ODA Committee Update
dated December 5, 2003
posted March 11, 2004
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
ODA ISSUE GETS ATTENTION IN NEW SESSION OF THE LEGISLATURE
December 5, 2003
On Wednesday, December 3, 2003, and Thursday December 4, 2003, the ODA issue got attention in the new session of the Ontario Legislature. The transcripts of their remarks are set out below. Perhaps the most striking of these was on December 4, 2003, when former Conservative Citizenship Minister, now opposition MPP Cam Jackson introduced a private member's bill into the Ontario Legislature to amend the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 to add to it a provision that he and his Government had refused to pass when they were in power.
The recent statements in the Legislature include:
* A statement on December 3, 2003 by opposition Conservative MPP Cam Jackson honouring the International Day of Disabled Persons. From 2001 to 2002, he was the Conservative Government's Citizenship Minister, responsible for developing the Conservatives' ODA. He brought forward the ODA bill that was passed in December 2001, and which the ODA Committee has been trying to get strengthened. Mr. Jackson spoke in support of the ODA 2001 which he brought in.
* A statement on December 3, 2003 by the Liberal Government's Citizenship Minister, Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, honouring the International Day of Disabled Persons, and announcing the Government's new ODA consultation to begin in the new year.
Her comments included, among other things: "I am honoured to have responsibility for overseeing the implementation of an effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act and working with key organizations to bring about meaningful change. This is the commitment that we made in the throne speech November 20, and it is one that we intend to move on quickly. The intent of our government is to make the implementation of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the ODA, more effective and more responsive to the needs of people with disabilities.
Early stakeholder input will play an important role in identifying areas of the ODA that need to be strengthened or changed. It will allow us to gain a deeper understanding of the barriers that still affect the daily lives of people with disabilities, their families, and all of us.... Dr Kuldip Kular, my parliamentary assistant from Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale, and I have scheduled a series of fully accessible consultation meetings with people with disabilities and a diverse range of key stakeholders. The consultations begin in January. This is our opportunity to gather valuable insights and to move forward in strengthening the ODA."
* A statement by Conservative MPP Ted Arnott, on December 3, 2003, honouring the International Day for Disabled Persons. He spoke in favour of the ODA which his Government had passed. He referred to the Liberal Government's Throne Speech commitment on the ODA, and stated: "While this statement is laudable in a general sense, this commitment has no time frame, no specifics, no way of measuring results, no reference to the involvement of any MPPs in the process, save and except the minister and her parliamentary assistant, I guess, and no plan for implementation. In short, it is nothing more than a motherhood statement which is intended to appease the disabled community for the time being, while little concrete action is likely to be taken in the coming months."
He called on the Government to establish a select all-party committee of the Legislature to review legislation and programs for persons with disabilities and to advise on how to improve them.
NOTE: Back when the Conservatives were in power, the ODA Committee proposed in September 2000 that the Conservative Government establish a select all-party committee of the Legislature to gather input on the development of the ODA that they had promised to pass. The Conservative government rejected that proposal at that time.
* A statement on December 3, 2003, by NDP MPP Shelley Martel honouring the International Day for Disabled Persons. She read into the Legislature's record Premier McGuinty's April 7, 2003 letter to the ODA Committee setting out the Liberal Party's election commitments to persons with disabilities in this area. She emphasized the need for the new Government to move forward to strengthen the weak, unenforceable ODA passed in 2001. She also spoke about the need to index ODSP payments to the cost of living. She also proposed other measures to remove barriers against persons with disabilities.
* On December 4, 2003, speaking on a private member's resolution brought forward by Conservative MPP Bill Murdock on the subject of democratic renewal, Liberal MPP Ernie Parsons criticized the former Conservative Government's previous rushed ODA public hearings.
* On December 4, 2003, opposition Conservative MPP Cam Jackson introduced a private member's bill into the Legislature for first reading. Bill 12, the Ontarians with Disabilities Amendment Act 2003, would amend the ODA 2001 to require that a municipality that operates a bus for public transportation that it did not operate before the amendment comes into force shall ensure that the bus is accessible for persons with disabilities." See the text of this bill below, and Mr. Jackson's statement in the Legislature when he introduced it.
