March 28, 1999
Sunday, March 28, 1999: For Immediate Release
Ontarians With Disabilities Act Committee
LIBERAL AND NDP LEADERS UNVEIL KEY ELECTION PROMISES TO 1.5 MILLION ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES
PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sunday, March 28, 1999: With an Ontario election call looming, both Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty and NDP leader Howard Hampton made important election promises to the one-and-one-half million Ontarians with disabilities, as well as their friends, families and the many Ontarians who will acquire a disability in the future.
Each leader has promised in writing that, if elected, they would enact a strong and effective new law to achieve a barrier-free Ontario for all people with disabilities - the Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
These election pledges were made in letters received late last week by the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, a broad, province-wide coalition of people with disabilities, their friends, families and disability-related organizations.
The ODA Committee has tried in vain since the 1995 election to get the Harris Government to enact such a law. During the 1995 election campaign Premier Harris promised the ODA Committee that he would work with them to introduce and pass an Ontarians with Disabilities Act in his first term.
In the face of Harris Government delays and inaction, the Legislature unanimously passed two resolutions calling for this legislation. The most recent resolution, passed unanimously on October 29, 1998, called for this new law to be strong, effective, mandatory, and to apply to all sectors of society.
In late November, less than three weeks after the most recent resolution, the Harris Government introduced the three-page Bill 83, which violates all principles set out in that resolution. Bill 83, which died on the order paper in December, did not require a single barrier to be removed anywhere in Ontario ever.
People with disabilities have condemned that bill as a slap in the face, a view echoed in letters to the editor and editorials across Ontario. Despite this, the Harris Government has announced plans to re-introduce this do-nothing bill when and if the Legislature resumes this spring.
"The strong support for our needs from the NDP and Liberal leaders, even before an election call, shows that disability issues will play a big part in the upcoming election," said David Lepofsky, ODA Committee co-chair.
"It is now up to Mike Harris to show voters with disabilities whether he intends to finally keep his 1995 written election promise to us by introducing and passing a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act before he calls an election. The toothless Bill 83 that all have condemned does not come close to meeting that promise."
The ODA Committee, which is now organized in 17 regions across Ontario, has embarked on a two-part strategy leading up to the election."We are still trying to work with Mike Harris," said Lepofsky. "We have just sent our third letter to Mr. Harris since the Bill died, asking him to lift his personal boycott against meeting our Committee and to finally agree to meet with us. In the last election, he promised in writing to work with us but has refused to even meet us since he took office."
The ODA Committee is also planning an election strategy to ensure that people with disabilities, their friends and families vote, and that they make disability issues count in how they vote. The Committee also hopes to educate the public about the importance of these issues, not just for people who are now disabled, but for everyone in Ontario since virtually everyone acquires a disability in their lifetime.
"The promises by the Liberal and NDP leaders will give the people of Ontario real choices and will encourage our membership to become even more active in making sure that disability concerns count in this election," said Lepofsky.
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