ODA Committee Update
dated Nov. 15, 2003
Posted Nov. 20, 2003
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
First Liberal Throne Speech Commits Ontario Government To Taking First Steps To Keep Mcguinty's Election Promises On The ODA
November 20, 2003
In today's Throne Speech, mapping out the new Liberal Government's agenda priorities over the next several months, the Government committed to take action on its election promises regarding the ODA. As historical background, the previous Conservative Government promised in 1995 to pass the ODA in its first term, but made no mention of the ODA in any of its throne Speeches in its first term in office, until its 1999 pre-election Throne Speech. See the ODA Committee's news release on today's Throne Speech below. Send your feedback on this development to us at:
McGuinty Liberal's Throne Speech Signals Action To Strengthen The Ontarians With Disabilities Act
November 20, 2003: In today's Throne Speech, Ontario's new Liberal Government committed to take the first step on its election promises to strengthen the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA), legislation needed to tear down the barriers that impede over 1.5 million Ontarians with disabilities from fully participating in Ontario life. The Throne Speech stated: "Your new government will work with Ontarians with disabilities on meaningful legislation that will allow them to fully participate in building a stronger province."
"This is a positive first step toward keeping the Liberals' election promises on the ODA to over 1.5 million Ontarians with disabilities," said David Lepofsky, chair of the ODA Committee, a non-partisan grassroots province-wide coalition that has led the nine-year campaign for a strong ODA. "There's much work ahead, and we look forward to working together with the Government, and other stake-holders like the business community and the broad public sector, to keep up momentum on this issue."
Many among Ontario's disability community have been campaigning for passage of a strong ODA to tear down the barriers impeding Ontarians with disabilities from competitive employment, goods, services and facilities available to the public. Back in 1995, the Conservatives promised to pass the ODA in their first term, delayed for years on that pledge, and in late 2001, only passed weak legislation that neither effectively required barriers to be removed nor had any effective enforcement.
While in opposition, the Liberals and NDP pressed the Conservative Government to pass a strong and effective ODA. Liberal Dwight Duncan (now Energy Minister) introduced a resolution in 1998 which the Legislature passed, calling for the ODA to fulfil eleven principles to make it strong, effective and mandatory. Liberal Steve Peters (now Agriculture Minister) held province-wide hearings in 2000, authored a 2000 Liberal Party report calling for an ODA that required barriers against persons with disabilities to be strong and effective, and introduced a resolution to that effect which the Legislature passed. In Fall 2001, when the Conservatives brought forward a weak, unenforceable ODA bill, Liberal Ernie Parsons (now Parliamentary Assistant to the Transportation Minister) put forward a detailed package of Liberal Party amendments to make barrier removal and prevention mandatory, to extend the bill to the private sector, to require accessibility standards to be set, and to provide for effective enforcement. The NDP brought forward a similar package of proposed amendments. The Conservatives defeated most of those proposed amendments.
In this year's election, Dalton McGuinty promised in writing to strengthen the ODA within one year of taking office, to work together with the ODA Committee, and to hold open consultations. (Read McGuinty's April 7, 2003 letter) The NDP made a similar election commitment.
Dalton McGuinty, M.P.P.
Leader of the Official Opposition
Room 381, Legislative Building, Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A4
(416) 325-9895 fax
April 7, 2003
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.
Dalton McGuinty, MPP
Leader of the Official Opposition
Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party
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