NOTE: When the NDP were in power from 1990 to 1995, they established a provincial policy that required municipal public transit services to ensure that all new buses they acquired were disability accessible. After the Conservatives took power in 1995, they eventually eliminated that policy. When Cam Jackson, then the Conservative Citizenship Minister, brought the Conservatives' ODA before the Legislature, it didn't require all new municipal buses to be accessible. At the request of the ODA Committee, both the opposition Liberal Party and the NDP each proposed amendments to Jackson's bill in December 2001 to strengthen that bill. Their amendments, among other things, would have required new municipally purchased goods and services to be disability accessible. Under the Conservatives ODA 2001, municipalities need only consider accessibility when purchasing goods and services. They need not ensure that such purchases are disability accessible. On December 11, 2001, under the direction of then-Citizenship Minister Cam Jackson's staff, the Conservatives voted down all such amendments as proposed in this area by the Liberals and NDP.
Now that he is in opposition, Mr. Jackson is proposing an amendment that he didn't support when he and his party were in power. It is hoped that this signals that the Conservatives will support efforts at strengthening the ODA 2001 generally.
Send us your feedback on these speeches. Write us at:
Ontario Hansard Wednesday, December 3, 2003
OF DISABLED PERSONS
Mr Cameron Jackson (Burlington): Today I rise on behalf of the 1.6 million persons with disabilities in Ontario --
The Speaker (Hon Alvin Curling): Order. You had your time in members' statements unless you seek unanimous consent on this.
Mr Jackson: Mr Speaker, do I have unanimous consent to have a second statement?
The Speaker: Do we have the unanimous consent of the House? Agreed.
Mr Jackson: Today I rise on behalf of the 1.6 million persons with disabilities in Ontario to celebrate the International Day of the Disabled. It was my privilege two years ago, as minister, to develop and pass the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, Canada's most comprehensive disability legislation.
I would like to acknowledge in the House today Jeff Adams, chair of Ontario's Accessibility Advisory Council. The contributions Jeff and many others have made in improving our understanding of accessibility issues were the inspiration in developing this leading legislation.
We have a responsibility to ensure all citizens have the right to full citizenship, to fully enjoy and participate in the life of their community. As a result of the ODA, municipalities have been working with their local accessibility committees.
In August, my community of Burlington launched its first new fleet of 40-foot low-floor buses, providing accessible transit to the frail, elderly and ambulatory disabled. They invested over $1.5 million of provincial funding through the Ontario transit renewal program.
More municipalities can learn from this. Each year, the Ontario transit renewal program provides over $100 million to municipalities to replace aging buses. Moving forward, this money should be conditional on the purchase of new, accessible buses.
Many of us will be able to leave this Legislature today without giving a thought to how easy it is for us. There must come a day when access --here and everywhere in the province -- is just as easy for persons with disabilities.
Ontario Hansard Wednesday, December 3, 2003
OF DISABLED PERSONS
Hon Marie Bountrogianni (Minister of Children's Services, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe we have unanimous consent in the House for each party of the House to speak for up to five minutes in recognition of the International Day of Disabled Persons.
The Speaker (Hon Alvin Curling): Do we have unanimous consent? Agreed.
Hon Mrs Bountrogianni: Mr Speaker, honourable members, it is my great pleasure to rise today in recognition of the International Day of Disabled Persons. I would like to thank the member for Burlington for his remarks and his concern about accessibility.
This day, first designated by the United Nations in 1992, is an excellent opportunity for all of us to acknowledge and celebrate the many contributions people with disabilities have made to the province of Ontario. In Ontario there are more than 1.5 million people with disabilities. As the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, I am honoured to have responsibility for overseeing the implementation of an effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act and working with key organizations to bring about meaningful change. This is the commitment that we made in the throne speech November 20, and it is one that we intend to move on quickly. The intent of our government is to make the implementation of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the ODA, more effective and more responsive to the needs of people with disabilities. Early stakeholder input will play an important role in identifying areas of the ODA that need to be strengthened or changed. It will allow us to gain a deeper understanding of the barriers that still affect the daily lives of people with disabilities, their families, and all of us.
The UN theme for 2003 is "A Voice of Our Own." Our government will be consulting with and listening to people with disabilities. We want to know about their experiences and we want to have their input. It is critical that we account for the full scope of disabilities and the impact of barriers on daily life in Ontario.
Dr Kuldip Kular, my parliamentary assistant from Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale, and I have scheduled a series of fully accessible consultation meetings with people with disabilities and a diverse range of key stakeholders. The consultations begin in January. This is our opportunity to gather valuable insights and to move forward in strengthening the ODA. I look forward to working with my Accessibility Advisory Council and having the members provide me with feedback on the implementation of the ODA, and I would like to welcome Jeff Adams, chair of the Accessibility Advisory Council of Ontario. I would like to add, with what I am sure is shared embarrassment, that we were to meet at the Whitney Block, and Mr Adams had difficulty accessing the Whitney Block. We're going to address that, Mr Adams.
