c/o Deborah Thynn, 271 Spadina Road, Toronto Ontario M5R 2V3
November 11, 1997
The Honourable Isabel Bassett
Minister of Citizenship, Culture and
77 Bloor St. West, 6th Floor
Dear Ms. Bassett
Re: Ontarians with Disabilities Act
I am writing on behalf of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee to express our very serious concern about the government's ongoing and unexplained delay in moving forward with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The Premier made a solemn written election promise that this legislation would be enacted in your government's first term. Since then he has repeatedly emphasized his commitment to keep all of his election promises including the passage of an Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
Your predecessor made a commitment to us that there would be a public consultation prior to the introduction of the legislation. She indicated to us that she viewed with favour our core requirement that this consultation be open, accessible and meaningful. As well, we have urged that it not be constrained either by preconditions or the tabling, in advance, options for possible inclusion in the legislation.
Your Ministry has been working for more than one year to develop the consultation process. Yet there is still no announcement on when the consultation process will begin or how it will be conducted. More than two months ago, in an effort to assist your staff, we gave them detailed proposals on how this public consultation might be conducted. We have received no response from the Ministry indicating that there were any disagreements with the fundamental principles that we presented, namely that the consultation be open, accessible and without any preconditions. In fact, we understood that it was in the final stages of development in accordance with those principles, and that a public announcement of the consultation process was soon to be forthcoming.
We appreciate that you did meet with representatives of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee two weeks ago. As you know we have been prepared to work cooperatively with your government over the last two years. In preparation for the meeting with you we briefed your staff on the key issues of concern to us including the timetable for the public consultations and for the ultimate introduction of the legislation.
We were therefore very concerned when we left our meeting with you on October 29, 1997 that you were unable to provide us with important information such as when and how the consultation would occur. We were also disturbed that you were not then prepared to reaffirm the commitment made by your predecessor that the legislation would be introduced into the Legislature by late fall of 1998. We very clearly expressed our concern at the meeting that if this commitment is not re-affirmed, and if the public consultation is further delayed, it would be difficult if not impossible for the Premier to keep his election promises to us.
You asked that we give you two weeks to review these matters. You undertook to speak to us by telephone within two weeks of that meeting. Although we were very concerned that you were unable at the October 29 meeting to give us assurances that your government intended to honour the commitments given to us by your predecessor, especially since your staff had been briefed on those concerns prior to the meeting, we agreed to your proposal of a telephone call in two weeks taking into account the short period of time you were in office as Minister.
On Friday, November 7, 1997, we learned that you intend to postpone our telephone appointment another week. In light of the lengthy opportunity your government has already had to act on this legislation, this further delay adds to the serious and growing concerns we have about your government's commitment to this legislation. Unfortunately, this seems to be part of your government's ongoing pattern of promises to us, declarations of good intentions followed by inaction and delay. The fact that you are not yet prepared to even re-affirm a commitment made to us by your predecessor that the target date for the introduction of the legislation is late fall 1998, in conjunction with delays in announcing the public consultation, show that there is a very real risk that the government is now revisiting and backtracking on the progress that we made with your predecessor last summer.
It is vital that the public consultation process, which has been under development for at least a year, be launched as soon as possible. Any further delay will limit the amount of time available for participation by the many people with disabilities around this province who want to have a voice in this legislation.
It is important that we speak as soon as possible so that this project can get underway. I urge you to ask your office to reschedule our telephone conversation for sometime this week. In anticipation of the call originally scheduled for this week we have already provided your staff with the issues on which we need and expect a clear and specific response. We look forward to speaking to you as soon as possible and to beginning a process of working together that will result in this much-needed legislation being passed.
M. David Lepofsky, Co-Chair
cc Hon. Mike Harris