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Please Support a Strong & Effective ODA



ODA Update
November 16, 2000

To: All Supporters of a Strong Ontarians with Disabilities Act
From: David Lepofsky, Chair ODA Committee
Date: November 16, 2000
Subject: Report on Successful ODA November 15, 2000 Activities

Internal Page Links

Toronto Star Article
Ontario Legislature Hansard November 15, 2000
Report from the ODA Committee's Sault Ste. Marie/Algoma Region
Harris Government News Release
Letter from the Minister of Citizenship, Culture & Recreation


November 15, 2000 was a tremendously successful day on the road
to a strong and effective ODA. This summary is accompanied by a
lot of material, which you can browse through if you wish more

Events at Queen's Park

In Toronto, up to 200 people converged on Queen's Park between 3
and 5 p.m. to show their support for a strong ODA, and to show
that Ontarians do care about this important issue. They came from
all over southern Ontario, including such diverse places as
Hamilton, London, Lindsay, just to name a few.

Many who came were newcomers to this cause. The gathering filled
one Legislature Committee room to capacity, and required the use
of a second committee room, also filled to capacity. Our
supporters were backed up into the halls outside both rooms.

Our gathering was joined by both Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty
and NDP leader Howard Hampton, as well as an impressive turnout
from both of their caucuses. Many ideas were exchanged on the
barriers which persons with disabilities face, the need for a
strong ODA, and the strategies we should follow to continue
expanding our efforts.

Earlier that day, at 1 p.m., we held a successful news conference
at Queen's Park
. Presenting at this news conference was ODA
Committee Chair David Lepofsky, as well as double-gold medallist
at this year's Sydney, Australia Paralympics Jeff Adams.

Our message to the media included the following: We are tenacious
and are ready to respond whenever the Government introduces its bill.
A strong ODA is good for persons with disabilities, for people
without disabilities, and for business. We succeeded in gaining
positive media coverage for our day's activities on TV, radio and
in print. This was so despite heavy media distraction with the
federal election and the Harris Government's failed attempt to
grant MPPs a 42% pay raise. (See Toronto Star article below)

Between our 1 p.m. news conference and our 3 p.m. large
gathering, the ODA was raised fully three times during Question
Period in the Legislature. (See transcript below) During that
exchange, Premier Harris was challenged to come and meet with us
in the building, even for a few minutes. It appeared to Liberal
MPP Ernie Parsons that the Premier agreed. (See Mr. Parsons' news
release below
) We waited for the Premier to come. However, the
Premier never came to speak with us. Neither did any member of
his caucus.

Only one Conservative MPP was available to meet in their office.
Only three individuals were allowed into that meeting.

Events in Sault Ste. Marie

At the same time as these events were unfolding in Toronto, a
parallel gathering in support of the ODA was successfully held in
Sault Ste. Marie. (See report from our Sault ODA Committee region
) It gave everyone a real boost at the Queen's Park event to
know about the events going on at the same time hundreds of miles

The Harris Government's Responses

As these events were unfolding, the Government sent out a news
release (see below). We only learned of this after the Queen's Park
event was over. We also received a letter from the Minister after
this event was over. (See below). These include the same message we
have been hearing from the Government for some time. The news
release appears to imply that our proposal for a strong, mandatory
ODA is "red tape regulation". The Minister's letter does not even
mention the Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

It is important to remark upon certain statements in the remarks by
Premier Harris on the floor of the Legislature in answering
questions during Question Period, as set out below:

1. Premier Harris suggested During Question Period that we refused
to meet with the Citizenship Minister's Parliamentary Assistant
Brenda Elliott that day. In fact, we had invited the Premier by
letter to attend our Queen's Park Gathering, beginning right after
Question Period, shortly after 3 p.m. We were told by voice mail
message received the night before this event that he could not
attend for he needs one month's notice. We also received a message
the night before this event that Citizenship Minister Helen Johns
could not join us at our Queen's Park gathering.

