Letter from the Honourable Ernie Eves
MInister of Finance
March 16, 1999
Office of the Minister
Frost Building South
7 Queen's Park Cres
Toronto ON M7A IY7
Tel: (416) 325-0400
Fax: (416) 325-0374
March 16, 1999
Mr. M. David Lepofsky, C.M.
Co-Chair Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee
Dear Mr. Lepofsky:
Thank you for you letter about Bills 81 and 83 relating to disability issues.(Webmaster's note: Please follow this link to view the letter dated December 10th, 1998 to the Hon. Ernie Eves)
I understand that my colleague, Isabel Bassett, Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation has sent you a letter regard- ing the prorogation of Bill 83, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (the Act) on December 18, and the government's intent to reintroduce the Act when the Legislature resumes sitting in the spring. Therefore, I will restrict my comments to Bill 81, which is my responsibility as Minister of Finance.
With regard to your concerns about the provisions of Bill 81 relating to the Workplace Accessibility Tax Incentive (WATI), I would like to make a number of remarks. As you may be aware, Bill 81 was passed by the Legislature, and received Royal Assent on December 18, 1998. Tax incentives are generally introduced as budget measures, and therefore, the legislative amendments required to enact tax incentives are introduced by the minister of Finance. Because of the large number of tax and other measures introduced in a typical budget, any necessary amendments are presented to the Legislature in one or two bills in order to facilitate debate and to enable the Legislature to deal with other issues in the time available for debate. The legislative amendments to enact the WATI were introduced in the manner that is customary for budget measures.
I would also like to note that while the WATI is complementary to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA), and while it is an important component of the government's overall strategy for persons with disabilities, being a tax measure, it was developed through a process that was separate from that through which the ODA was developed. With regard to your concerns about consultations regarding these amendments, I would like to assure you that persons with disabil- ities were consulted in developing these amendments. Consulta- tions were held with representatives of seven disability groups, including ARCH, representing a wide range of persons with dis- abilities. As well, ongoing discussions have been held with staff at the ministries of citizenship, Culture and Recreation, and Community and Social Services who are responsible for disability issues within those ministries. I am confident that the interests of persons with disabilities were well represented in these consultations and discussions.
I would further like to note that as a result of these consulta- tions, important changes were made to the original proposal, including a list of prescribed expenditures that goes well beyond those eligible for the federal government's tax incentive, and the inclusion of expenses related to job interviews for persons with disabilities. The list that has been included in Bill 81 is extensive, and should cover many of the big ticket items with respect to equipment, modifications and services required to begin employment.
I have noted the concerns that you have raised about this measure being targeted to newly-hired employees. This was an intentional feature of this budget measure as the government's aim was to assist employers in dealing with the initial expenditures that arise from hiring a person with disabilities. These expenditures can be, as you know, significant, and therefore can pose a real barrier to employment. I believe that it is important to assist persons with disabilities in getting into the workplace.
In addition, there are already programs in place that provide assistance to individuals with employment such as the programs funded by the workplace Safety and Insurance Board, the Employ- ment Supports Program of the Ontario Disability Support Program, and employment assistance measures under the Employment Insurance Act. As well, many large employers have medical and disability insurance that provides support to employees that become ill or develop a disability while working. It is therefore, I believe, appropriate to target the available assistance to newly-hired persons with disabilities. Thank you again for bringing your committee's views to my per- sonal attention.
Ernie Eves, Q.C.
Minister of Finance
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