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Please Support a Strong & Effective ODA


ODA Committee Update
dated Oct. 2, 2003
Posted Oct. 30, 2003


An Important New Chapter Begins On The Road To A Barrier-Free Ontario - Ontario Elects A New Government Which Has Promised A Strong, Effective And Enforceable Ontarians With Disabilities Act Within One Year

October 2, 2003


An important new chapter has begun tonight in our ongoing campaign for a barrier-free Ontario for 1.9 million people with disabilities. Today, Ontarians elected a new majority Liberal Government. This Government promised in writing to strengthen the weak Ontarians with Disabilities Act to make it strong, effective, mandatory and enforceable within one year.

Below we set out the text of Premier-elect McGuinty's April 7, 2003 letter to the ODA Committee. It details the new Government's election pledge. This letter will be the foundation of all of our activity in this next phase of our campaign.

In this letter, the Liberals clearly pledged to include in the strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act all 11 principles which the ODA Committee has formulated and which the Ontario Legislature unanimously approved on October 29, 1998, on a motion by Liberal MPP Dwight Duncan. The Liberals recognized in the Ontario Legislature that the Conservatives' weak ODA only fulfils one of those 11 principles.

The Liberals committed that at a minimum, their ODA will include the substance of the amendments which the Liberal Party put forward at the ODA Committee's request, when the then-governing Conservatives brought their ODA bill before the Ontario Legislature in the fall of 2001. The Liberals and NDP voted for those amendments, but the Conservatives used their majority to defeat almost all of them.

The Liberals have committed to introduce their new, strong and effective ODA, with the intention of passing it into law within one year of taking office. They have pledged to work together with the ODA Committee to develop this legislation and to hold open, accessible hearings on their legislation.

Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty has committed that as premier, he will personally meet with representatives of the ODA Committee. This stands in marked contrast to Premiers Harris and Eves. Both Conservative premiers refused every one of our many requests to meet. While leader of the Opposition, Mr. McGuinty met several times with ODA Committee representatives.

The Liberal Party promised as well to make a cost-of-living increase to the Ontario Disability Support Program. This is the Ontario social assistance program specifically for persons with disabilities. It has not been increased since before 1995, even to account for increases in the cost of living.

This is the third consecutive election campaign in which the Liberal Party has pledged to enact the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It is the second provincial election in a row in which Dalton McGuinty led the Liberal Party, and in which he promised to ensure that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act would comply with the 11 principles for the Ontarians with Disabilities Act which we have formulated. For the benefit of those who are newer to the ODA movement, we set out below the text of the now-famous resolution which the Liberals' Dwight Duncan introduced into the Ontario Legislature, which enshrines our 11 principles for the ODA. This resolution was unanimously passed by the Ontario Legislature almost five years ago, on October 29, 1998. This included unanimous support by the Liberal Party. Minutes after it passed, Mr. McGuinty appeared with ODA Committee representatives at a Queen's Park news conference, where he pledged that a Liberal Party would pass an Ontarians with Disabilities Act which fulfils these 11 principles.

In the next Ontario Legislature will also be a number of MPPs from the New Democratic Party. That Party, under the leadership of Howard Hampton, made a similar series of commitments in this election regarding the Ontarians with Disabilities Act and ODSP. We can anticipate their support in the Legislature for this issue.

ODA supporters around Ontario did a tremendous job of raising disabilities issues in this election, including the need to strengthen the Conservatives' weak, unenforceable ODA. This comes after ODA supporters have done a similarly wonderful job over the past several years in reaching out to all political parties to try to win their support for the cause of a barrier-free Ontario. There would be no 11 principles for the ODA, no October 29, 1998 resolution adopting those principles, and no election pledges such as the one set out in Premier-elect McGuinty's April 7, 2003 letter to us, had it not been for the tireless, dedicated efforts of grass-roots ODA supporters all around Ontario. We are all indebted to each and every one of you for your help.

We have a lot of work ahead of us as we start a fresh new chapter in this saga. A new government can quickly get absorbed in the many pressures that come with taking power. We will turn our attention to that next challenge in the next short while, after we enjoy a well-deserved rest that we need after this hectic election blitz.

For now, we can say with pride that the needs and concerns of Ontarians with disabilities now have a fixed and permanent place on Ontario's political map. We shall not allow that place to be lost.


Dalton McGuinty, M.P.P.
Leader of the Official Opposition
Room 381, Legislative Building, Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A4
(416) 325-7155
(416) 325-9895 fax

April 7, 2003

David Lepofsky
Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, ON M4G 3E8

Dear Mr. Lepofsky,

I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the Liberal Caucus to thank you once again for the work that you and your organization are doing to improve the lives of people with disabilities here in Ontario.