Even though the Government had been notified that our gathering
would start shortly after 3 p.m., the Minister's Parliamentary
Assistant Brenda Elliott only offered to make herself available
earlier in the day at times which were clearly prior to the
scheduled arrival of those attending our gathering. We were advised
that she was available at 2:30 p.m., but not at 3:15 p.m.

2. Premier Harris stated that when the NDP were in power, the NDP
Government would not permit the first proposed ODA, introduced by
then NDP (and now strong ODA Committee supporter) MPP Gary Malkowski,
to receive second reading. In fact, Gary Malkowski's bill received second
reading, and passed that reading unanimously. It also proceeded to two
full days of public hearings. It had no chance to go further because an
election was called. In fact even though it was only a private member's bill,
that bill made it further through the Legislature in several months
than the Harris Government has achieved in over half a decade.

What We Need to Do Now

We must continue to anticipate that the Government could present a
bill to the Ontario Legislature any day. One and all should build
on the November 15 momentum that we have achieved by:

Thanks to all who were with us at these events, to all who helped
make them happen, and to all who could not be there but were
supporting us with their thoughts and deeds all over Ontario.


Toronto Star
Thursday, November 16, 2000

Page A17
(Note: Photo on this story appeared on the paper's front page)

Legislation urged to help disabled Activists:
Ending barriers would boost Games bid
Theresa Boyle

Strong disabilities legislation will bolster Toronto's chances of
winning the 2008 Games, says a Paralympian gold medalist.

"Accessibility (is at the) forefront in the bid process,'' the co-
chair of the accessibility sub-committee of Toronto's bid to host
the 2008 Summer Olympics and Paralympics told a news
conference yesterday.

Jeff Adams urged the province not to abandon plans to bring in
effective legislation to reduce barriers to the disabled.

A leaked cabinet document last month stated the province has
considered but rejected the idea of forcing private companies and
the broader public sector to reduce barriers to the disabled.
Instead, compliance would be voluntary under the proposed
legislation, it said.

Adams said Ontario should follow the lead of Australia, which has
powerful disabilities legislation.

"It's amazing to see what strong and effective legislation can
do,'' he said.

"We went to Sydney where they've got good strong legislation (and)
mandatory access.''

Such legislation makes good business sense, Adams said, noting the
Paralympics in Sydney were profitable for the first time in their

"The Olympics opened themselves up to a bigger target market than
in any other city because they had mandatory access,'' he said.
"I've seen it work in Australia and I know it's good business.''

David Lepofsky, chair of the Ontarians with Disabilities
Committee, lambasted the Conservative government over the leaked
cabinet document.

"The government has already mapped out cold, calculated and cruel
plans to try to slip through a bill that is neither strong nor
effective,'' he charged.

"We are here to show that those cynical tactics won't work and
that we are tenacious about holding Mike Harris to his broken
promises to us.''

After the news conference, dozens of disabled people from across
Ontario met in a Legislature committee room with the leaders of the
Liberal and New Democratic parties to lobby for strong
disabilities legislation. No Tory government representatives showed

While campaigning for the 1995 election, Premier Mike Harris
promised he would pass an Ontarians With Disabilities Act during
his first term.

In last year's election, Harris again promised to introduce
disability legislation.

He told the Legislature yesterday his government is consulting with
stakeholders on the proposed legislation, which he said will be in
place by next year.

The Premier said his government has been generous to the
disabled. "In spite of the fact that we inherited an $11 billion
deficit, since 1995 we have introduced some $800 million in new
spending to the benefit of those in the disabled community.''



Ontario Legislature Hansard
November 15, 2000


Ms Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth): Later I will be presenting a motion written in Braille as a symbol of one of the many barriers people living with disabilities face in Ontario today.

My statement endorses the only thing any Tory government member has done for people living with disabilities in this and other legislative sessions. It supports the bill put forward by MPP David Young to make June Deaf-Blind Awareness Month.