The McGuinty government is committed to a province where all people have a chance to participate fully and to achieve their potential in all aspects of life. We can all make a contribution; we can all make Ontario a place where everyone can build a future and realize their dreams. Mr Speaker, honourable members, please use the International Day of Disabled Persons, and every day, as an opportunity to raise awareness about the benefits of full accessibility and inclusion.
I'd like to thank Sergio Vazquez and B.J. Shrestha for enabling me to finish my statement in American Sign Language. Full accessibility benefits us all.
Mr Ted Arnott (Waterloo-Wellington): I want to thank the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, who is also the Minister of Children's Services, for her statement today. This is the first time I've had the opportunity to rise in this House as opposition critic for both of her ministries, so I wish to begin by wishing her well as she undertakes these important responsibilities within the government. I also need to let the minister know that I intend to provide constructive advice to her, sometimes in the House, sometimes other ways, and to the government when possible, and provide criticism when necessary and appropriate.
The International Day of Disabled Persons was proclaimed by the United Nations, as was said, in 1992 to promote understanding about disability issues and increase awareness of the gains to be derived from integrating disabled persons into all aspects of political, social, economic and cultural life. I'm certain that I speak for all members of this House when I say that we all support these goals. I also believe that we need to support these goals by thinking of disabled people first and foremost in terms of the remarkable things they can do and contribute. We need to recognize their extraordinary talents, always be improving our society, our systems and all programs and services of the government to ensure that all Ontarians have opportunities to contribute to the greater good.
I commend the member for Burlington, who has spoken in this House today and provided a thoughtful idea to enhance access for disabled people in the public transit system. He also served as Minister of Citizenship in the previous government, which brought forward the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. That act paved the way for the Accessibility Advisory Council of Ontario and entrenched in law the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario.
I too wish recognize Mr Jeff Adams, chair of the Accessibility Advisory Council of Ontario, who is with us in the Speaker's gallery up above.
In the throne speech the government made reference to the need to do more to support Ontarians with disabilities, and I'll quote from the speech: "Your new government will work with Ontarians with disabilities on meaningful legislation that will allow them to fully participate in building a stronger province." While this statement is laudable in a general sense, this commitment has no time frame, no specifics, no way of measuring results, no reference to the involvement of any MPPs in the process, save and except the minister and her parliamentary assistant, I guess, and no plan for implementation. In short, it is nothing more than a motherhood statement which is intended to appease the disabled community for the time being, while little concrete action is likely to be taken in the coming months.
I want to offer the minister a constructive suggestion. She should announce today that the government will support the appointment of a select committee of MPPs on supporting disabled persons. This select committee of MPPs could be charged with the responsibility of reviewing the legislation and the programs that we have, measuring what works and what doesn't, and advising the government on what needs to be done to move toward full participation for disabled persons in Ontario and the goals outlined by the UN. This committee would allow for all three political parties in this House, including the New Democrats, to participate in a meaningful dialogue with disabled persons and participate in a renewed effort to support their needs.
I commend this idea to the government and encourage their consideration.
Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): It's a pleasure for me, on behalf of the New Democratic Party, to make some statements today on the International Day of Disabled Persons.
I want to begin where the minister left off, and that is to point out that her government indeed has made a very specific commitment to strengthen the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. I'm hope it's one of the first pieces of legislation that comes before this House when we sit again in the spring session.
I have a copy of a letter that was written by her leader, now the Premier, to David Lepofsky. Members will recall that David Lepofsky is the chair of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. The letter is dated October 27, 1998. He says very clearly:
"As you know, I have personally called many times for Mike Harris to follow through on his campaign promise to introduce and pass such an act. Having heard from my caucus colleagues who joined you at your meetings across the province, it is clear that Ontarians agree this legislation is important and long overdue.
"If Mike Harris fails to live up to his commitment, a Liberal government will act. We will pass an Ontarians with Disabilities Act."
Those of us who were here before know very clearly that the act that was eventually passed doesn't have any teeth, doesn't have any strength, needs very significant amendments if it is to work on behalf of Ontarians with disabilities. I read into the record today this letter because I want to reinforce what the commitment of the now Premier is, and to ensure that the minister, her staff and her colleagues will move forward on what is a very important issue.
