ODA Committee Update
dated Nov. 20, 2004
posted Nov. 28, 2004
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
Text of The First Day of Second Reading Debates
on Bill 118
November 20, 2004
Here is the text of the first day of Second Reading debates on Bill 118, the proposed Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. (About 49 pages) This debate took place between 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 20, 2004. When the Legislature votes on this bill for Second Reading, it decides whether to approve the bill "in principle".
At least 50 persons with disabilities and their supporters came to watch
these debates at Queen's Park. This helped demonstrate community support for
this bill, and gave these supporters a great chance to meet others similarly
interested in it. We thank them for taking the time to come to Queen's
Park. Citizenship Minister Dr. Marie Bountrogianni came to speak with them
partway through the debates. She invited their input as the legislation
proceeds to public hearings, yet to be scheduled.
We also set out below,just before the Second Reading debates, the text of a
question put to the Citizenship Minister by a Liberal MPP about this
legislation on the same day during Question Period. That question was asked
before Bill 118 came up for Second Reading debates.
Second Reading debates resume at Queen's Park Monday, November 22 and
Thursday November 25, 2004 from 6:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. We encourage you to
come to Queen's Park to watch the debates and show your support for this
legislation. If you cannot make it, tune in to watch it live on your local
cable service's Ontario Legislature channel. That channel usually re-runs
the same day's proceeding overnight, for those who miss seeing it live.
Send us your feedback on the speeches made during this debate by the three
parties. Also, as always, we continue to welcome your ideas for amendments
that could be proposed to this bill, as it later proceeds to public
hearings. Contact us at:
And again think of creative ways to help mark November 29, 2004, the 10th
anniversary of the birth of the ODA Committee, the volunteer, non-partisan
organization that has led the decade-long campaign for strong, effective
disability accessibility legislation.
ONTARIO HANSARD Thursday, November 18, 2004
ACCESSIBILITY FOR THE DISABLED
Ms Kathleen O. Wynne (Don Valley West): My question is directed to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Minister, last month, you introduced legislation that would make Ontario accessible for all citizens.
I certainly believe that this legislation is necessary, and I think everyone in the House would agree. You and I heard this morning at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind how important it is for people for whom going to work or going to the grocery store is difficult, and so that is why this legislation is critical.
Upon reading the act, I note that a central piece of your proposed legislation would see accessibility standards developed, standards that would set out requirements that would need to be adopted or implemented by persons or organizations, and these standards are critical to the legislation.
My question is, how will the accessibility standards be developed under the proposed new Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act?
Hon Marie Bountrogianni (Minister of Children and Youth Services, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration): I thank the honourable member for her question. It was a pleasure to be with her in her riding at the CNIB this morning, announcing some very important measures that will approach the accessibility act very soon.
This afternoon, we will be beginning debate on second reading of this very important bill, and I want -- on behalf of all of the Legislature, I'm sure -- to welcome our special guests from the disability community for this historic event this afternoon.
One of the things I heard over the consultations over the last month with Dr Kular, my former parliamentary assistant, was that there were no standards.
Many public and private companies would ask, "How do you expect us to abide by and to make life more accessible for people with disabilities if we don't have the standards?" In other words, "Tell us what we need to do." So the development of standards is crucial to the success of this new act, if it passes. If this act passes, we will begin developing sectoral tables immediately, and we will have people from the disability communities and the appropriate ministries as well as from the appropriate stakeholder groups developing standards immediately.
Ms Wynne: I think it's important that these standards be established to ensure that people with disabilities, no matter where they live or work, can expect the same level of quality and service.
I'm regularly contacted by constituents concerned about their ability or the ability of members of their family to access the kind of services that many of us take for granted. You know that in my riding in Don Valley West, the CNIB is not the only institution, but we have the Bob Rumble Centre for the Deaf, the Common Ground Co-op and the March of Dimes. It's really a centre for institutions and services across the country. My constituents and the advocates for people with disabilities in the riding and outside will be encouraged to hear that we're working to establish these standards.
How does the government intend to enforce these standards? Should persons and organizations not comply, what are the consequences and ramifications?
Hon Mrs Bountrogianni: Thank you for this important question. One of the other things we heard in our consultations was that there were no compliance and enforcement measures. For those few who would not comply, those were necessary. So we included that in our legislation. Organizations to which an accessibility standard applies must comply within the time period set out in the standard by filing an accessibility report and making that report available to the public. The report may be viewed to ensure compliance, and inspections and audits may also be carried out. Organizations and individuals may be liable, on conviction, for a fine up to $50,000 for a person and $100,000 for a company if they do not comply with the standards or if they provide false or misleading information in the accessibility report. This new act, if it passes, will have teeth. That is what the disability community asked for, and that is what we are delivering.
ACCESSIBILITY FOR THE DISABLED
Ms Kathleen O. Wynne (Don Valley West): My question is directed to the
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Minister, last month, you
introduced legislation that would make Ontario accessible for all citizens.
I certainly believe that this legislation is necessary, and I think everyone
in the House would agree. You and I heard this morning at the Canadian
National Institute for the Blind how important it is for people for whom
going to work or going to the grocery store is difficult, and so that is why
this legislation is critical.
Upon reading the act, I note that a central piece of your proposed
legislation would see accessibility standards developed, standards that
would set out requirements that would need to be adopted or implemented by
persons or organizations, and these standards are critical to the
My question is, how will the accessibility standards be developed under the
proposed new Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act?
Hon Marie Bountrogianni (Minister of Children and Youth Services, Minister
of Citizenship and Immigration): I thank the honourable member for her
question. It was a pleasure to be with her in her riding at the CNIB this
morning, announcing some very important measures that will approach the
accessibility act very soon.
This afternoon, we will be beginning debate on second reading of this very
important bill, and I want -- on behalf of all of the Legislature, I'm sure
-- to welcome our special guests from the disability community for this
historic event this afternoon.
One of the things I heard over the consultations over the last month with Dr
Kular, my former parliamentary assistant, was that there were no standards.
Many public and private companies would ask, "How do you expect us to abide
by and to make life more accessible for people with disabilities if we don't
have the standards?" In other words, "Tell us what we need to do." So the
development of standards is crucial to the success of this new act, if it
passes. If this act passes, we will begin developing sectoral tables
immediately, and we will have people from the disability communities and the
appropriate ministries as well as from the appropriate stakeholder groups
developing standards immediately.
Ms Wynne: I think it's important that these standards be established to
ensure that people with disabilities, no matter where they live or work, can
expect the same level of quality and service.
I'm regularly contacted by constituents concerned about their ability or the
ability of members of their family to access the kind of services that many
of us take for granted. You know that in my riding in Don Valley West, the
CNIB is not the only institution, but we have the Bob Rumble Centre for the
Deaf, the Common Ground Co-op and the March of Dimes. It's really a centre
for institutions and services across the country. My constituents and the
advocates for people with disabilities in the riding and outside will be
encouraged to hear that we're working to establish these standards.
How does the government intend to enforce these standards? Should persons
and organizations not comply, what are the consequences and ramifications?
Hon Mrs Bountrogianni: Thank you for this important question. One of the
other things we heard in our consultations was that there were no compliance
and enforcement measures. For those few who would not comply, those were
necessary. So we included that in our legislation. Organizations to which an
accessibility standard applies must comply within the time period set out in
the standard by filing an accessibility report and making that report
available to the public. The report may be viewed to ensure compliance, and
inspections and audits may also be carried out. Organizations and
individuals may be liable, on conviction, for a fine up to $50,000 for a
person and $100,000 for a company if they do not comply with the standards
or if they provide false or misleading information in the accessibility
report. This new act, if it passes, will have teeth. That is what the
disability community asked for, and that is what we are delivering.
ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, 2004
Mrs Bountrogianni moved second reading of the following bill:
Bill 118, An Act respecting the development, implementation and enforcement
of standards relating to accessibility with respect to goods, services,
facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings and all other things
specified in the Act for persons with disabilities.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bruce Crozier): Mrs Bountrogianni has moved second
reading of Bill 118. Minister?
Hon Marie Bountrogianni (Minister of Children and Youth Services, Minister
of Citizenship and Immigration): Mr Speaker, I will be sharing my time with
my parliamentary assistant, the member from London-Fanshawe, Mr Khalil
This bill, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, is about
fairness. It's about opportunity, inclusion and empowerment. It's about the
ability to pursue dreams, the chance to be a full partner in society and
make a full contribution to society. This bill is about building a better
Ontario, tapping the full potential of Ontario, making Ontario the place to
In this Legislature, day after day, we engage in vigorous, tough, partisan
debate. There are strong clashes of heartfelt but opposing philosophies.
When it comes to the issue of disability, however, there's a great deal
about which we agree. This is a profoundly important matter that touches
each person here, regardless of political affiliation. It is an issue that
touches every person, every family, every circle of friends, every
neighbourhood in Ontario. Most of us may have a relative who has trouble
getting around physically, or we may have someone we love who has a serious
learning disability or who deals with mental health challenges. We may know
someone whose eyesight or hearing is failing, or someone who copes daily
with the impairments of a chronic ailment.
One thing is certain: We all agree that discrimination against people with
disabilities is wrong; accessibility for people with disabilities is right.
And like it or not, we can agree that we are all getting older. As our
society ages, so does the number of Ontarians with disabilities. Every
member knows that by providing full accessibility for people with
disabilities, Ontario will benefit enormously: more participation in the
workforce by Ontarians with disabilities, more consumer spending, greater
educational achievement by thousands of young people, and a shining
reputation across Canada and around the world.
Providing accessibility is fundamental to reaching the full economic,
social, cultural and human potential of our province. It is fundamental to
embracing and celebrating our common humanity. It was exactly a decade ago
this month when a handful of pragmatic, thoughtful Ontarians with
disabilities came together with the explicit goal of making this legislation
a reality. Some of these people are in the gallery today, and, on behalf of
the Legislature, I welcome you.
They were frustrated that the provincial government of the day thought that
the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms were
sufficient to make Ontario more accessible. As someone who, at the time,
worked with children with disabilities, I understood that those laws forced
people to fight barriers one at a time and required costly, lengthy legal
The legislation before us today is a priority for the Premier. He campaigned
on this. He made a commitment to bring this bill forward. The Premier
instructed me to make it my priority -- something I was more than happy and
honoured to do. One of my reasons for getting into politics was to do
something about this issue. But if this is a watershed piece of legislation
for our province, the credit does not go to the Premier or to me; the credit
goes to those Ontarians with disabilities who have been pushing so hard for
so long. For 10 years they would not give up. They will not give up.
In the past year, my former parliamentary assistant, Dr Kuldip Kular, and I
travelled Ontario listening to people with disabilities and their families.
Thousands of citizens offered intelligent, practical ideas. And everywhere
in the province there were certain themes repeated over and over. Those
themes are reflected in this legislation: the role of both the public and
private sectors, accountability, planning, standards, public awareness, best
practices, accessible transportation, building codes, municipal services,
partnerships, the broad range of disabilities -- visible and invisible, the
broad range of barriers to accessibility, compliance and enforcement, and
There were two points that struck me clearly at meeting after meeting. The
first was the desire for legislation that encompasses action in the short
run, action over the medium term, and long-term action. This legislation
would reflect that clearly expressed desire. The second point was the
determination of those with disabilities to be as fair as possible to
business. What those with disabilities asked for was the opportunity to sit
down with various business sectors and the public sector to negotiate
standards that are both world-leading and fair to everybody. This
legislation would reflect that express desire too.
