ODA Committee Update
dated Oct. 12, 2004
posted Oct. 12, 2004
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
First Proceedings In The Ontario Legislature On Bill 118 The Proposed New Disability Law
October 12, 2004
Hon Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs): Mr
Speaker, allow me to welcome you and all members of this Legislature back to
this august chamber on this, a very proud day for Ontario.
I say that because today this government introduces the Accessibility for
Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2004. This is landmark legislation. It will
improve access to workplaces and public spaces, employment, customer
service, communications and transportation.
L'Ontario devrait être fier de ce projet de loi. Tout le monde mérite la
possibilité d'apprendre, de travailler et de jouer dans toute la mesure de
son potentiel. Ce projet de loi devrait rendre l'Ontario plus productif. Ce
sont tous les résidents et résidentes de l'Ontario qui bénéficient des
possibilités offertes à chacun et à chacune d'entre eux.
This bill should make Ontario proud. Every person deserves the opportunity
to learn, work and play to his or her full potential. This bill will help
make Ontario more productive. All Ontarians benefit when we tap into the
potential of each Ontarian. I often say that Ontario succeeds when we all
work, dream and build together, and "all" must certainly include in every
way the 1.5 million Ontarians with a disability.
Before the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration tells us more about this
bill, I briefly want to acknowledge the work that has gone into it. I
especially want to acknowledge the efforts of several advocates for people
with disabilities, and specifically mention one: David Lepofsky.
We've all heard it said that someone is made of Teflon when nothing seems to
stick to them. I suspect that David is made of Velcro. In fact, he will
virtually attach himself to you if you have any carriage, in any way
whatsoever, over this file. His passion and determination are a testament, I
believe, to the desire of Ontarians with disabilities to have the
opportunity to fully contribute to life in this great province of ours.
I want to acknowledge as well the members of the Legislature who have taken
a consistent interest in this issue, particularly members of my own caucus
who, as critics for this area while in opposition, and now as government
members, have made a real and lasting contribution.
Finally, I want to say directly to our fellow Ontarians with disabilities:
We need your work. We need your buying power. We need your contributions to
this economy and this society that we all share. We need you and all
Ontarians to realize your full potential so this great province can fulfill
its potential as a place with an appreciation of life and a quality of life
that are truly second to none.
Hon Marie Bountrogianni (Minister of Children and Youth Services, Minister
of Citizenship and Immigration): Mr Speaker, may I welcome you and all
honourable members back to the Legislature for this first day of our autumn
sitting and the first day after Thanksgiving.
Ten years ago, a group of 20 Ontarians with disabilities forged a committee
with the sole intent of making Ontario barrier-free for people with
disabilities. They understood that the aisle of a store may be too narrow to
accommodate someone with a wheelchair; a playground may have an
insurmountable curb around it; an elevator may have no Braille markings on
the buttons; and an on-the-spot job application may be impossible for
someone who has dyslexia. An Ontarian who has mental health problems may
face stigma in any number of ways, particularly in the workforce.
Even though there has been progress to eliminate barriers for those with
disabilities, there is so much more work to be done. That is why today I'm
honoured to introduce legislation to meet the dreams and aspirations of
those Ontarians who have worked so long and so hard to make Ontario fully
accessible. I am honoured to introduce the Accessibility for Ontarians with
Disabilities Act because we need to allow all Ontarians to participate fully
in the life of our province.
Making Ontario truly accessible for the 1.5 million Ontarians with
disabilities is a matter of vital importance. We want Ontario to lead, not
lag, in accessibility. Together, Ontarians have worked, and are working, to
build a province of full inclusion. That is how it should be, and yet for
any Ontarian with a disability, discrimination and lack of accessibility are
very real: real physical barriers; real technological, communications,
bureaucratic barriers, barriers that limit the hopes of young people to
achieve their full potential and barriers that deprive senior citizens of
Ten years ago, those Ontarians with disabilities put together a simple
statement of principles for making our province barrier-free. Those
principles are at the heart of the legislation that the government is
introducing today. Most significantly, the final principle states that new
legislation "must be more than mere window dressing.... It must have real
force and effect." This Legislature unanimously adopted that resolution. The
disability community supported this approach.
