Thursday, April 23, 1998 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TORONTO - The Harris Government's April 23, 1998 Throne Speech announced no plans whatsoever to live up to the Premier's unfulfilled election promise to enact the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. In a May 24, 1995 letter, Premier Harris promised to enact this new law in his first term, and to work together to develop it with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, a broad, province wide disability coalition. Yet since taking office, Premier Harris has not delivered on any of these promises, and has refused to even meet with this coalition.

This Throne Speech was heralded as mapping out the Government's agenda for the rest of its term leading up to the next election, which may come as early as next year. By not acting on its promise during the first three years of its mandate, the government has scarcely enough time for the Government to conduct the promised public consultation on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act let alone to draft this law and get it through the Legislature.

"By not even mentioning the Ontarians with Disabilities Act in this Throne Speech, the Harris Government has shown that it has no real intention of keeping its election promises to the 17% of Ontarians who have disabilities," said David Lepofsky, ODA Committee Co-Chair. "The Premier has spent the past weeks trying to come up with a new series of programs for his Government to undertake for the rest of its term even though it has done nothing to live up to its election pledges to us." The new law which this broad-based coalition seeks would be aimed at removing and preventing barriers that prevent persons with disabilities from fully participating in activities like employment, housing, education, transportation and communications. Yesterday, when the ODA Committee came to Queen's Park to present its brief to elected representatives from each of the three parties, not only did the Premier not come, but he did not even make sure that there was an elected representative present to receive this important blueprint for the promised legislation. "We want to work together with this Government in a spirit of cooperation to ensure the swift passage of a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act," said Lepofsky. "But we can't get them to break this ongoing radio silence."