While the effort is honourable, the simple reality is that hundreds of thousands of people living with disabilities in Ontario are begging this government to keep their promise and bring in a strong and meaningful Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This government continues to refuse. You might be willing to dedicate an awareness month, but you refuse to bring in laws that would tear down barriers to the disabled in Ontario, barriers like the inability to have a simple statement read aloud in Braille in the Legislature, which is supposed to represent all Ontarians, not just those with sight.

Today, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee is holding an event in the Legislature to raise awareness for the growing call to tear down barriers in Ontario. The NDP disability critic, Tony Martin, is holding a similar event today in his home riding of Sault Ste Marie.

We ask the same thing of this government: will you please make good on your promise to bring in an ODA? Stop stalling and table it here in the Legislature today.






Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): The question is to the Premier, but just so we are clear, I said 6% over three years. The Premier believes that 42% is still acceptable, 33% is still acceptable and so, somehow, is 17%.

My question has to do with the absence of an Ontarians with Disabilities Act, yet to appear--


The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Stop the clock please; sorry to interrupt. Order. On to the next question. Sorry for the interruption, leader of the official opposition. You can start again. We'll have the full minute.


Mr McGuinty: Premier, we in the Liberal Party believe that our family members--our brothers and our sisters, our sons and our daughters, our mothers and our fathers--who have disabilities have every entitlement to achieve their full potential here in our province. We believe they deserve every right of access to opportunity, and that's why we have supported from the outset a real and a strong Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Premier, you made that kind of promise five and a half years ago. Over two elections ago you made that promise, and you have yet to introduce in this Legislature a real Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Premier, why do you continue to fail Ontarians with disabilities?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): You're quite right; we have committed to bring in an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. I think the minister has made the commitment in any one of a number of meetings from July 27 to September 28, on November 23, September 8, in meetings with Mr Lepofsky of Ontarians with disabilities, and indicated that we would be consulting. She has been, as you know, consulting not only on an act but on a whole plan, not just legislation, for persons with disabilities and has made a commitment I think for 2001 that we would have legislation in place and hopefully, with your support, enacted.

We are in that consultation process and on schedule to meet those commitments.

Mr McGuinty: Premier, you have been dragging your feet for five and a half years on this very important issue, and when it comes to gaining some real insight as to what your true intentions are, I talked about that. The most important date you left out here was the date on your secret cabinet document: August 29, 2000. It's marked "Confidential," and I talked about it before in this Legislature. It says in this, and this is absolutely breathtaking, that you are firmly committed to use "existing mandatory requirements and enforcement." You're not talking about a new law with new teeth; you're talking about going ahead with the existing law, which is grossly inadequate.

You also say in this secret document that you are going to commit to strengthen penalties for unlawful use of disabled parking permits and spaces. I can tell you that kindled a great deal of warmth in the disabled community right across this province.

Premier, will you admit it now? Five and a half years ago you never had any real intention of helping out our disabled community, and to this very day you still have no intention whatsoever of coming to the assistance of our disabled community in making sure they find opportunity here in Ontario.

Hon Mr Harris: Au contraire. In fact we did introduce an Ontarians with Disabilities Act in the last session. It was the first of its kind in Canada. You wouldn't introduce the act; the NDP wouldn't introduce the act. I know you say it wasn't as strong as you'd like it, but it was more than you had done and more than the NDP had done.

In addition to that, a number had said we should go back to the drawing board and consult, which we have agreed to do, and we are on schedule with that process. In addition to that, in spite of the fact that we inherited an $11-billion deficit, since 1995 we have introduced some $800 million in new spending to the benefit of the disabled community. I can give you a few: $60 million in community living opportunities; in 1997 we announced $15 million more in additional funds to support adults and children with developmental disabilities in the community; another $3 million in 1998; in 1999, another $35 million more in support services to help persons with developmental disabilities live in the community; in 1999 another $2 million partnership--

The Speaker: Order. The Premier's time is up. Final supplementary.