Let me make some other concrete suggestions about what else might be done if we are truly to remove barriers that are facing Ontarians with disabilities and to ensure that they are able to contribute to both the economic and social life of Ontario. The first thing that should be done in this Legislature is to pass a bill so that we index ODSP payments to inflation and ensure that there is an annual increase in ODSP benefits. Members will know, because we have been lobbied very frequently, that it has been 10 years since those who live on ODSP pensions have received an increase. There is something dreadfully wrong about a province that is as rich as Ontario is where so many people live in such poverty. It's the same with the minimum wage.
My colleague Tony Martin introduced a private member's bill on two occasions in this Legislature which would have indexed ODSP benefits to the rate of inflation, so that people would see an annual increase. It was a shame that on those occasions we could not get the government's support to get it to committee and to get something done. We had a former Minister of Community, Family and Social Services who promised that people on disability benefits would see an increase -- nothing happened. If this new government were truly committed to disabled persons, they would bring that bill in, we would deal with it promptly and we would ensure that some of the people who have the lowest incomes in this province -- the disabled -- finally see an increase in their pensions.
Secondly, we should audit and catalogue all programs and services for people with disabilities and create a single coordinating body for easy access to programs and information. We need to bolster the funding that we have for home care so that both seniors and the disabled can remain in their own homes and not be forced into long-term-care institutions, which are much costlier for the system and decrease the dignity of those people. We know that so many people can remain in their own homes. The problem under the previous government was that they continued to cut funding for home care so that people didn't have the choice to remain in their own homes. Your government has to reverse that trend.
We need to assess special-needs children promptly and support them in the public school system. We know there are 37,000 children who are on a waiting list for special needs in the Ontario school system now. Those are children who, with a small bit of support, would be able to participate fully in the education system. We need an investment. It was part of your election promise in the education platform. We need to get rid of those waiting lists for special ed.
We need to introduce a charter of rights for persons with disabilities that will contain very specific commitments for accessible public transit and accessible and affordable public housing. We should be dedicating a portion of transit funding to fully accessible transit, and we should make sure that a portion of that is etched in legislation, particularly in rural areas.
We need to change funding for post-secondary students to recognize that many of these students who are disabled will take longer to complete their post-secondary education. Grant funding should be in place to allow them to do that.
In conclusion, I say to the minister that I've offered a number of concrete suggestions. I hope you will take them into account on this important day.
Ontario Hansard Thursday, November 4, 2003
Debate over Private Member's Resolution.
Ernie Parsons Liberal: We have seen over the last eight years a significant reduction in the number of bills that are being referred to committee, and we've seen the committees travel very, very little over the last eight years.
An example that particularly bothered me was when the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, for what it was worth, was rammed through the Legislature. Consultations took place over four days. Persons with disabilities were given about 24 hours' notice to apply and to be at the first consultation. I am proud, very proud, that over the last four years the Liberal caucus did their own consultations on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act and travelled the entire province....
Bill 12 Proposed by Conservative MPP Cam Jackson
Ontario Hansard Thursday November 4, 2003
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES AMENDMENT ACT, 2003
Mr Jackson moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 12, An Act to amend the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001.
The Speaker (Hon Alvin Curling): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Mr Cameron Jackson (Burlington): This bill amends the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001, to require that a municipality that operates public buses for transit purposes and did not operate them before this amendment comes into effect shall ensure that all of these new buses that they acquire will be accessible for persons with disabilities.
The Legislative Assembly of Ontario
Bill 12 2003
An Act to amend
the Ontarians with
Disabilities Act, 2001
Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario, enacts as follows:
1. Section 13 of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001 is amended by adding the following subsection:
Public transportation buses
(2) If a municipality under the Municipal Act, 2001 has jurisdiction over a transportation system and if the municipality or an agent of the municipality, as part of the transportation system, operates a bus for public transportation as defined in subsection 93 (1) of the Public Transportation and Highway Improvement Act that it did not operate before this subsection came into force, the municipality shall ensure that the bus is accessible for persons with disabilities.
2. This Act comes into force on the day it receives Royal Assent.
3. The short title of this Act is the Ontarians with Disabilities Amendment Act, 2003.
The Bill amends the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001 to require that a municipality that operates a bus for public transportation that it did not operate before the amendment comes into force shall ensure that the bus is accessible for persons with disabilities.
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