As we met with communities around Ontario, I tried to make a point of having
local business people at the table. I wanted everyone to hear what everyone
else had to say. In fact, we were the first government to have people with
disabilities and the business community sit down together and discuss a
vision of accessibility. The result was positive. Business people from every
industry take this issue very seriously. What I heard over and over was why
it was good for business to be far more accessible. What I also heard from
business leaders were their own personal experiences, stories about parents
with disabilities, or children, or grandchildren, or brothers or sisters, or
employees, or stories about themselves. There comes a time when we simply
have to move forward: a time to move forward on rights for people with
disabilities, just as we move forward on rights for women, on rights for a
range of citizens.
My 13-year-old daughter just cannot imagine that there was a time not so
long ago when she wouldn't have had the same rights and opportunities as her
16-year-old brother. She couldn't imagine a world in which boys grow up and
have the ability to hold particular jobs but girls don't, a world in which
boys get every opportunity for a thorough education but girls don't. We all
want our children and grandchildren to grow up in a province where they
can't imagine that accessibility for people with disabilities was ever at
question. We want them to grow up thinking, "Why did people back in 2004
even have to debate this issue?"
In building on the work of people with disabilities and the goodwill of many
in the private sector, this legislation also implements principles
introduced in the Legislature by the honourable member for Windsor, now the
Minister of Energy and government House leader. On October 29, 1998, the
Legislature voted unanimously to adopt the 11 principles of what is now
called the Duncan resolution. It was quite a moment, because it was the rare
occasion when a private member, let alone one from the opposition, had a
motion accepted. Three years later, in 2001, the Harris government passed
the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. That act put into place some, but not
all, of the principles previously agreed to by the Legislature.
Our party felt strongly that the 2001 legislation did not go far enough. But
I saw then, as I do now, that there are many Progressive Conservative
members who care deeply about advancing accessibility for people with
disabilities. Indeed, I want to point out that when I brought this new bill
forward some weeks ago, the approach of the Tory members for Burlington and
Nepean-Carleton was extremely constructive, and that is really saying
something. It is only once in a blue moon when either one of those members
actually has something positive to say about a Liberal initiative.
Two NDP members have also spoken about this bill since it was introduced:
the member for Niagara Centre and the member for Beaches-East York. I
respect the commitment of those members to the issue of accessibility. I
have listened carefully to the concerns of the two members. They have raised
questions about the timing of regulations and long-term objectives. In turn,
I hope the NDP members will agree that it would be wrong to set all the
rules in stone before people with disabilities have an opportunity to
negotiate the standards they want for themselves. Ontarians with
disabilities have asked for that right to negotiate, and I am committed to
giving it to them.
As I have indicated, I want to be as non-partisan as possible. If a member
from any of our three parties has a workable suggestion for improving the
bill, I am more than prepared to listen.
I reiterate that I recognize how passionately and personally everyone in the
province feels about the issues covered in this bill. The truth is that the
member for Burlington struck a chord with many of us when he said, on
October 12, "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."
The member is right. This legislation is important. It would provide for
solid action on all 11 principles of the Duncan resolution.
First, the legislation would call for the creation of a barrier-free
Ontario, with removal of current barriers and the prevention of future
barriers. This bill would call for action on goods, services, facilities,
accommodation and employment, and would call for people with disabilities to
be partners in setting the rules.
Second, the legislation would call for a broad approach; a broad approach
across every part of the provincial government; a broad approach that, for
the first time, fully covers the private sector.
Third, the legislation would call for the establishment of time lines.
Fourth, the bill would set in motion the establishment of mandatory
standards, from transportation to the built environment to communications.
The fifth principle of the Duncan resolution encompasses active measures to
achieve barrier-free workplaces. In that regard, there would be new
Number six -- and this is key -- is enforcement, including the power to
audit, inspect and impose sanctions.
Seventh: regulations. There would be an inclusive process for developing
standards, including public comment on draft standards. The government could
then give those standards the force of law through regulation.
The next principle: public education. This area is my passion. I will use
every tool available to help shape a change in attitude, a change in values.
Over and over again, people with disabilities have told me that the biggest
barrier of all is one of attitude. On this score, I look forward to working
closely with every MPP to help foster a true culture of inclusion for people
Issue number nine: adaptive technologies. This is a field in which the
previous government took a serious lead. The challenge remains, in a
high-tech world, to make certain that technology serves rather than
frustrates the needs of people with disabilities.
The 10th principle is contract compliance. What's required are clear rules
for the procurement and funding practices of the public sector. As large
purchasers, governments have the power to bring about change that would make
goods, services and facilities more accessible for people with disabilities.
The 11th principle adopted unanimously by MPPs is that legislation must be
more than window dressing. Nice phrases are no substitute for action:
short-term, medium-term and long-term action. That is precisely why this
legislation would address the full range of disabilities and barriers. It is
why, if it is passed, there would be mandatory standards, timelines,
compliance and enforcement, and it is why more than 300,000 public and
private organizations would be covered by the legislation.
As was said six years ago, "...what it's all about is access: access to
employment, a meaningful way of life; access to public services ... access
to buying a product to carry on their life; access to transportation. These
things are basic."
This legislation would make Ontario the leader in Canada. We would become
the first Canadian jurisdiction to have a comprehensive approach, covering
all spheres of government and business, all disabilities and all major
aspects of daily life in the province.
As the Premier said, "Together, we can get the results Ontarians want and
deserve. Together, we can build a quality of life that's second to none."
I ask for the support of the Legislature in thoughtful but swift action on
this bill. This is a vitally important bill. It will advance our shared
values of fairness, opportunity, inclusion and human rights. This is about
empowering Ontarians with disabilities to pursue their dreams.
Let us tap the full potential of every Ontarian. Let us tap the full
potential of this great province.
I now leave it to Khalil Ramal, my parliamentary assistant.
Mr Khalil Ramal (London-Fanshawe):I am honoured to have been named
parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration just
a few weeks ago. I'm delighted to speak to the proposed Accessibility for
Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2004, as one of my first tasks in this job.
October 12 was a great day for Ontario. The minister, Dr Marie
Bountrogianni, introduced the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities
Act, 2004, as the first order of business in this fall sitting of the
Legislature. If this bill is passed, there will be even greater days ahead.
I share Dr Bountrogianni's passion and determination to build an accessible
With this legislation, the government proposes to take action to remove the
barriers facing Ontarians with disabilities, whether those disabilities are
visible or invisible.
I gained some understanding of these barriers while working for several
years at Community Living London. I am proud of the work Community Living
has done, and continues to do, to help everyone participate in all aspects
of daily life. Community Living supports men, women and children with
intellectual disabilities in their efforts to live as independently as
possible. This group helps individuals and their families make their own
choices in work, leisure, recreation and lifelong learning, and it assists
people with intellectual disabilities to be heard, to participate in their
communities, support each other and be involved in decision-making.
This is the true spirit behind our proposed legislation. Accessibility is
the right thing to do.
The roots of this legislation now before us can be traced back to 10 years
ago. That's when one small band of 20 Ontarians with disabilities formed a
committee for the purpose of making Ontario barrier-free.
During the 1995 election campaign, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act
Committee -- the ODA committee -- asked all three parties to pass this kind
of legislation. When the Tory government came to power, they said they would
do it in their first term. They did nothing. When their first term was
drawing to a close, this House prodded the Tory government to take action.
I'm referring, of course, to the resolution introduced six years ago on
October 29, 1998, by my colleague Minister Dwight Duncan. This resolution
called on the government to enact disability legislation based on 11
principles that had been articulated by the ODA Committee. This House
unanimously adopted the resolution.
A few weeks later, in November 1998, the government tabled the Ontarians
with Disabilities Act, 1998. This bill was not well received, to say the
least. When the Legislature adjourned in December, it died on the order
In the throne speech in the spring of 1999, the government announced it
would gather additional input before reintroducing the bill. It was back to
the drawing board.
After the election, the opposition again put pressure on the government. In
November 1999, the current Minister of Agriculture and Food, Steve Peters,
brought forward a motion calling for the government to keep its commitment
to pass legislation consistent with the 1998 principles.
Finally, in November 2001, after more than six years in office, the former
government introduced the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001. The
disability community was not impressed.
David Lepofsky, chair of the ODA committee, gave a TV interview the other
day and explained what was wrong with the ODA, 2001. "[I]t was toothless,"
he said. "It didn't apply to the private sector where we shop or most of us
want to work and so on. And it didn't have any enforcement. None at all. It
basically said please remove barriers if you want."
In spite of objections like these, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act
passed in December 2001, but the disabled community continued to press for
On April 7, 2003, with another election in the air, Dalton McGuinty, as
Leader of the Opposition, wrote a letter to the ODA committee. Mr McGuinty
said that if we formed the government, we would enact a strong and effective
Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
Just how well have we kept this commitment? Here is what David Lepofsky has
to say: "Mr McGuinty has made a series of promises and with this bill he's
kept them all. He promised he would work with the disability community, the
business community and the municipalities to develop the law. He did
that.... He said he'd introduce a bill within the first year. He did
that.... He said the bill would fix the major problems with the
Conservatives' weak bill, and it does."
I believe our government has done an exemplary job in developing this
legislation. We listened. We were thorough. We did our homework. We began by
reiterating our commitment to a strong and effective bill in the first
throne speech last November 20. We said we would work with Ontarians with
disabilities on meaningful legislation that would allow them to participate
fully in building a stronger province. And that's exactly what we did. Just
a couple of weeks later, on December 3, the minister, Dr Marie
Bountrogianni, marked the International Day of Disabled Persons by
announcing our plans to hold consultations on strengthening the Ontarians
with Disabilities Act, 2001.
From January through March this year, Dr Bountrogianni and my predecessor as
parliamentary assistant, Dr Kuldip Kular, undertook a series of seven
regional public meetings, 14 round table meetings and a live Webcast for
students with disabilities. More than 1,000 individuals participated in the
public meetings, 246 stakeholder representatives took part in the round
table, and the Webcast registered about 2,000 viewer hits.
Finally, on October 12, 2004, we introduced the proposed Accessibility for
Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2004, truly groundbreaking legislation that
would make Ontario a world leader in this field.
The proposed act would improve on the ODA in key ways:
It would focus on action, not just planning. Mandatory standards and real
results would be achieved every five years or less, moving toward an
accessible Ontario in 20 years.
It would encompass not only the provincial government and the broader public
sector, as the ODA does, but also fully cover the private sector.
Our legislation would have teeth, with tough penalties for violators.
If passed, this legislation would make a real difference in the lives of
people with disabilities.