Mr McGuinty: Premier, the jig is up. You have been found out. You have done nothing of substance during the last five and a half years. You're in your sixth year of government. Back in May 1995 you said you were going to introduce a real Ontarians with Disabilities Act, something that was going to be strong, something that had real teeth, something that would require that we have some real movement in Ontario to make sure that Ontarians with disabilities get a seat at the table of opportunity, and during the course of the past five and a half years you, Premier, have done nothing.

The question I have for you, on behalf of the one and a half million Ontarians with disabilities--and I'm talking about our brothers and our sisters, our sons and our daughters, our mothers and our fathers, all people who want to contribute, all people who have the right to achieve their potential--is, why do you continue to fail them?

Hon Mr Harris: I'm sorry the Liberal leader doesn't think $800 million is a substantial amount of money, but we, with the massive deficit we inherited, think it is. If I could perhaps continue with some of the list, in 1997 in the Ministry of Health, another $25 million over five years to match funds raised by the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation; another $20 million in 1996; $23.5 million of new money in 1996; $8.4 million of new money in 1995. So not only have we committed, unlike the Liberals when they were in power and unlike the NDP when they were in power, to bring in the first Ontarians with Disabilities Act in Canada--not only are we committed to that, not only are we consulting to do that--but even without the act, we have now announced over $800 million in brand new spending to the benefit of those with disabilities in Ontario. We're very proud of that record.



Mr Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings): My question today is to the Premier. About a month ago, my leader, Dalton McGuinty, revealed--


The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): This is the last warning for the member for Hamilton East. Two seconds after I sit down, you're yelling across. Last warning. You yell out again, you're out for the day.

Mr Parsons: About a month ago, my leader, Dalton McGuinty, revealed to this Legislature a secret cabinet document detailing what your government proposed to do for an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Though it's called an action plan, it's probably more appropriately called an inaction plan.

On October 25, you wrote to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee and indicated you were very pleased with the strategy being employed by your government. I think "strategy" is a key word. It's not a plan, it's not beneficial; it's a strategy to sneak it into place. Then on November 1, you wrote and indicated how pleased you are with the minister's consultation that's taking place with the groups.

Premier, your minister refuses to hold any public consultations in this province for people with disabilities. Today in committee room 2, from 3 o'clock to 5 o'clock, there are over 75 Ontarians with disabilities here. I am inviting you to walk with me--take 10 minutes. I appreciate your voice is giving you a problem today. This would be a great opportunity to listen to Ontarians with disabilities. Ten minutes is all I ask. They've gone to great efforts to get here. Please join with me and listen to them today.

The Speaker: Premier?


Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Thank you, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: Supplementary?

Mr Parsons: Speaker, was that a clear yes? I was unable to hear because of the shouting from the far side.


The Speaker: I'm not going to get into interpreting, unfortunately. You can ask your supplementary. He may confirm it in the supplementary.

Mr Parsons: I do struggle with the lack of support to this point, so I think it's great that you're willing to come and listen. I'm also quite convinced that you have a tight timeline on when you will pass an Ontarians with Disabilities Act, so that it is more than just the 10 minutes today. I would ask you, Premier, what is the date that you plan to introduce a meaningful Ontarians with Disabilities Act?

Hon Mr Harris: I thank the member for his invitation, and I appreciate the offer. I think the minister, as you know, met with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee on September 8. She spoke with representatives on November 23, 1999. She met with them again on September 28, 1999. Minister Johns had a conversation with Mr Lepofsky on July 27, 1999, and the parliamentary assistant, on very short notice, offered to meet with the Ontarians with disabilities on their visit to the Legislature today, but I am told that meeting was refused by those representatives of whom you speak.

The timeline, as I understand it, is once the consultations are over and once we have reviewed all of the information--I would assume you wouldn't expect a bill today since a number of representatives are still meeting with you to try and give you advice--as they've given to the minister and when that exhaustive consultation process is complete, we'll meet the timeline that we committed to for 2001.




Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): My question is for the Premier. Today my colleague Marilyn Churley presented a motion in Braille to symbolize the immediate need for an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Our Braille motion symbolizes the many barriers that people living with disabilities face under your government. Even the simplest of services aren't available to them, yet you continue to deny them a strong and meaningful Ontarians with Disabilities Act. They can't get into movie theatres, they can't reach pay telephones, and they face barriers to employment, yet you continue to delay and to stall bringing in an Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Premier, why do you continue to discriminate against Ontarians with disabilities?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): As I indicated, while we have been consulting with all parties, we have introduced some $800 million more in supports for those with disabilities than your government had.

I'm really quite surprised at you bringing this issue up. You were part of a government that had an MPP, Gary Malkowski--because Gary couldn't get you and your government to move, he introduced his own private member's bill, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The record of you and your cabinet and your government was, you wouldn't even call it for second reading. It's a disgraceful record.

Mr Hampton: You're good at telling half the story. We brought in legislation which would have removed many of the barriers for disabled people in terms of employment, and that was one of the first pieces of legislation you threw out. So tell all the story, not just half of it.

Premier, we understand that your intention now is to make such an act voluntary so that your corporate friends wouldn't have to comply, that they could comply if they wish. In other words, you would further sanction the kind of discrimination now that has happened for six years under your government.

Premier, there are hundreds of activists here today from the disabled community. They are asking and we are asking after almost six years, six years after you made the promise, when are you going to bring in an Ontarians with Disabilities Act that has some teeth in it, that has some strength in it, so that you will stop discriminating against disabled people in Ontario?

Hon Mr Harris: I think you would know it's illegal to discriminate against disabled people in Ontario, thanks to the Human Rights Code provisions. I think you quite understand that.

I had indicated to you that we are consulting, and to members of all three parties who have a great interest in this area, but we did not scrap your Ontarians with Disabilities Act because you refused to pass it. You refused to support your own member. You used your majority to bury this kind of legislation, which is why we committed that we would consult extensively and bring forward a bill.

We did scrap a number of your silly ideas: your labour legislation that killed jobs and put union members out of work, the kind of legislation that discriminated against, and was proven discriminatory on, quotas. We eliminated some of the legislation. That's how we turned this province around.




Liberal Party News Release


(Queen's Park) Yesterday, Ernie Parsons, Liberal Critic for Persons
with Disabilities, and MPP for Prince Edward -Hastings challenged
the Premier to come and listen to persons with
disabilities and explain his failure to enact an effective
Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

More than one hundred people with disabilities gathered at
Queen's Park to meet with opposition and government members and
discuss disabilities legislation. Liberal Leader, Dalton McGuinty
and a large contingent of the Liberal caucus came down to meet with
and listen to the concerns of persons with disabilities. " You have
started a movement", McGuinty stated, "Keep it going, keep it

Earlier, the Premier's staff told the visit organizers that he is
very busy and requires one month's advance notice of any desired
meeting. The Minister Responsible for Persons with Disabilities,
Helen Johns, said she was not available. Her Parliamentary
Assistant, Brenda Elliott, said she would meet with people at
either 11:30 am or 2:30 pm. Since no one could arrive until 3:00 pm
and she would not wait, the meeting did not take place.

The Premier and the Minister were present in the Legislature for
question period. When asked if the Premier would simply walk down
the hall to meet with the visitors, he gave an inaudible
response. When asked to clarify his response, Harris appeared to
have nodded his head in the affirmative. He later left the
building refusing to meet with the group.

"The Premier continually refuses to meet with people with
disabilities either because he doesn't care or he doesn't want to
explain his broken promises", Parsons commented.



Report from the ODA Committee's Sault Ste. Marie/Algoma Region

There were about 40 hardy and committed people gathered at a rally
from 3:00 to 3:45 P.M. in front of NDP MPP Tony Martin's office in
Sault Ste. Marie. Tony is the newly appointed NDP Disability Critic
for Ontario. Disabled people from the area wanted to send a strong
message to Premier Mike Harris that any proposed ODA must break
down barriers and have mandatory regulations to protect the rights of
disabled people in this province.