I happen to believe that the earlier legislation, the Ontarians with
Disabilities Act, was introduced with good intent and good faith, but it was
just too weak. It did not comprehensively cover the private sector. It did
not include standards and timelines to eliminate and prevent barriers. The
previous legislation did not make a difference in the way that really
matters to people with disabilities, like access to stores, restaurants and
medical offices. It was opposed by many in the disability community. It was
opposed by the opposition parties in the Legislature.
Over the past several years, a number of Liberal members have pushed very
hard for the new legislation that I am introducing today. They met with
Ontarians with disabilities. They listened to them and they have pushed our
government to act. The honourable member for Windsor-St Clair, now the
Minister of Energy and House leader, led the way. The now Minister of
Agriculture and Food held hearings in every part of the province, and the
honourable member for Prince Edward-Hastings has done invaluable work for
the disability community for many years. The late Dominic Agostino, our
party's first critic on disability issues, was a champion of the first order
for this legislation.
I must also recognize the honourable member for Burlington and the
honourable member for Trinity-Spadina, who care deeply about this issue,
and, of course, the Accessibility Advisory Council of Ontario, who have
tirelessly promoted accessibility for people with disabilities. Their
support during our province-wide consultations has been essential.
I would like to acknowledge the Premier, who is a forceful advocate for
people with disabilities, as was his father before him in this Legislature.
The Premier wrote last year, "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 will introduce ... a strong
and effective ... act."
That is precisely what we are doing today. The legislation is very much
crafted and fine-tuned by what we have heard from the disability community
and those in other sectors.
Throughout the first part of this year, my former parliamentary assistant,
Dr Kular, and I heard from thousands of Ontarians. I want to thank the
member for Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale for his tireless efforts, and I
wish him well in his new responsibilities.
I also want to welcome my new parliamentary assistant, the member from
London-Fanshawe, who has already approached this legislation with diligence
Throughout those consultations this spring, we met with disability
organizations; individuals with disabilities; the private sector, including
business people of enormous goodwill and determination; leaders from retail
businesses, hospitals, colleges and universities, transportation services;
In fact, we had a Webcast that received more than 2,000 hits across the
province. Some of those people have joined us today.
I would like to ask my colleagues to acknowledge my friends in the gallery
who have so willingly shared their time and knowledge to help us make
Ontario accessible: David Lepofsky, who was already mentioned by the
Premier, and the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee -- thank you; the
Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario; the Ontario March of Dimes --
thank you very much for your efforts; and many others.
This legislation, if passed, will incorporate all 11 principles enunciated
by the disability community and agreed to by the Legislature six years ago.
Of course, the government has already moved forward on complementary fronts:
expansion of funding for mental health services, major new investments in
children's health programs, new housing for Ontarians with developmental
disabilities, the first increase in Ontario disability support program
payments in 11 years, and increased rebates for vehicles to transport people
with physical disabilities.
To make truly comprehensive progress, though, we need legislation that will
deliver fundamental changes -- real change -- to the way we think and act as
This legislation would make us an international leader in accessibility for
people with disabilities.
The bill would call for strong action by the provincial government, the
broader public sector and, for the very first time, the private sector.
Standards to be met every five years or less to achieve measurable long-term
goals could be adopted as regulations, requiring all sectors and people with
disabilities to develop them together.
I'm talking about standards in areas that affect people in their day-to-day
lives; standards that would address barriers related to physical and mental
health, sensory -- the full range of developmental and learning
disabilities, visible and invisible; standards that would be given the force
of law through regulation and enforcement and that would require affected
persons and organizations to comply with tough penalties for violators.
Taking tough measures requires people of honour and commitment, and it takes
leadership from the business community. Many business leaders have already
seen the true value of accessibility in terms of expanded markets for their
products and services -- an estimated $25 billion a year, according to a
Royal Bank report.