For example, it would mean that a person with a learning disability who
takes a prescription to a pharmacy would receive a clear, understandable
explanation for how to use the medication; a parent who uses a wheelchair
and attends a school play could sit in the main seating area to watch his or
her children perform; a teenager who uses an ambulatory device could take a
regular bus with a friend to go to a movie at the local mall; or an elderly
patient who has diminished vision and uses a scooter could make his way into
a medical building through a ramp and an automatic door that are clearly
marked with large-print signs and then take an elevator with voice commands
and a lowered button panel as he goes to have an X-ray.
Let me add that, apart from introducing this groundbreaking legislation, the
government is already moving forward with complementary measures for people
with disabilities, including the expansion of funding for mental health
services; major reinvestments in children's health programs; new housing for
Ontarians with developmental disabilities; the first increase in Ontario
disability support payments in 11 years; increased funding for the home and
vehicle modification program to quadruple the number of people who benefit
and, for the first time, including children with disabilities; a policy that
any bus purchases for public transportation with provincial funding,
including funding from the provincial gas tax, must be accessible to people
with disabilities; and the new Active2010 strategy that will help remove
barriers that prevent people from participating in sport and recreation
programs, particularly low-income children, elderly adults and people with
I am proud of our role, now in the government and earlier in opposition, in
bringing this historic proposed legislation from concept to introduction.
But no one deserves more credit for this bill than the disability
organizations across Ontario that have demanded action. Championed by the
Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, and with the support of many
other groups, the campaign for strong and effective legislation has steadily
gained momentum over the past decade. The steadfast determination of the
disability community has brought accessibility to the top of the public
We believe every Ontarian should have the opportunity to learn, work, play
and otherwise participate in society to their fullest potential. Our
proposed legislation would bring this day closer. It's a goal I know every
member of this House would support.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Joseph N. Tascona): It's time for questions and
Mr Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): I will be speaking to this bill myself in
just a few moments, but I would like to begin by thanking the minister and
the member from London-Fanshawe for their comments.
There has been some very positive movement with this particular piece of
legislation. As we move forward as a province into the 21st century, we will
be requiring more and more help from the private sector and from the public
in general to help people with disabilities. I think this bill moves forward
in that direction very well.
It's timely that the bill was brought forward at this point, early in the
mandate. It's not going to be as easy as you might think to implement it. It
sounds good today when we're doing our leadoffs and we're sort of patting
each other on the back, but the bottom line is that there are going to be
some difficult times ahead, particularly with funding. That's why I believe
the 20-year window is good, and I understand there will be a number of
phase-ins over a five-year period.
I'd like to say that we as a society have to use all Ontarians to help build
a stronger Ontario -- I think every member in this House would probably
agree with that -- and to take full advantage of all the wonderful people
who make up this great province makes Ontario the leader in our
Confederation as well.
With that, I just want to bring my comments to a close at this point. I'll
be asking in a few minutes to carry on with some further debate in the
Mr Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina): I want to say on behalf of New
Democrats that we will be supporting this bill. However, we are going to
argue very strongly that there are some serious weaknesses, and we will
speak to that as best we can. We hope that the committee hearings will speak
to what might be good in this bill, that they like, and we'll expect a lot
of the deputants to talk about some of the deficiencies and the weaknesses
of this bill. So while it is a step in the right direction, given that
people with disabilities have waited a long time for accessibility, I think
this bill will leave them waiting a lot longer than many of them would have
This bill, as some might know, almost leaves everything, from timelines to
incentives to enforcement, at the discretion of the minister. That may, in
the minds of some, be good or not so good. In my mind, I have some doubts
about what it means, unless you make it clear in your bill how you would
deal with this issue specifically, by way of timelines that are a bit
tighter than what they propose, by incentives and what it is that you
propose to do. What specifically are you going to do, by way of enforcement,
given that the government doesn't have the money to be able to deliver on
many of the promises they have made, let alone promises they're about to
make? It worries me profoundly about how much we can leave to the minister
to deliver on the promises that they're making in this bill. I will have an
opportunity to speak to it later on, and hopefully some of these issues will
come out more clearly.
Mrs Donna H. Cansfield (Etobicoke Centre): It's my pleasure to rise in
support of Bill 118, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
I would like to, first of all, pay tribute to Minister Bountrogianni and to
her tenacity -- long before she came to this House -- for her work with
children with special needs, but also for her commitment to the community
and for her ability to teach all of us the things that we needed to know to
I think it's also really important to acknowledge that for me one of the
more crucial elements to the speech the minister gave was education and
outreach. If we know we're going to change how people think, their concepts
and their behaviour, we start where we should, and that's with our children.
We're going to begin to make sure that children know and understand that
each and every person in Ontario is deserving of the same respect and
dignity. That's the tenacity that the minister has brought forward in
respect of this bill that I think, in particular, deserves a great deal of
Yes, it will be an ongoing process. This is the beginning -- a long time in
coming, there's no question, and we have lots of room with which to move. We
will have the opportunity to continue to talk to people, to have discussions
that are meaningful and will make a difference as those regulations are
implemented. I have great faith in the commitment of Minister Bountrogianni
to follow through, regardless. I say that because of her commitment that she
has made in this particular file right from the beginning, and kudos to you,
Ms Laurie Scott (Haliburton-Victoria-Brock): I too wish to commend Minister
Bountrogianni for the bill that she's brought forward and welcome the
I'd like to say hello to the deaf people in the audience, and relate some of
my experiences. I know a little of the sign language from my family who are
hearing impaired, and the challenges certainly that are faced by them in
their day-to-day lives, in their working lives and in their education. I
know I've spoken many times with Mr Parsons about the deaf and the
hard-of-hearing, and what changes we need to make in our communities to have
them more accepted and offer them more opportunities. There are going to be
challenges out there, certainly, for the implementation of the bill.
I'm happy that the minister has commended some of the members from the other
parties and their contributions. It is difficult for society to accept some
of the changes, but I think that we've made great strides in the previous
governments, and I hope that we continue to make those strides with this
government, and all parties, to contribute to the changes that need to be
So I'd like to thank the people in the gallery who have come today. I know
it does take an extra effort, and I hope you appreciate that we're all going
to try to work together on this bill. I just wanted to say that we certainly
will give consideration to any input that members may have, and I look
forward to further debate on this bill.
The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the minister.
Hon Mrs Bountrogianni: I'd like to thank the members from Simcoe North,
Trinity-Spadina, Etobicoke Centre and Haliburton-Victoria-Brock for their
comments and their support of various kinds.
The member from Simcoe North talked about the challenges of business. The
Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Retail Council and other business
organizations have supported this legislation. Our timelines are reasonable,
and I believe that is going to be a major factor in working together to
The member from Trinity-Spadina has the opposite problem with the timelines;
he wants to go quicker. We'll talk about that in public hearings, but I'd
like to remind the member from Trinity-Spadina that standards will be
developed in five-year increments or less so that we will be meeting these
goals as quickly as possible, as reasonably as possible.
Our 20-year timeline is a 20-year end point where Ontario will be fully
accessible for people with all disabilities. In comparison to Australia,
which has a 30-year timeline for one standard alone -- transportation -- and
to the United States, which has a 25-year timeline, I think that is making
us the leading jurisdiction in the world.
I'd like to thank warmly my friend and colleague from Etobicoke Centre. I
share her passion -- and I know she's very passionate and has a long history
in education -- on the educational component of this. There can be nothing
more important than educating the public along the way. We don't want
anything to backfire. We don't want to hurt the very people we're trying to
help. Education and public outreach are key here. We know that when people
are educated of the issues, they want to do the right thing. It's the
ignorance that often gets in the way.
The member from Haliburton-Victoria-Brock: very impressive with your
American sign language. I speak that much slower, and I only know two
sentences. I really look forward to your input and your expertise, as well
as the expertise of all members of the House. There will be passionate
partisan arguments. That's part of the nature of this place, but I do know
that I will be receiving support from all members of the House in making
this a strong piece of legislation.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Dunlop: I ask this House if we could have unanimous consent to defer our
leadoff on this bill until Monday evening. I believe it's Monday evening
when Cam Jackson will be commenting.
The Acting Speaker: The member is moving unanimous consent to consider a
motion for laying down their lead. Is there unanimous consent? Is there
unanimous consent to have the lead for the official opposition put off?
Agreed? OK. The Chair recognizes the member from Simcoe North.
Mr Dunlop: I'm very pleased to be able to rise today and make a few comments
on Bill 118. I want to begin by welcoming everyone in the audience who's
here to participate in this debate. It's a very important debate. I
understand we'll be debating not only this afternoon but also next Monday
evening and next Thursday evening. So for other folks who are wanting to
take part in this and join us here at the Legislature, I welcome you. I want
to also welcome the interpreters for the hearing-impaired who are here
today. It's good to see you in the audience, and I welcome you here as well.
Because I'm doing this 20-minute comment on behalf of our caucus right now,
I would like to read into the record the reasons that Mr Jackson is not here
today. He wanted to be here, and he will be here Monday and Thursday of next
week, but I would like to inform all members of the House that my colleague
Cam Jackson, the member for Burlington and the PC advocate for persons with
disabilities, could not be here today. Mr Jackson is in Quebec City for the
Ontario-Québec Parliamentary Association meeting to present an important
paper on the delivery of health care services to seniors.
Mr Jackson will participate in the debate next week. In his absence, I would
like to recognize his contributions on behalf of persons with disabilities
in Ontario as the PC minister who developed Canada's most comprehensive
disabilities legislation, Bill 125, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act,
2001, which was mentioned earlier, of course. I would call the attention of
all members to the fact that the current bill before the House is based on
the legislation, or a lot of the legislation, that was first delivered and
implemented by the member from Burlington back in 2001.
I have to tell you that Cam Jackson is a strong advocate not only for people
with disabilities, but he's a very active member for the seniors in our
province. I think each and every week, Mr Jackson gives a radio broadcast on
seniors' issues in the province and has just literally hundreds of thousands
of fans out there that he brings with his comments.
Bill 118, the legislation we're debating here today, as Minister
Bountrogianni had mentioned, is an important piece of legislation, and it's
the next step as we proceed in building Ontario and dealing with the people
who have disabilities.
In my comments in the next 17 minutes, I'd like to talk about a few
individuals who were born many years ago but overcame disabilities. They are
some of the people I like to think about whenever I think of people with
disabilities because they are very strong citizens who overcame their
disabilities and became very active members of their communities.
I want to compliment the minister on bringing forth the bill. When you're
debating legislation in this House, there's so much to bring forward all the
time. All the ministers battle for space on the legislative table here so
they can debate their pieces of legislation, but this bill, again, is a
giant stepping stone in moving forward as a province. I'm going to tell you
right up front that I have some concerns, particularly -- I'll refer to them
in a few minutes. My concerns involve how we're going to implement it with
some of the small businesses around without putting them out of business.
Before I get off the subject of the minister, I do want to thank her for
complimenting some of our members, Mr Jackson and Mr Baird. I don't think we
have a lot of people on this side of the House who are opposed to moving
forward with this next step. If you look back in history, you'll see that
we've come a long way in this province, but we've got a long way to go. I'm
hoping that with this piece of legislation we can move forward in a very
positive manner, looking for amendments where they're required at committee,
and really and truly looking out for the fairness that people who have
handicaps face, and looking for opportunities that we can address as well as
we try to build a better province.