Tony asked those present what barriers people faced and what they
would like done to remove those barriers. There are quite a few who
are compiling daily Barrier Diaries which will be forwarded to Tony
in a couple of weeks so that he can present them to Premier Harris.
We are hoping these personal accounts will help Harris better
understand what disabled people experience.

It came through loud and clear from many voices that disabled
people in this community will not support an act that is weak,
ineffective and legislated without consultation with those most

MCTV (a local CTV affiliate) filmed the rally and broadcast
highlights on their 6:00 P.M. news. Karl Sepkowski (line reporter
for CBC Radio Sudbury) was there and reported on the rally. Dorothy
MacNaughton will be interviewed live on CBC Radio Sudbury by
morning host Markus Schwabe Thursday morning at about 8:20 A.M. We
were pleased at the turnout which, for Sault Ste. Marie, was good.
Hopefully this is just the beginning of a stronger, more
diversified ODA Committee which will be able to achieve more
awareness and support.

Dorothy MacNaughton


Ministry of Citizenship, Culture & Recreation


6th Floor 400 University Avenue Toronto, ON M7A 2R9

November 14, 2000

David Lepofsky c/o Marg Thomas Co-Chair Ontarians with
Disabilities Act Committee 1929 Bayview Ave. Toronto ON M4G 3E8

Dear Mr. Lepofsky:

Thank you for your letter of October 30, updating me on your
organization's activities.

As I have stated in previous correspondence, I am always
interested in hearing the views of Ontarians, and I am pleased to
receive your written comments on disability issues, including any
relevant materials you wish to enclose.

This government believes that ongoing consultations with a wide
range of stakeholders is an integral part of our commitment to
ensuring that all Ontarians have a voice in shaping this
province, now and in the future.

We continue to develop partnerships with a number of groups and
organizations in critical sectors to enhance the lives of
Ontarians with disabilities and those who care for them.

As you know, our government is developing a comprehensive action
plan for people with disabilities - a detailed blueprint in which
government will lead by example and create partnerships with others
on behalf of people with disabilities. Our action plan will spur
change in our communities, public institutions and industries.


Helen Johns Minister

c. The Honourable Michael D. Harris Premier

The Honourable Norman W. Sterling Minister of Intergovernmental
Affairs and Government House Leader



Harris Government News Release

Attention News Editors:

Ontario reaffirms its commitment to persons with disabilities

QUEEN'S PARK, ON, Nov. 15 /2000 - The provincial government today
reaffirmed its commitment to improve opportunities for people with
disabilities in Ontario. "We will deliver on our commitment," said Helen
Johns, Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation.

"Our approach will avoid unnecessary red tape and
regulation while helping expand opportunities and address some of
the more tangible needs of people with disabilities. "We support a
realistic approach -- one that reflects the economic realities in
Ontario," the minister added. "We'll combine concrete action with
heightened public awareness of the role that all Ontarians can play
in reducing the barriers that face people with disabilities."

The government will build on the nearly $6 billion foundation of
programs and services. This includes:

- $2.5 billion annually in income and employment support to those who
face the challenge of living with a disability.
- an additional $1.2 billion is invested each year in our education system
for programs and services that improve learning opportunities for children
with exceptional needs.
- a further $2.3 billion is invested in a range of programs and services
from respite care to community-based projects that help make our towns,
cities and businesses more accessible to everyone.

The Ontario Human Rights Code and some 88 pieces of legislation
form the legal foundation for protecting the interests of people with
disabilities. To this end, the government has consulted with a number
of groups to develop an approach that combines both legislation and
practical, non-legislative action.

Meetings have been held with a range of organizations that are
involved in improving opportunities for people with disabilities,
including representatives of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act
Committee (ODAC) on September 8.

"More red tape and regulation is not the answer," Minister Johns
said. "The partnership approach is working."

(Ce texte est disponible en francais) 11/15/2000

For further information: Jonathan Leigh, (416) 314-0837


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