I thank in particular such business organizations as the Retail Council of
Canada, the Greater Toronto Hotel Association, the Ontario Chamber of
Commerce, the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association, Dofasco and
the Canadian Standards Association.
Every Ontarian should have the opportunity to learn, work, play, participate
and contribute to the maximum of their talents, desires and dreams. That is
essential to the social and economic vibrancy of this province.
There was a time in this province's history, Mr Speaker, when I would not
have been able to address you because women were denied their democratic
rights. I personally remember a time when, as a student, engineering co-op
placements were limited because some companies did not have washrooms for
women. They were deemed an unnecessary expense. Today that is unimaginable.
I want that same inclusive thinking when it comes to disabilities. I want
people in this province to say, "Can you imagine there was a time when
people complained about the cost of a ramp? Can you imagine there was a time
when menus were not available in alternate formats? What were they
Through public education we can change attitudes, one of the biggest
barriers people with disabilities face. We need to raise a generation of
Ontarians who are acutely aware of accessibility, who are determined to
create a truly accessible and barrier-free society.
The creation of an accessible Ontario is a vision and a job for all of us.
That's our challenge, that is our responsibility and, most importantly, that
is our extraordinary opportunity.
As we return here from Thanksgiving, let us give thanks not just for what we
have but for what we can become. In that spirit of reaching out for our
potential, in that spirit of inclusion, I would like to thank those who
assisted me to finish this statement in American Sign Language. Full
accessibility benefits us all. It is the cornerstone for strong communities
and a strong economy.
The Speaker (Hon Alvin Curling): Responses?
Mr Cameron Jackson (Burlington): It's my pleasure today to rise, on the
first day back in the Legislature, to greet this new legislation. I say in
all fairness, like many members of this Legislature who have ever grown up
in a house with a disabled member, they know how important this legislation
is. So in the true spirit of this legislation, we can only express our
appreciation for anything that advances the cause for disabled people in our
This province has a proud reputation. It was the first jurisdiction in North
America to have a human rights code and a human rights commission. This
province was the first, with Bill 125 from our government, to have
comprehensive disability legislation, the first disability support program
on the continent. So it is fitting that this province today makes an effort
to move the yardsticks forward for full citizenship for all of its citizens.
I too would like to acknowledge the presence of a few of the groups who were
very supportive and instrumental in advising the former government in terms
of developing the first disability legislation in our province. I recognize
Dean LaBute, a member of the accessibility council who's in the Legislature
today. I certainly encourage the minister to retain this valuable asset of
volunteerism for moving forward the agenda, as well as the construction of
the disability directorate which was part of that legislation.
As always, these issues are measured in terms of legislation, but they're
also measured by financial commitment. Clearly our government was pleased
with its $6-billion investment over eight years to enhance services in
accessibility in our province. During the debate on Bill 125, all members
made references to the incredible amount of investment required. Today's
announcement and legislation has not been costed; I understand that media
questions earlier today were not satisfied. But I recall vividly, during the
debate on Bill 125 when it was tabled by our government, the member for
Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Aldershot very clearly saying, "I don't care
what it costs. We should just spend all the money necessary." Although
that's a very Liberal view of the world, the member for St Catharines,
participating and laying out the official position for the Liberal Party at
the time, indicated that any action similar to the legislation being passed
today would amount to downloading and therefore the province should pay for
all of these costs. Now, if that still remains the official position of the
Liberal Party and therefore the government of the day now, if that is the
case, then we need to have a full costing of the implications of this
It's interesting to note that about 80% of Bill 125 has been retained in
this legislation. It has been modified. You are dismantling the old
legislation. However, what's fascinating to me is that for the first time in
my 20 years in this building, you're saying you're going to repeal the bill
but you have to repeal it in sections over the next 10 years because it has
within it the accessibility planning framework, unique anywhere in North
America, that we have here.