There are three individuals I've dealt with up to this point in my life whom
I want to mention a little bit today. A couple of them aren't with us any
longer. One is a gentleman from up in the Coldwater area by the name of
Frank Gleadall, and I want to put this on the record. Frank passed away a
few years ago. Frank was a little bit older than my mother, and my mother
would be 72 or 73 years old today, so probably if Frank were alive he'd be
75 or 76. Frank was born with one arm and one leg. He was never injured, he
was just born that way. At that time, if you go back 75 years ago, a lot of
people were put in institutions, or they certainly weren't handled the way
we would treat people today. Frank's father made him a little sort of peg
leg to give him balance. He never had crutches or anything like that. Frank
had such a desire to live and excel in so many things. His strength was in
his personality, and his strength was that he just wanted to excel in
everything he did.
I'm telling you, as I grew up in this small community named Coldwater, Frank
did everything that everybody else could possibly do. He played hockey -- he
was actually the goaltender; he played different sports. Frank worked at
numerous jobs. He put in hay on the farm, the parents' farm; he worked all
of the equipment; he drove a bulldozer for construction companies, and he
did this with one arm and one leg. He was an exceptional human being and
never, ever had any kind of assistance because we never had any programs in
place to even offer Frank. But along with his mom and dad and family
members, and the whole community that accepted him, he made sure that he
fulfilled a life. He had two daughters and a wife, and they had a great life
together. I can just say that in my time he was really the first handicapped
person I ever knew, and yet he really wasn't considered handicapped because
he was such an exceptional person in the fact that he made himself fit in
and he had this burning desire to fit into the community.
The second gentleman I have to mention is a fellow by the name of Tom
O'Hara. Tom is living today in Waubaushene. He was a very active person in
the construction community and built a number of large buildings. Then one
evening, around 1970, Tom was in a snowmobile accident. His spinal cord was
ruptured or severed and Tom could never walk again. He spent the next few
years of his life in a wheelchair.
I've been in a number of the buildings that Tom O'Hara constructed, and it's
amazing that a lot of them were commercial buildings but none of them had
elevators, because in the early 1970s we didn't treat buildings with that
kind of respect. I'm talking about two- and three-storey buildings. Today
those buildings, of course, all have elevators.
Tom went on and spent a lot of years on council. He was a deputy fire chief
up in the township of Tay, and I can tell you, he has never let his
handicap, in the wheelchair, get in his way.
The third person I want to talk about is a fellow by the name of Wally
Higgins. Wally is a guy who was also in an accident. He was from Nova Scotia
and moved up to the Orillia area. I believe he was in an accident involving
-- he was a mechanic, and in the accident a car came down on his legs and he
lost the use of his legs. In fact, I think both of his legs had to be
I was the reeve in the village of Coldwater council, and our council
meetings were held on the second floor of the building. I can remember as
though it were yesterday -- and this is going back between 1985 and 1995 --
Wally coming to our council meetings. If he didn't have his wheelchair, he'd
climb up the stairs and work his way, without any legs, across the floor. It
was actually embarrassing to think that we never had any kind of access. At
other times, Wally would come to the meetings and we would carry him up this
little set of skinny stairways so that he could attend the meeting.
I look back, and of course today we don't have council chambers like that.
We don't have fire halls or hardly any public facilities like that. But I
can remember, as though it were yesterday, how he wanted to be part of the
community. Wally never came to the council meetings to complain about his
handicap. He was always concerned about a drainage ditch or the condition of
a road or something like that. He held an active part in the community. He
still worked on cars, even though he had lost the use of his legs, and was
just a great, wonderful person in our community.
Those are three gentlemen who overcame their disabilities and were active
members of the community. Today, they would certainly be treated differently
in the kind of lifestyle we expect people with handicaps to have.
I'd also like to mention seniors for a couple of minutes, because the
seniors are such an important part of the people. Because there are older
citizens, many of them of course have disabilities today. I think we've done
a fairly good job in this province, particularly in our nursing homes. My
mother-in-law is in a nursing home today. One of the reasons she's in this
particular home is the fact that it's got a great elevator system, and great
guardrails around, because so many people who are seniors today have had
problems because of falls. Thank God we have these facilities today where
people aren't worried about climbing up and down stairs, like in a home.
That's why I wanted to bring up seniors in this one way here today.
In my riding of Simcoe North, I have two constituency offices. We have a lot
of walk-in traffic. One of the key things I've always maintained is that no
matter where my offices were in Midland and Orillia, they had to be
handicapped-accessible, to have access for people with wheelchairs. I can
tell you, it's amazing, even to this day, how many people have come into my
office voicing concerns. Again, they don't come in concerned about
accessibility; they're concerned about other issues they face in the
community. But if it's something that members in this House have a problem
with, if you don't have accessibility, that's one thing I think we all
should do: Make sure that all 103 members' constituency offices have access
for people with wheelchairs and with disabilities. It's very, very important
to have that giant step taken forward.
There are a couple of other positive things I want to mention before I go on
to a couple of negative things, and I know I'm running out of time really
quickly. The Ontario Provincial Police -- I was at a function just a week
ago, and one of the recipients of an honours award was a gentleman working
with the OPP. He was receiving an award, and he is hearing-impaired. I was
so pleased that the Ontario Provincial Police at the honours awards night at
Hawk Ridge Golf and Country Club made sure they had an interpreter for his
hearing impairment. She was at that event and did the whole event for him. I
complimented the commissioner on the fact that she cared so much that this
I just wanted to say one other thing here very briefly, to compliment an
individual, Mr Albert Stein, chair of the board of directors for the Simcoe
County Association for the Physically Disabled. I want to compliment him on
the good work he has done in the region of Simcoe county.
I only have five minutes left and I want to get down to a couple of quick
points. My concerns with the bill -- even on the phase-in, there are a few
places where I think we're going to have trouble. If we phase in the private
sector over the next 20 years, there are still businesses, even after 20
years, where there may be problems. I'm thinking of things like bed and
breakfasts. There are literally thousands of bed and breakfasts throughout
our province. Many of them are old, old homes, and it would be very, very
expensive to add elevators -- not necessarily ramps, but the elevators will
be very expensive to add to some of these homes.
I think one of the things we have to look at is that if we're expecting the
private sector to adhere to all the laws for the physically disabled,
there's going to have to be some assistance from the government -- some
grants, some loans, you name it -- because in some cases, the cost of an
elevator, for example, to go from the ground level to the second floor is
$25,000 or $30,000. They just don't make enough money to ever pay for that
with a two-bedroom or a four-bedroom bed and breakfast. And yet we don't
want to lose those people in our province either. So that's the type of
concern I've got to begin with on that.
On the other hand, I hope that the one thing the government could do, and
the minister can lead with this in her comments -- things like the Ontario
Trillium Foundation, a great program. We've had a lot of assistance to some
of our facilities, and I'm really hoping that as we implement Bill 118,
programs like the Trillium Foundation can actually be expanded and possibly
have a specific area or a specific programming portion of the foundation
that we could use just for assistance for different buildings and different
organizations that are non-profit -- maybe more for churches, community
halls, so they could take advantage of money to help them replace barriers
that are there for the people with disabilities.
This bill is a giant step. I'm not saying for one second that it's going to
be an easy step. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be supporting the bill all the
way through. There are too many people whose lives can be improved upon by
making this bill law and making sure that the government and governments of
the future will provide assistance so that we can make sure that a lot of
the buildings across our province are fit physically for handling people who
One area I was going to get into, and I think it can be addressed, is a lot
of the fancy restaurants and dining rooms we have that are on second and
third floors of old houses and that sort of thing. There are going to be
some real challenges as we try to move forward. But the minister has assured
us that the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, and I'm guessing a lot of the
smaller chambers of commerce, would want to support this.
As Ontario citizens, we're a caring people. I think we want to move forward
in a positive manner, and possibly, between the government and
municipalities and private sector associations, we can help each other over
the next 20 years remove most of the barriers that are in place now so that
we can move ahead in the future.
So again, Mr Speaker, my time is winding down here. I thank you, first of
all, for allowing Mr Jackson's time to be put off until Monday night. I know
he's passionate about this. Again, I apologize to the stakeholders here
today that Mr Jackson couldn't be the leadoff, but if you can make it back
on Monday night, he'll want to talk to you. He'll give a better speech than
I did, because he knows a lot more about this particular program.
I thank everyone for listening to me today. I hope you've got some positive
responses to my comments. Again, I look forward to debate in the House. I
look forward to what committee hearings we have on it and any amendments the
opposition parties or the government may bring forth on this legislation.
With that, I thank you, and I look forward to further debate.
The Acting Speaker: It's time for questions and comments.
Ms Laurel C. Broten (Etobicoke-Lakeshore): It's my pleasure to stand and
respond to the comments made by the member for Simcoe North.
Not only is this Bill 118 a historic piece of legislation -- I think we will
all look back at the time that we've spent in the Legislature and be very
proud of the implementation of such historic legislation that will make
Ontario, as it should be, a world leader on this front -- but I also think
the coming together of all parties is reflective of a consultation process
that has brought all the communities together: the business community, the
community of advocates, of people who work in our communities each and every
day and have worked for many years to make sure that our communities are
accessible and barrier-free.
Looking at the language that's contained in the legislation, I was very
proud and am very proud to be talking about something like preventing
barriers which prevent a person from fully participating in all aspects of
society because of his or her disability. That is very inclusive language,
and I think it's language that we will see, if we all work together -- as is
apparent from the discussion today, yes, there are going to be issues that
we need to resolve, and yes, there are going to be those small businesses
that we need to work with, but the consultation process, where we're
bringing communities together to establish those standards, will at the end
of the day make all of us, in all of Ontario, feel very proud and feel part
of this process. My colleague from Etobicoke Centre talked about the need to
educate, as did the minister who is bringing forward this legislation. A
consultation process, an inclusion process, will make all Ontarians feel
proud to be a world leader and feel that they have been part of this
historic progression in our province.
Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa):I very much appreciate the opportunity to
comment on the member for Simcoe North's remarks regarding Bill 118. Of
course, he mentioned some aspect of the Trillium fund. In our local riding,
the Trillium fund has been very successful in upgrading particularly a lot
of service clubs or organizations as such for either ramps or elevators. I
know locally the 420 Wing is currently in the process of utilizing Trillium
funds, or trying to, to make washrooms accessible. But this is something
that we as a community need to focus on and move forward on.
I sat in on a vision plan locally with the community of Oshawa, where I was
with Mr Pigden. His job is to go around to the various parts of the city,
identifying curbs. This is quite extensive when you look at even curbs as
being accessible for scooters in that aspect. Every year, the city of Oshawa
expands the number of curbs that are scooter accessible. They go into the
great details about the angles and the ramps and those sorts of things.
I know that groups like the Masons are very active in Oshawa in providing
guide dogs in a number of aspects for individuals with vision-impaired
disabilities. In my own family tree, a lot of our family members, including
a great-uncle and an aunt of mine, lost their vision through genetics. I
know that shortly I'll have to take care to make sure that it doesn't hit me
or my family.
