates the 11 principles which are necesssary to make the bill meaningful;
- To commit to open, accessible public legislative hearings across Ontario on the Bill before it is passed. All who wish to must be given the opportunity to make presentations in person. At least four weeks' notice of such hearings should be provided to enable people with disabilities to prepare to participate in them. Your Citizenship Minister Isabel Bassett told a local Sarnia newspaper that she supported public hearings. It is time for you to make a clear and unequivocal commitment that such hearings, as described above, will be held. We made this request of you last December 3, 1998 and to which you have not responded.
- To ensure that at such hearings, it will be possible to table amendments which are consistent with the resolution of the Legislature on October 29, 1998;
- That you will give at least two weeks notice to the ODA Committee and to the disability community of the date on which the Legislature will entertain any first reading as well as for second reading and third reading debates on the new bill, so that people with disabilities may make arrangements for transportation and be present in the legislature. This is especially important since people with disabilities face many barriers in getting access to public transportation - barriers which have gotten worse during your Government's term in office.
We request a prompt reply to this letter from you, and ask that you not call an election until you keep your promise to us. We also ask that you not refer this letter to others to answer, but that you answer it yourself, since it was you who made the written election promises to us, and since it is well known that it is you who makes the final decisions on these matters.
[signature omitted from e-mail version]
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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