Briefly, Minister, I want you to be aware that the largest single resistance
I got as Minister of Citizenship was from AMO and from municipalities. What
occurred in Bill 125 was to empower disabled persons in their own
municipalities to literally not allow a building to be built unless it was
compliant to the standards set in that community -- minimum standards set by
the province, but even better standards. I notice that your legislation
confirms that and takes it even further. I notice that your penalty
provisions in the act take the fine for filing false documents, whereas in
the previous legislation those were outright fines of $50,000 for
We will participate in the discussions and the debates. It was frustrating
for me as the Minister of Citizenship that the Liberal Party never
participated in amendments or in bringing forward ideas. I want to reassure
you that you can count on the Progressive Conservative Party.
Mr Jackson: Not one amendment was tabled by your critic. That is a fact.
You can count on the Progressive Conservative Party, under the leadership of
John Tory, to work with you, Minister, to make this the best legislation in
the country. Thank you.
Mr Michael Prue (Beaches-East York): It is indeed a privilege and an honour
to be here on this day, the opening of the Legislature, and a privilege and
an honour that the first bill introduced is the Ontarians with Disabilities
It has taken many long years, over three successive governments, over four
or five terms of office now, for an act to come before us. I have to tell
you, Gary Malkowski was introduced earlier to the Legislature. He is sitting
there. He was the author of the first Ontarians with Disabilities Act. He
was there trying to do what I think was the right thing all those years ago.
We saw, after his act failed to pass and employment equity failed to pass,
that a new government came along and tried their best, I think, to bring in
an Ontarians with Disabilities Act, but it was severely watered down. It was
pretty bad, I have to say. Even though Cam Jackson, the member from
Burlington, spoke and was very passionate about it, it was a watered-down
bill that did not get the support of the opposition parties and indeed did
not pass. It was withdrawn because many, many people, including the
opposition parties and the disabled community, saw that it was not as good
as the original bill introduced by then member Malkowski from York East.
I have to say I'm a little disappointed in what we have today. It's sad to
see how minimal the commitment to the disabled actually is. It has been
reintroduced today. You know, I go back to that hallowed day, I guess,
October 29, 1998, when all parties in this Legislature passed the motion. I
want to read just a little bit of what you promised, members on that side of
the House who were here. You promised to "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." That's what was promised six years ago.
Today we have to look at what has actually happened, and I look only to
section 1 of the bill. Section 1(a) says,
"The purpose of this act is to benefit all Ontarians by
"(a) developing, implementing and enforcing accessibility standards in order
to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities with respect to
goods, services, facilities, occupancy of accommodation, employment
buildings, structures and premises" -- all of which are good, but then the
kicker -- "on or before January 1, 2025" -- 21 years from now; not as soon
as reasonably practicable but 21 years from now.
That is a whole generation of Ontarians who will grow up and not see total
equality. Yes, they may see marginal improvements that you're promising, but
they are never going to see total equality until 2025. This whole generation
has been waiting 10 years and now they are expected to wait another 21
The reality is that what you are setting up here is little more than a study
group. The reality is that the standards you are going to set by
regulation -- you are going to do that only after you consult with the
affected businesses and the affected municipalities who have shown in the
past that they are often very reluctant to spend money where they need to
How are you going to begin immediately? That's the question I have of you.
Where are the standards in this bill? I can't find them. Where is the money
for enforcement? There's no money for enforcement. In fact, the minister
responsible for the budget has openly mused about laying people off. Where
is the funding for churches, for community centres, for non-profits, for
municipalities? Who is going to pay for all this?
This is a big announcement today. In your first budget you promised many
things and you have not delivered those for the disabled. You promised to
help them but you eliminated the 8% provincial tax on the vehicles that
carried them around. You are fighting in court parents with autistic
children. Even though you've given some 3% to ODSP as a payment increase,
that is really quite pitiful in the grand scheme of things.
To reiterate: There is no intervener funding, the regulations are not
spelled out, and the 2025 date is certainly not acceptable to us or to the
people who are working on this bill.
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