Aspects of this are very important to the community in moving forward in a
very positive way, and I commend the minister for moving forward with this,
and the member from Simcoe North for his comments.
There are certain aspects about the 20-year phase-in plan. What about when
the change of ownership takes place with facilities, and any possibility for
upgrades at that time, as part of the conditions of sales and other things
that could be looked at? I know that there will be a lot further debate, and
I look forward to committee on this very important bill.
Mr Pat Hoy (Chatham-Kent Essex): I'm pleased to rise and make a few comments
about Bill 118.
I suspect many of us know persons who can avail themselves of an enhanced
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. I have an aunt who
neither hears nor speaks, and I am so very proud of her. I will be kind and
just say that she's into her 70s now, but it was a different day for her
some time ago. We didn't have the learning tools that we have now. Imagine
someone who neither hears nor speaks, but her grammar, her writing, her
English is perfect. I've proofread her letters for her on occasions, and her
enunciation and her prose are better than mine.
My Aunt Loretta took care of me as a youth. She kept house, and I think she
did an excellent job. At least with me, she had a real challenge there,
trying to ensure that this young rascal did indeed make something of himself
in the future. I asked her one time, how is it that people who are
hearing-impaired know when their children are crying, their young babes are
crying at night? This is what they had to do years ago. They slept with
their arms in the bed, and when the crib would shake with that crying, they
realized that the babe needed help. Now we have devices that do that --
electronic devices, doorbells that turn lights on in the home -- but it was
much different then, my point here being that we moved from a time of
sleeping with one's hand in the bed to having devices that alert us to a
Surely, this bill should move all Ontarians, businesses, communities around
the province into a new age, a modern age of the 21st century. I'm pleased
that the minister has introduced Bill 118.
Mr Bob Delaney (Mississauga West): I'm pleased to add my voice in this
debate. It recalls to me the election of 1999 when a gentleman drove up in a
van and introduced himself. His name was Chris Portelli, and if he's
watching, I send Chris Portelli my greetings. Chris was the man who first
introduced me to the issue of Ontarians with disabilities.
As a government, it's important that those of us who routinely take for
granted our ability simply to get out of our cars, walk into the building,
go upstairs and then walk down here, realize how much those who can't do
these things rely upon us to give them a hand to participate as full equals
in our society. Although one may not be able to get around or may not have
the use of their sight or their hearing, in many cases we're dealing with
people who have an active mind and a terrific imagination.
This act, if passed -- and I hope this sentiment echoes as "once passed" --
extends, to the ladies and gentlemen who represent Ontarians with
disabilities, a chance to join our society in many more ways than they have
now as full and equal partners.
I know that I'll be supporting this particular bill. I urge my colleagues to
do the same. This is the act that will allow people to participate at work,
to participate in recreation, and to join those who are fortunate enough to
have been born of sound bodies, and to consider themselves full Ontarians in
The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member from Simcoe North in
Mr Dunlop: I'd like to thank the members for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Oshawa,
Chatham-Kent-Essex and Mississauga West for their comments on my little
The minister mentioned in her remarks looking back in the future and what an
important piece of legislation this would be. I really hope that as we get
older -- and many of us won't be here -- if we look back in 20 or 25 years,
we will say that this was really a no-brainer at that time; that we needed
this legislation and it was done, and we can hardly believe society existed
without this legislation previous to that. That way, we will know we got
this legislation right.
As I said earlier, I don't know if this is the final step in making this a
barrier-free or completely accessible province, but my guess is that if it's
implemented properly, if it's phased in properly, if there's proper
assistance for, in some cases, the private sector and, in other cases,
nonprofit and also public facilities, it should go a long way to helping the
people with physical disabilities in our province. I think that's our role
in Parliament. If we don't do it here, if we can't make it a success here,
then who is going to do it?
With that, I thank all the people who responded to my 20-minute speech. I
look forward to listening to the NDP and their comments following me.
The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member from Trinity-Spadina.
Mr Marchese: I'll be speaking for a little while on Bill 118. I'm happy to
have this time.
New Democrats support this bill, but I've got to tell you, it's with robust
reservations that we do it. When the member from Etobicoke-Lakeshore says,
"This is an historic piece of legislation," I don't know if I would say
"historic." To say "historic," it sounds like it's really, really big. It
sounds like you have really solved the problems of people with disabilities.
And I've got to tell you, I'm sorry, the bill doesn't do that. So I wouldn't
call it historic. I would see it as a modest bill that some people will like
and that some people who come from the disability movement will criticize. I
happen to be one who says that this is an OK bill, but it doesn't go as far
as I certainly would like and as far as many with disabilities would like.
We know that about 15% of the population here in Ontario has a disability of
sorts, and we know that they face numerous barriers in gaining access to and
fully participating in important activities such as jobs, access to
information, communication, education at all levels, public transit, and the
use of goods, services and facilities that the general public usually
We understand those challenges, because when we introduced employment equity
in the early 1990s, we faced tremendous opposition. That was historic. When
you have so many people challenging you, including the Conservative Party
and the Liberal Party, and many, many people in the community saying, "This
is wrong" -- that was an historic bill. That tells you how controversial the
measures were that we introduced and why many were challenging it.
Why did we introduce employment equity at the time? We knew there were
target groups that faced discrimination on a regular basis. We had
established, as is common knowledge in the field of discrimination, that
there were four groups that had to deal with issues of discrimination: There
were women, people of colour, aboriginal people and people with
I think it was a fact. I think most people understand that it is a fact.
Maybe many might not want to understand it, might want to pretend it's not
an issue that we have to deal with, or that those groups are dealing with or
would have to deal with or will have to deal with for an eternity. Many
would rather hide from facing this issue, but we dealt with it.
We know aboriginal people face discrimination daily and have faced it
historically, and they will continue to have to deal with discrimination for
a long, long time. I don't know how they suffer the issues of poverty and
the issues of disabilities and the issues of having to deal with a legacy of
alcoholism that we, as Europeans, passed on to them. That's one tough legacy
to leave. It is one tough problem to escape. It is something you deal with
day in and day out, year in and year out, decade after decade.
People of colour face this issue all the time. Many politicians would prefer
not to talk about the issue of racism and about the issue of discrimination,
but we know that they face it, and people of colour know that they face it
daily. While it might be comfortable for those of us who don't face similar
discrimination to simply pretend we are all equal, that is not the case.
The Conservative Party used to say that we were all equal and that we didn't
need employment equity. The Conservative Party at the time called employment
equity measures "quotas," as a way of mobilizing opposition against it. They
were very effective and it worked.
We know that people with disabilities face discrimination daily, regularly,
everywhere. What we tried to do through employment equity was to provide a
measure of redress in law, because we knew that voluntary measures do not
work, did not work and will not work.
But having to face the attacks from the Conservative Party that we were
dealing with a quota bill, that we shouldn't be introducing these Big
Brother kinds of measures, that we are all equal under the law, and that if
anybody had any problem they could go to the human rights commission and
deal with it -- that's not the way to deal with issues of discrimination. We
all know how hard it is to take an issue to the human rights commission, and
I will speak to that in a few moments.
But many argued, as we introduced this bill into the Legislature, in
committee that we should be dealing with issues of hiring practices on the
basis of merit and nothing else. I remember the Liberals arguing that as
well. I remember the Tories arguing that. In my view that was code for
saying we can continue to discriminate, that when you base hiring on the
basis of merit it's code for saying that, all things being equal, we will
hire someone who is white over someone who is black, as opposed to all
things being equal, we should hire someone who is a person of colour because
we know discrimination exists.
We had one heck of a time. That was historic: facing Liberals daily here in
the Legislature, facing Tories daily in this Legislature, facing communities
out there that believed the message from the Conservative Party that we were
dealing with quotas -- ie, they were going to hire people on the basis of
how many people of colour there are, how many aboriginal people of colour
there are -- and that all of a sudden people of colour will get the jobs and
other white people will not get the jobs; aboriginal people will get the
jobs and other white able-bodied people will not; people with disabilities
will get the jobs and other white able-bodied people will not. We had to
deal with that daily.
It didn't make the Liberals flinch at the time; it didn't make the Tories
flinch at the time. No, we had to do it alone. Not one Liberal at the time
stood beside us and with us to defend it -- not one Liberal. It was tough.
That was the time that we could have used a modest alliance from Liberals,
who, from time to time, claim they have a heart on these matters, as they do
today. Boy, could we have used them then. When the onslaught came on a
regular basis, we couldn't turn to one of them to say, "Help us out" -- no
Today we have introduction of a bill from the Liberals, and so proudly they
say, "Oh, so historic. Oh, aren't we so happy. Oh, aren't we doing the best
thing that we could do," and on and on. It's tiring. It exhausts me, I've
got to tell you, just to listen to it.
If I hadn't had that experience of dealing with employment equity, I might
have felt differently, and I might have said, "This is a good thing; this is
really good." But having had the experience of introducing employment equity
in this place and having had not one Liberal stand up to defend it --
because why? They were afraid? Because why? At the time they couldn't defend
the issue of employment equity? Because why? They wanted to defend the
Conservative message on hiring on the basis of merit? They couldn't stand up
on the issue of the whole matter when we were saying, "If you've got in one
community these kinds of employers and you have this kind of a makeup or a
distribution of a community that represents" -- I don't know; people of
colour are in the order of 15% to 20% to 30% of them living in that
community. What we were saying then was that employers should hire the
makeup of that community, and not on the basis of quota but on the basis of
targets that one can move in, that we could defend, that were defensible,
that allowed the employer to move in that direction and that allowed a
modicum of respect and a modicum of respite for those who face the
challenges of getting into that workplace.
As we know, these target groups -- people with disabilities, aboriginal
people, people of colour -- are the last ones to be hired and the first to
be fired. That's the reality. And while it is true that women have made
tremendous gains in the last 20, 30, 40 years, they still make 70% of wages
of men. Many women are still behind men in terms of who gets hired in many
of the workplaces. That is still the case. Yes, they made gains, but not as
far as they can and as they should, based on their abilities.
So yes, we felt it a duty as a government to introduce legislation, because
we knew that voluntary measures do not work. Try as you might with the
legislation that the Tories introduced many, many years ago, it was all too
voluntary, lacking in enforcement mechanisms. No one was obliged to do
anything. What kind of a bill was that to present to people with
People with disabilities face tremendous barriers. Yes, we know that. So the
point for me is, does this bill go far enough? Disabled Ontarians have
waited a long time for accessibility, and this bill will leave them waiting
even longer. Will they accept that? I suspect there will be some people with
disabilities who will say, "This is better than a kick in the teeth. Let's
accept it, because it moves us in the right direction." But I am one who
says, this is not a bold step; this is not a bold action. This is a very
cautious bill designed not to offend the general public, not to offend
employers, and one that tries not to offend people with disabilities in a
way that would turn them against this government. I am sure government
members are calling people they know, where there are organizations of
people with disabilities, saying, "Work with us. Try not to criticize us. We
know this is not a great bill." I suspect this is being said: "We know it's
not a great bill, but work with us. We're going to try to make it the best
we possibly can." I know this is what's happening, and I know that a lot of
organizations are going to buy into that. What else can they do?
