HARRIS GOVERNMENT FINALLY COMMITS TO ACT ON UNFULFILLED ELECTION PROMISE TO ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES - BUT WILL THE BUDGET SPEECH RESULT IN REAL ACTION?
Tuesday, May 5, 1998 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TORONTO - In today's Budget Speech, the Harris Government at last reacted to the call of Ontarians with disabilities for real and concrete action that shows that it nitends to keep its unfulfilled 1995 election promise to enact a new disability rights law. The Throne Speech of two weeks ago glaringly ommitted any mention of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act - a new law which Premier Harris promised in the 1995 election enact within his first term. In contrast, today's Budget Speech, stated that the Government will enact the promised Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and offered a new tax incentive for businesses which accommodate the needs of people with disabilities. However, these tax incentives will make very little difference without a strong and effective new law which tackles the unfair barriers which people with disabilities face in every aspect of life.
"All the pressure that people with disabilities across Ontario have had to muster for three years to get this government to act has finally started to pay off," said David Lepofsky, ODA Committee Co-Chair. "But the Budget Speech is just the start. It includes no specifics. We have no draft legislation. We have no discussion paper. We have no public consultations. Time is fast running out. Declarations of good intentions are good, but they are certainly not good enough."
In the face of today's budget announcement, the ODA Committee calls on the Premier to finally agree to meet with this broad- based coalition, the very group with whom he had promised to work together in developing this law. "We want to meet with the Premier to turn these vague declarations of good intentions into immediate, concrete action. A good start would be for the Govenrment to finally launch its promised public consultation on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which the Government has claimed to have bbeen planning for a year and a half," Lepofsky said.
EXCERPT FROM ONTARIO BUDGET SPEECH - MAY 5,1998:
"Helping People with Disabilities Get Jobs
Society benefits when all of its members are given an opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way in the workplace.
The Government is committed to supporting people with disabilities through a variety of measures, including the creation of an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We will promote opportunities for people with disabilities by increasing accessibility to employment, transportation, education and training. People with disabilities can, want to, and do contribute to a thriving economy.
The Government has already taken people with disabilities off welfare through the Ontario Disability Support Program.
Today, we propose to provide a new, accelerated tax incentive that would support the efforts of businesses to accommodate people with disabilities. This measure would assist thousands of businesses each year in providing increased access and job opportunities for people with disabilities.
My colleague, the Honourable Isabel Bassett, Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, will announce the details.
As well, we propose that the Retail Sales Tax rebate for personal use vehicles purchased to transport people with physical disabilities be expanded to include additional family memebers and non-family care-providers."