I would also like to share with you the Ontario Liberal Party platform for the approaching election regarding Ontarians With Disabilities.

We believe that the Harris-Eves government's Ontarians With Disabilities Act does not even begin to adequately address the needs and rights of countless Ontarians. We therefore commit that:

We will introduce, with the intent of passing within one year of forming government, a strong and effective Ontarians With Disabilities Act, following fully-accessible, province-wide hearings. It will incorporate all 11 principles that were adopted by the Ontario Legislature on October 29, 1998. The legislation and regulations will include timelines, standards and a mechanism for effective enforcement, and, at a minimum, will reflect the substance of amendments to the Conservative bill offered by the Liberal party in the fall of 2001.

As Premier, I will meet with ODA Committee representatives and my government will work together with the Committee to develop the new Act.

On forming government following the election, we will provide a Cost of Living increase for participants in the Ontario Disability Support Program.

I look forward to continuing to work with you to advance the interests of persons with disabilities in Ontario and I wish you the greatest possible success in that regard.

Yours truly,

Dalton McGuinty, MPP
Leader of the Official Opposition
Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party



In the opinion of this House, since persons with disabilities in Ontario face systemic barriers in access to employment, services, goods, facilities and accommodation; and since, all Ontarians will benefit from the removal of these barriers, thereby enabling these persons to enjoy equal opportunity and full participation in the life of the province; and since Premier Harris promised in writing during the last election in the letter from Michael D. Harris to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee dated May 24, 1995 to:

a) enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act within its current term of office; and

b) work together with members of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, amongst others, in the development of such legislation.

and since this House unanimously passed a resolution on May 16, 1996 calling on the Ontario Government to keep this promise, Therefore this House resolves that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should embody the following principles:

1. The purpose of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should be to effectively ensure to persons with disabilities in Ontario the equal opportunity to fully and meaningfully participate in all aspects of life in Ontario based on their individual merit, by removing existing barriers confronting them and by preventing the creation of new barriers. It should seek to achieve a barrier- free Ontario for persons with disabilities within as short a time as is reasonably possible, with implementation to begin immediately upon proclamation.

2. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act's requirements should supersede all other legislation, regulations or policies which either conflict with it, or which provide lesser protections and entitlements to persons with disabilities;

3. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require government entities, public premises, companies and organizations to be made fully accessible to all persons with disabilities through the removal of existing barriers and the prevention of the creation of new barriers, within strict time frames to be prescribed in the legislation or regulations;

4. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require the providers of goods, services and facilities to the public to ensure that their goods, services and facilities are fully usable by persons with disabilities, and that they are designed to reasonably accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities. Included among services, goods and facilities, among other things, are all aspects of education including primary, secondary and post-secondary education, as well as providers of transportation and communication facilities (to the extent that Ontario can regulate these) and public sector providers of information to the public e.g. governments. Providers of these goods, services and facilities should be required to devise and implement detailed plans to remove existing barriers within legislated timetables;

5. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require public and private sector employers to take proactive steps to achieve barrier-free workplaces within prescribed time limits. Among other things, employers should be required to identify existing barriers which impede persons with disabilities, and then to devise and implement plans for the removal of these barriers, and for the prevention of new barriers in the workplace;

6. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should provide for a prompt and effective process for enforcement. It should not simply incorporate the existing procedures for filing discrimination complaints with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, as these are too slow and cumbersome, and yield inadequate remedies;

7. As part of its enforcement process, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should provide for a process of regulation- making to define with clarity the steps required for compliance with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It should be open for such regulations to be made on an industry-by-industry basis, or sector-by-sector basis. This should include a requirement that input be obtained from affected groups such as persons with disabilities before such regulations are enacted. It should also provide persons with disabilities with the opportunity to apply to have regulations made in specific sectors of the economy;

8. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should also mandate the Government of Ontario to provide education and other information resources to companies, individuals and groups who seek to comply with the requirements of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act;

9. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should also require the Government of Ontario to take affirmative steps to promote the development and distribution in Ontario of new adaptive technologies and services for persons with disabilities;

10. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require the provincial and municipal governments to make it a strict condition of funding any program, or of purchasing any services, goods or facilities, that they be designed to be fully accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. Any grant or contract which does not so provide is void and unenforceable by the grant- recipient or contractor with the government in question;

11. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act must be more than mere window dressing. It should contribute meaningfully to the improvement of the position of persons with disabilities in Ontario. It must have real force and effect.


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