So we are presented with this bill that attempts to build on the 11
principles that were adopted by this Legislature in 1998. I want to try to
review some of those principles, state what was said in 1998, and speak to,
as briefly as I can, where I believe the failings of this bill are as they
are premised on those 11 principles.
In 1998, the Legislature adopted a resolution on the principles that would
be embodied in an Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and one of them was that,
"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," this House resolves that "the Ontarians with Disabilities
Act should embody the following principles:
"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
The current legislation sets a goal of a barrier-free Ontario within 20
years. That's what this legislation does; that's what this legislation says.
Is this really as short a time as possible?
Linda Crabtree, co-chair of the mayor's advisory committee on accessibility
for the city of St Catharines, says the following: "A lot of us will be dead
in 20 years -- most of us will be dead. We can't wait 20 years. It's better
than nothing, that's for sure. But to phase it in over 20 years -- we need
some real action now."
Do you understand the problem? I understand what she's saying. Liberals say
that this is an historic document. Linda Crabtree says, "You're going to
implement this bill and it's going to take 20 years to implement it? Twenty
years? If I'm 60, I'll be 80, and if I'm 50, I'll be 70. If I'm 70, I'll be
90. Maybe I'll be able to benefit from this; I don't know." What Linda is
saying is, "I might be dead in 20 years."
The Liberals are saying, "We understand that nature will take its course and
that some people, quite inexorably, will die. There's nothing we can do
about it. And sorry, yes, you have to wait 20 years because that's what we
say. We can't do it any better, we can't go any faster, because that's just
the Liberal way. We need to take a whole lot of time to do this, and no, we
can't do it any faster because we just don't know how to do it any faster.
Yes, it takes 20 years to consult with people because, as the minister said,
standards must be negotiated, and the partners will set the standards."
I thought it was the job of governments to set the standards. I thought it
was the job of governments to be bold and not hide, in my humble view, from
the notion that we are doing this together, and that those people with
disabilities have to help to create the standards. It seems to me that the
minister is hiding behind some process in order to achieve a goal that could
be set by government. In my view, this is a failure to act. In my view, this
is a fear of acting. So when Liberals stand up to say that this is
historical, I don't want to crack up, obviously, because this is a serious
issue, but it's hard to contain myself. Speaker, you understand. I'm trying
to contain myself because you've got to be respectful, as best as you can.
This bill doesn't do it.
It says that the current legislation sets a goal of a barrier-free Ontario
within 20 years. Is this really as short a time as possible? No, it's not.
This is not right. And why is it that we want it to go to committee? We want
it to go to committee so we can see whether Linda Crabtree is correct in her
assessment of this bill; whether she and others have the view that we can't
wait 20 years or whether people with disabilities are saying, "That's OK.
That's as best as we can accomplish. We'll work with what we've got."
If, at the end of it, people say that's OK, then in spite of the criticisms
we have, which are rather robust, we will submit to it and wait, like them.
It's hard for me to adjudicate or judge their opinions on the basis that, if
they are suffering a disability, I should say it's not good that they should
wait 20 years. But if they're willing to wait 20 years, I'm willing to work
with that. So we want hearings, and I'll speak to that in a little while.
"The Ontarians with Disabilities Act's requirements should supersede" --
that's another one of the 11 principles -- "all other legislation,
regulations or policies which either conflict with it, or which provide
lesser protections and entitlements to persons with disabilities." Speaker,
you're a lawyer; you understand this. Some people don't. This act would
supersede anything else that is currently in place in any other legislation
or bill. That's what one of the 11 principles states. The government,
however, is doing the following. Section 3 of the bill states that this is
not the case for this bill: "Nothing in this act" -- meaning Bill 118 -- "or
in the regulations diminishes in any way the legal obligations of the
government of Ontario or of any person or organization with respect to
persons with disabilities that are imposed under any other act or otherwise
imposed by law."
It's all legal stuff. It's all legal stuff saying that, in spite of that
principle that I enumerated, we go on as we always did; that this act will
not override other acts, will not supersede them; that we will continue as
we always have. Even if there are problems, challenges, discrimination and
the like, we go on.
Mr Ramal: That's not correct, Mr Marchese.
Mr Marchese: The parliamentary assistant says what I'm saying is not
correct, although I just read for him what his bill says. He's saying,
"That's not correct." But I stand to be corrected; there's no doubt about
it. I'm not a lawyer. I know there are some members on the other side who
are, and they'll be able to speak to that. That's OK.
I go on. Another one of the 11 principles articulated in 1998: "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."
While the bill does promise time frames to be established by regulation, we
don't know what those regulations will be, whether they will be truly strict
or not, or real guarantees about what they will be at all. We have no clue.
We are only left with the government saying, "This is historic"; we're only
left with government saying, "We're doing this in partnership." What those
time frames will be, we don't have a clue. We can only wait and hope for the
Is that good enough? I don't know. Maybe it's good for organizations who are
dealing with these issues, but at the moment, in terms of our reading of
this bill, we've got some serious concerns.
I go on to speak about other principles articulated in 1998: "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, eg, governments. Providers of these goods, services and
facilities should be required to devise and implement detailed plans to
remove existing barriers within legislated timetables."
The government, it is true, has put out, ministry by ministry, accessibility
plans in anticipation of this bill, but a quick look at them shows that they
are far from being "detailed plans to remove existing barriers within
For example, we observed the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities
say that its 2003-04 commitment to review the youth marketing initiative for
their recruitment of young people into the Ontario public service to
identify any barriers has been deferred. I'm telling you, this is going to
take a whole long time, it seems. Unless you truly commit to dealing with
barriers, it's going to take forever. When they are virtually voluntary,
it's going to take a long time. That's why Linda Crabtree is so worried that
she says, "People like me might be dead by the time something happens."
We've got to push this. If we are not committed to seriously pushing it to
make it happen, it will be delayed for a long time and it will languish.
Another principle: "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
Yes, we think the act may do this, but it may not. It depends on the
regulations set by the minister. We are not convinced that these things will
happen as they appear. All things are not as they seem. So much will depend
on regulation, based on what the minister of the day may or may not want to
achieve, or by a change of government that may or may not deal with this in
a more timely way. So much depends on the minister deciding to push the
elephant a little bit or not to push it.
Continuing a little bit with the principles agreed in 1998: "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."
Boy, is that ever true. Just speaking to that briefly, how many individuals
do we know who have tried to take on the Ontario Human Rights Commission on
an issue of discrimination? We have known and know today that it takes
anywhere from six months to a year to two years to three years to never
solving the problem. How well we know how ineffective this is.
The requirement to file is so cumbersome and so involving that individuals
simply do not have the strength or the resources to take their matter of
discrimination to the human rights commission. That is why so many of them
fail. So while the Tories used to say, "If you feel discriminated against,
you can take it to the human rights commission," it doesn't work because it
relies on individuals to take the initiative. How many individuals out there
have the strength, the wherewithal, the money to be able to take something
like that on? They don't.
We are not equal in society. We are not all equal. We are not all born with
equal conditions, though we all should be entitled to. We are literally born
unequal in so many ways, because if you don't have a disability, you're a
little more equal than somebody else. If you have some money or a lot of
money, you're a lot more equal than many others, and boy, there are a lot of
billionaires in this country, there are a lot of billionaires in the US, and
we're producing more and more billionaires. They are more equal than me,
more equal than people with disabilities, more equal than aboriginal
peoples, more equal than people of colour, because with money you can do so
much and you can buy so much. We are not all equal.
While obviously we support the human rights commission as an institution, we
decry the cuts the Conservative Party made and the cuts the Liberals have
made here as well in this regard. We need more people at the human rights
commission to deal with issues, not fewer people, and we need to deal with
systemic problems, not individual problems. You cannot solve issues that
have a huge impact on people's lives on a one-to-one basis. We need to
tackle this systemically.
I know the Liberals are proud of this initiative. They think this is one of
the ways they're dealing with it, and I'm saying it falls, oh, so short.
The act succeeds in this in part, but it relies heavily on inspectors --
speaking to one of those principles -- hired by the ministry to enforce this
law. Given the cuts faced by ministries under this government, it remains to
be seen whether there will be enough inspectors to enforce the law.
We are profoundly worried every time this government says, "We will enforce
it by hiring more inspectors." This government claims they have two
priorities, and those are health and education. Then they say, "Because
we're so concerned about these two particular ones, we may have to and we
will engage in cutting money from other ministries." Many of you are
familiar with the fact that when people apply for a marriage certificate, it
takes months. It could take a year. If you're applying for a birth
certificate, it takes months. In most cases it takes a year.
Mr Ramal: We fixed it.
Mr Marchese: The parliamentary assistant to this minister says, "We fixed
it." He doesn't have a clue about this, otherwise he wouldn't say it because
the problem is not fixed; the problem continues. The waiting lists are as
long as they were six months ago. People languish waiting. If we're going to
wait for enforcement to happen by this government by hiring more inspectors,
I don't think it's coming. It won't be there because this government is
modernizing, which is a euphemism for cutting a lot more programs that so
many people rely on.
Ministries are going to have to face 5% to 10% to 15% cuts in order for the
government to be able to manage their promises. I remind people that if you
believe this government has solved the issues of education and health, you
have another think coming, because they haven't solved them. The problems
I've tried to show some of the inadequacies of what this government is doing
as it relates to education, and my colleague, Shelley Martel, is doing it
with health. As we show that there are tremendous inadequacies in what this
government is doing in terms of dealing with their priorities, imagine what
will happen with all those other ministries that are not their priority.
Their modernization, which means cutting, will be felt by many people
expecting services that were cut tremendously by the former government, in
the last regime, over eight years. It's going to get worse.
While some people hope that this economy will continue to go on at its rosy
pace, my view is that the next recession is going to be ugly. If some of you
were around when we were in government and witnessed the devastation on
people's lives of the recession we had, the next recession will be brutal.
Mr Mike Colle (Eglinton-Lawrence): Don't be so doom and gloom.
Mr Marchese: My colleague the member from Eglinton-Lawrence thinks this is a
gloomy picture to predict. It's nice to be realistic or pragmatic, as some
Liberals would say, from time to time. A pragmatic view from time to time
would show a recognition that we've got to anticipate the best and the
worst, wouldn't you say, Mike?
Mr Colle: Yes, but you always give the worst. Give some of the good stuff.
Mr Marchese: Michael's going to stand up soon and give us a rosy picture of
how beautiful things are.
Mr Colle: You ought to give some balance.
Mr Marchese: I know, but it's not for me to give the balance. My role --
Mr Marchese: Not for me, no. This is a territory occupied fully by Liberals.
It's hard to displace you from that role. You guys are so rooted on that
fence, it's hard for me to tip you off that fence. I understand that. I know
that some of you are smiling. The smile is a reflection of a reality and a
truth: that you guys occupy this fence and you're rooted there all the time.
That's why you can't go here or there at any one particular time. That's why
you've got to sort of address all sides and hope that people will think this
bill is historic.
Hon David Caplan (Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal): It is.
Mr Marchese: It is, yes. You've got to stand up and say that because you've
got your lines written up. Most of you have your lines written up. It tells
you, "It's historic -- just say that. Paint a rosy picture so everybody out
there will be happy. The people we want most to be happy are people with
disabilities. We do not want them to believe this bill is anything but great
Those are the people they're reaching out to, that they need on their side,
because if they don't have them on their side, this bill doesn't go
With respect to employers, I don't see employers knocking on our door
saying, "We won't be able to deal with this. This is going to kill us. This
is going to kill our economy." While some Conservatives are raising this
issue, in terms of "We've got to work with employers to address some of
their concerns," it's all very polite, you'll notice. I noticed that the
member from Simcoe North talked about the fact that some employers may have
some concerns, some financial needs in order to deal with some of the issues
presented in this bill, but it was presented in a very modest sort of way.
It wasn't really fearful or frightening. It was a rather rosy picture.
I tell you this, if the Conservatives speak of this in terms of, "You know,
there might be some challenges. We've got to deal with this. We've got to
address them," then this bill hardly goes to the extremes that the Liberals
claim. If it was as radical and historic as they say, you'd have the
Conservative Party members, through the business voice out there, which they
represent rather strongly -- they would be here saying, "You've got to
oppose this bill and oppose it strongly," and that's what they would be
doing. Well, they're not doing that. They are all very gentle supporters of
this bill. If they are gentle supporters of this bill, it means the business
community is happy, which means this bill is very modest in terms of the
approach they take to dealing with these issues.
So I have spoken to some of the 11 principles that were adopted in 1998 and
to at least five of them as a way of showing that there are some serious
We believe this needs a public debate. We support it, indeed, and we will
not be obstructing it in any way. We have no interest in obstructing, and we
have an interest in making sure it gets passed if this is a priority of the
government. What we do want are hearings. This bill cannot pass in this way
without hearing from those who have the expertise, from those who have been
victims of discrimination for a long, long time. We want to hear from
organizations, and from individuals in particular, about how they feel about
Bill 118. At the end of the day, based on what they say, we will be guided
This is a modest measure, a modest bill. It would be very difficult for me
to oppose it, but we have introduced robust reservations. I have put them on
the record, and we will do so when this bill gets into committee. Thank you
for your attention.
The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?
Mr Wayne Arthurs (Pickering-Ajax-Uxbridge): I have just a couple of minutes
or so to make a couple of comments. I think there are some important
elements. I think to take action immediately upon proclamation is important.
I think it's a reference point. It's not proclamation and kind of get around
to it. In spite of the long time frame for implementation for all elements,
public and private sector engagement in all facets, given its magnitude,
will take a considerable amount of time, probably longer, I suspect, at the
end of the day than any of us in this Legislature would like to see happen.
But nonetheless, there is a certain urgency expressed in the legislation
once proclamation occurs.
I have to reflect for a moment on the time it takes on occasion to identify
issues and find strategies to fix them. I had the pleasure in 1990 as a
mayor to open a new city hall and library complex. After we were in there,
we found things within the first six months that rather surprised and
shocked us. I'm just going to talk about the physical disability, the
mobility issues, as opposed to all the other challenges that people with
We couldn't get in the library with a wheelchair through the front doors
effectively, because the doors pulled open. They weren't electrified to
slide open, and someone in a wheelchair couldn't possibly manage those
doors. You couldn't get in the washrooms, because the washroom doors had
been built too small. Around the building you couldn't get on the sidewalk,
because in the overall design and finalizing of sidewalk construction -- the
contractors -- there were no provisions for any slopes from the corner of
the sidewalk down to the roadway. That was a municipal building with all of
these challenges, and those got resolved, but they didn't get resolved on
day one; they got resolved over a year or so. That is an example of why it
will take some time for the private sector to respond effectively well.
Mr Dunlop: I'm pleased to rise again this afternoon to make a few comments.
I'm hearing from the member for Trinity-Spadina, who is looking at this in a
-- I guess I'm a little more positive about the bill right now. I think he
maybe has some reservations about the bill at this point, and he may well be
right on with this. I'm hoping we can work together, whatever governments
are in power over the next 20 years, to try to get this phased in. I think
it really is important that we work in a non-partisan manner to make sure
this legislation is implemented in a timely manner.
That may mean, as I said earlier, some opportunities to work with some of
the grant programs we have even today to enhance them even more. That would
be things like the Ontario Trillium Foundation, which has already done some
great work out there in some of our community halls and non-profit
organizations in terms of making things better in those areas. There may
also be some assistance required by the chambers of commerce, or economic
development. I don't know what those programs would be right now. I want to
make sure that we make sure that for the people who have disabilities, we as
a society treat them properly and make sure the access they have is clear
I know there are going to be some areas when very small businesses are going
to have a difficult time, and that's where I think we may need some
assistance from the government. Maybe, in this case, even the federal
government can support some of the actions of a province that's taking what
I would consider to be a leading role in this cause.
Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): It is always a pleasure to hear my colleague
from Trinity-Spadina. Let me reinforce what he said, and I guess I want to
put it in this context. A couple of years ago there were a number of
disabled folks in my community who were in wheelchairs. They staged a bit of
a demonstration out in front of one of the local theatres. It was one of the
theatres that was being used for the Cinefest that now occurs in our
community in September. They were out there making it very clear to the
media and to the public generally that they didn't think it was very fair
that they couldn't come and access the Cinefest festival because this
particular theatre that was being used was not accessible.
What is interesting is that what has changed here is that the theatre has
actually closed, so now they don't have to worry about it any more. I raise
that because, another 20 years -- please. I say to the government members, I
just find it hard to define this as a historic day when essentially what
we're saying to people is, "It's going to be another 20 years before you can
expect to participate fully in the economic and social fabric of Ontario."
I've got to tell you, I think 20 years is too long to ask people who have
waited for a long time already to wait to be able to participate fully in
the social and economic fabric of Ontario.
I think of those folks sitting outside that theatre with their placards who
were unable to participate in this event because the theatre was not
wheelchair accessible. What are we doing telling them, "Wait another 20
years and maybe another theatre will be accessible"? I hope we have public
hearings and I hope that through the public hearings we'll hear from people
who will say, "We can do better than 20 years." That's what I really hope is
going to happen here.
Mr Ramal: I have the pleasure and honour to stand up again and speak about
this very important issue. I want to repeat, it is a very historic day for
all the people in this province, especially for the people with
I was listening to the members from Trinity-Spadina and Nickel Belt when
they were talking about and minimizing the power of this bill. I believe it
is insulting for the ODA committee, who worked for the last 10 years. We had
many of them present here when we introduced second reading of this bill.
I would repeat what David Lepofsky had to say: "Mr McGuinty has made a
series of promises and with this bill he's kept them all. He promised he
would work with the disability community, the business community and the
municipalities to develop the law. He did that.... He said he'd introduce a
bill within the first year. He did that.... He said the bill would fix the
major problems with the Conservatives' weak bill, and it does."
Time and again our government worked with all the people with respect to the
opinions about this bill, and the ODA Committee worked hard for a long time
to establish a strong bill alongside our minister, who has a passion about
the people with disabilities.
I want to remind you, Mr Speaker, ... (French passage omitted)
This is our mission, that every person can have accessibility, that every
person can go anywhere without any barrier. This is our goal. This bill
speaks to it. We're not saying 20 years to start implementing it. We'll
start implementing this bill when everybody has agreed on it and we pass it
in this place; then that bill would take place. We're talking about 20 years
for it to be fully implemented. That's what I want to say to the public of
The Acting Speaker: Response by the member from Trinity-Spadina.
Mr Marchese: I thank my friends and say that disabled Ontarians have waited
a long time for accessibility, and this bill will leave them waiting even
longer. It's the Liberal way: You go slowly, at a snail's pace, don't offend
anyone, and then claim, "It's historic. This is really, really big." It's
the Liberal way to be timid but pretend you're really bold. It's the Liberal
way to say, "We're working on this legislation with the people affected,
with the partners," rather than saying, "We're too afraid to act."
This is an excuse not to act. This is a failure to act. This is the fear to
act. This is all about consulting to death, in my humble view. This is about
establishing accessibility standards that can go on and on. It's about
talking about the process of the development of those standards, which can
go on and on. That's what that is about. If people are happy to engage in
this process, great. If they're happy at the end of the day and say, "We're
happy to engage in this process, and it might take a long time," that's
great. Our duty is to point out the weaknesses of this bill, and they are,
in our view, profound.
We want public hearings. In our view, people cannot wait 20 years. We think
that a lot of people agree with us out there, and that's why we need to hear
from them. We will have the debate in this House. We will take it to
committee hearings, and we will go wherever you want, to listen to both
organizations and individuals and determine whether this bill is historic or
whether it's deficient, whether they can wait 20 years or whether they
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Ms Kathleen O. Wynne (Don Valley West): I find, in this job, that it's not
always self-evident, before one enters a debate or thinks about a particular
issue in depth, which issues are going to touch the core and which aren't. I
realize that this is one that is very -- the concern for it runs very deep
with me. I'm going to talk a little bit about where that comes from.
First, I want to acknowledge two of my constituents. I don't know if they're
watching today, but if they are, then I'm speaking to them: Audrey King and
Sharon Dever. They're two of my constituents who really have informed my
thinking about this issue. They've been talking to me for many months about
this issue. The way they live their lives helps me to understand the issue
I think it's very difficult for any of us who aren't dealing with a
particular issue, whatever it is, to understand people who are dealing with
life issues other than the ones we have to cope with. So I think that one of
the struggles for us in this Legislature is to write legislation that
actually reflects the needs of the people who need it. The issue of whether
there will be public hearings, the issue of our consultation with the sector
as we put the standards in place -- those are all ways that we have to
demonstrate that we are going to do our very best to write a piece of
legislation and to refine this piece of legislation so that it meets the
needs of the people who are living the realities of people with
disabilities, whether those disabilities are visible or invisible.
I think that this whole issue of legislation around people with disabilities
is a human struggle, and I think we all have to acknowledge that, of course,
the best time to have fixed this would have been years ago. The best time to
have planted a tree would have been 40 years ago, because then you'd have a
very large tree at this point.
Unfortunately, here we are: 2004. We have to move forward. Some of the
accusations that are coming at us from the members across the floor are that
we're moving too slowly, that we're not moving quickly enough --
Ms Wynne: Mr Speaker, I'm just going to sit.
The Acting Speaker: We'll recess for about 10 minutes.
The House recessed from 1728 to 1735.
The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member from Don Valley West.
Ms Wynne: As I was saying, we need right now, in 2004, to move from where we
are, to move forward. Bill 118 is An Act respecting the development,
implementation and enforcement of standards relating to accessibility with
respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings
and all other things specified in the act for persons with disabilities.
What this act will do is put standards in place. It will develop standards
that will allow Ontario to become more accessible, will force Ontario to
become more accessible. If we believe in the human rights of all Ontarians,
then we must do our part. What Minister Bountrogianni is doing is she is
leading this province to be more accessible, leading this province to a more
These standards will be set in close co-operation with persons with
disabilities, with sector representatives, with other ministries. It will be
a large discussion about what those standards should be.
There will be tough penalties for non-compliance. The issue of compliance is
the one that has been brought up to me over and over again by people in the
sector. It's all very well to have fine words, but if there are no
standards, if there is no time frame and if there are no consequences for
non-compliance, then the bill has no teeth, the legislation has no teeth.
I want to read from an article by Linda Crabtree. She talks about
"Politician Warmed Cockles of My Little Advocate Heart," speaking about
Minister Bountrogianni. She's talking about this piece of legislation, and
what she says is, "As it stands now, it has teeth -- deadlines ... and fines
-- but it is also fair." So I think it's pretty clear that there is
widespread support for this legislation, and, I expect, from all sides of
I want to talk a little bit about my personal interaction with this whole
area. Some of my earliest memories come from a time when there was, believe
me, no legislation in place that forced anybody to have accessible
workplaces or accessible facilities. I grew up in Richmond Hill. My father
was a family practitioner, and he practised in a place at one point called
the Villa, and it was a senior citizens' facility. In the back of the senior
citizens' facility there were a few rooms where young people with severe
disabilities were housed. There were no services for them; there were no
vans to take them on outings; there were no programs for them.
One day, when my dad was doing his rounds in this institution, he heard some
singing from one of the rooms. He came home and talked about this young
woman who had muscular dystrophy. Her name was Bev, and she had a lovely
My mom was a professional singer, looking after four kids at home at the
time, but she decided that what she was going to do was go into this
facility and work with some of these young people who were 17, 18, 19 years
old and see if they might want to take some singing lessons, might want to
work with her.
What happened was that she and a woman named Jessie Passmore, who was a
pianist, developed a group. They were called the Villatones. They travelled
around the province. They fought for funding to buy a van so they could go
and do radio shows in small towns around the province. It changed their
lives that they had some people who were willing to build on some of the
talents they had and work with them.
That was a tiny, individual example. There was no systemic support for
people who needed the kind of support those young people needed. These were
young people who had had diving accidents or who had been born with
disabilities, and there just were not services in the community for them.
Not only were there not services, but they couldn't go into restaurants,
they couldn't go into public buildings and they couldn't go into private
businesses, because there was no way in.
Obviously, we've come a long way from there. We have much more recognition
in the community of the needs of people with disabilities, but we've got a
long way to go, and that's what this legislation signals, that we've got to
put these standards in place, we've got to be clear about what they are,
we've got to be clear about what the compliance is, and we've got to put a
timeline in place.
I was talking earlier of the concern about moving too slowly. The way the
bill has been set up, the first standards would be implemented no later than
five years from the creation of the committee that would set the standards,
and the standards would be reviewed every five years, or earlier.
I think what is critical for us to understand is that it is necessary to
give organizations and give people the time to realistically put the changes
in place. For us to say today, "Within five years, everything has to be done
and we have to be there," wouldn't be realistic. We would be deluding
ourselves. The community would know that it wasn't realistic.
So what we're doing is putting in realistic time frames, and what that does
is allow the sector and the people in the community to be confident that we
are serious about this. We're serious about it. We're going to make this
happen. So I think, quite the opposite of moving too slowly, we're actually
putting a realistic plan in place that's going to give confidence to the
people who most need this legislation.
As a school trustee, I spent many hours talking about how we make our
schools more accessible, how we move to a place where children could go to
the schools in their community without having to be bused somewhere else or
having nowhere to go, because there are communities in the province where
there isn't anywhere to go. There aren't accessible school buildings.
So we need to make sure that there's access for children in every part of
this province to the schools that they need to go to, to the colleges, to
the universities. That's a critical piece of this because we have got to
educate the whole province, and in order to do that, we've got to make sure
that students can get to those institutions of learning.
So I am absolutely proud and pleased to be supporting this piece of
legislation. The only way we're going to change our attitudes as a society
-- and it's all of us, because there's nobody who's free of ableism. We are
all, to some degree or another, fearful of -- we have a lack of
understanding of people who are other than we are. So the only way we're
going to change our attitudes is to make sure that we've legislated the
standards that we will all then have to accept and work toward.
Then the next generation of children, like my youngest sister, who used to
travel with my mom when she was a tiny baby, who travelled with those kids
in their wheelchairs and listened to them sing -- my younger sister is now
working as a special-needs assistant, and she has a different attitude about
people with disabilities than I do, because she grew up understanding that
people are capable of all sorts of things. It doesn't have to do with
whether they're sitting in a wheelchair or whether they can see or whether
they can hear; they're capable of all sorts of things.
And so this piece of legislation speaks to our humanity and speaks to our
vision of an Ontario that respects the humanity of all individuals.
The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?
Mr Dunlop: I just wanted to say on behalf of Mrs Munro, thank you very much
for your -- it's kind of an unfortunate little trip she made there, but
she's fine. I just wanted to say thank you very much to all members of the
House for coming to her rescue so quickly there.
I just wanted to follow through on something that the latest speaker just
mentioned, and that's the time frame. As we go forward with this
legislation, I think it's going to be the time frame that's going to be the
most controversial part of this. I kind of agree with the time frame, and
I'll tell you why.
Twenty years sounds like it's a long way off, but we all know how fast 20
years rolls around. In order to implement the type of work that will be
required on buildings, just the access that people need and all the
different resources they're going to need, I think the time is going to move
very quickly in this area.
As we've said earlier, we've come a long way in this province over the last
20 or 30 -- I'm going to say 30 -- years to remove barriers. As we proceed
over the next 20 years and put the regulations in place, I think it's going
to be hard to even achieve the goals of this bill in the 20-year period. I
think there are going to be areas where the province is going to have to
show a very strong leadership role in providing assistance, in some cases
both to the private sector and at public facilities as well.
With that, again, I will be supporting this legislation, although, like Mr
Marchese, I'm looking forward to some fairly good committee hearings on this
and positive responses from the public.
Ms Martel: I'm going to make a couple of comments in response to the
comments that were just made. I wish I could say that I am delighted to see
the legislation that is before us, and delighted to see us take a step
forward in making sure Ontario is barrier-free, but I am not delighted. In
fact, I'm pretty distressed about the fact that the best it seems we can do
as a provincial jurisdiction is to say to people, "Twenty years from now,
Ontario will finally be barrier-free and you will be able to participate
fully in the economy and social fabric of the province."
I look at the province and say to myself that you have to think that in the
province of Ontario, with the resources that we have, financial and human
resources, with the technology that is out there, we should be able to do
better than that. There should be no question of our ability to do better
than 20 years. I would hope that when you think of the economic and social
contributions that can be made by people with disabilities, that employers,
retailers and others in the community would be anxious to do better than
that, recognizing how they could benefit by making sure that Ontarians with
disabilities are able to participate fully in the economic and social life
of the province. I've just got to tell you, 20 years is so long.
There's no doubt in my mind that people who have been waiting already a long
time are going to be dead before we're done here. And is that very fair? I
hope that during the public hearings somebody's going to come forward and
say, "In a province as rich as ours, with the human and financial resources
that we have, we can do better than that."
Mr Lou Rinaldi (Northumberland):It's a pleasure to stand in this House to
support this bill. I think, of all the things that we do, when we can do
something for the less fortunate in our society, it's always a plus. This is
a real plus. We, as fairly able people who sit in this House, the majority
of us sometimes take for granted what goes on in everyday life.
A few years ago my daughter's first job was working with an organization in
the town of Cobourg that looked after adults with disabilities. It was the
first time in my life -- in my late life, I should say -- that I had the
opportunity to be more closely associated with people with disabilities.
They give you a whole new meaning. I remember my daughter saying, "We'd like
to take these folks somewhere today, Dad. We couldn't do it because.... "
or, "We'd like to go there but we can't do it because...." I think what
we're doing here, regardless of the time frame, is we're making some headway
so that these people can do what you and I or my daughter could do back
In the east end of my riding that I serve, in the municipalities of Quinte
West and Brighton, I was fortunate to be on council when we established a
transit system to serve both municipalities to deal with people with
disabilities. I was very delighted that they were part of our gasoline tax,
because they're offering public transit to the less fortunate. Every year
they have an awareness day. As a politician, or as a member of the
community, I've taken part every year. They gave me a whole new meaning on
how to work a wheelchair through the downtown of Quinte West. Even these
buses that are equipped to be accessible are a challenge.
I am so delighted that we're taking this leadership role to do something
The Acting Speaker: Thank you.
Ms Scott: It's a pleasure once again to listen to the debate and to rise on
this occasion to deal with the act. It is all about access, as the minister
said. People with disabilities need to access more of our communities. In
rural Ontario it's a special challenge. We have a lot of older buildings, a
lot of historic buildings.
I want to mention the community groups that have come together, and I'm sure
it's similar in many ridings around. They've come together and a lot of them
have applied for those Trillium grants. I was at the Trillium function last
night. They've applied for wheelchair accessibility. The Lindsay library,
for example, applied for a Trillium grant and received money so they could
make it wheelchair-accessible. A lot of the Legions are doing similar
things. So I think it's super that the Trillium program and the communities
are recognizing the needs that people with disabilities have in our ridings.
I think we've come a long way. I can remember when a lot of offices, even
elected members' offices, weren't accessible. It's been good that public
pressure has been out there and that they have worked, especially the
politicians, to make them more wheelchair-accessible.
As I mentioned before, I have family members who are deaf, and the devices
they use in order to work the telephones, the TVs -- I'm sure we're all
familiar with the TV devices that have the written word. The age of the
computer has really assisted them. You don't have to talk; you can write on
the computer. People don't know you have a handicap. It's a wonderful
evolution for them.
I know Cam Jackson has worked really hard previously in the government and
is going to be welcomed here in his initial speech next week as we have
further debate. So I'll look forward to all the proposals and speeches on
The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes in response the member for Don
Ms Wynne: I'm glad to hear from the member for Simcoe North that Ms Munro
from York North is OK.
I think the comments that have been made by the member for Nickel Belt, the
member for Simcoe North, the member for Northumberland and the member for
Haliburton-Victoria-Brock illustrate that every one of us in this House has
experiences to which we can relate when we're thinking about accessibility
and how important it is for our communities. That doesn't mean we don't
struggle with it. It doesn't mean that we don't see examples everywhere we
go of inaccessibility and try to work with our communities to make our world
more accessible. As MPPs, that's one of the things we do. We have people
coming in to talk to us all the time who can't access in one way or another
either the services or the facilities in the community. So this legislation
touches us all.
When this bill goes to committee, there will be the opportunity for people
to speak to it, and we will continue to listen to people from around the
province on refinements and on their concerns. But at the core, I believe
we've got it right.
I know the member for Nickel Belt feels that we should be moving faster,
there should be more, we can do better. You know what? At some level I would
agree with her, but I would agree with her on all sorts of files in
government. Of course we could do better. If we had all the resources in the
world, we could do better. If the world were a different place, we could do
better. Given what we've got, given the resources available to us, given our
history, given the state of our buildings, this is what we must do. We must
put the standards in place. We must make sure those standards meet the needs
of the community and we must put compliance mechanisms in place. That's what
this legislation does. It's the rational, reasonable thing to do.
The Acting Speaker: Thank you. This House, standing close to 6 pm, stands
adjourned until 1:30 pm on Monday.
The House adjourned at 1755.
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