April 22, 1999
Thursday, April 22, 1999: For Immediate Release
Ontarians With Disabilities Act Committee
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES WATCHING THRONE SPEECH TO SEE IF HARRIS WILL BREAK HIS 1995 ELECTION PROMISE
PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 22, 1999: Ontario voters with disabilities will closely watch the Throne Speech at Queen's Park today to see whether Premier Harris intends to make Ontario barrier-free for them, by keeping his unfulfilled 1995 election promise to pass the Ontarians with Disabilities Act in his first term. In that 1995 written election promise, Harris said that if elected, he would work with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, a broad, non-partisan disability coalition, to develop this new legislation.
With an election call expected any day, Premier Harris has not kept either of these promises. Since his election he has consistently refused even to meet with the ODA Committee, with whom he had promised to work. He has not passed the law that he promised.
In November 1998 the government introduced Bill 83. "This government admitted in its own discussion paper released last summer that the one-and-one half million Ontarians with disabilities face barriers in every aspect of life in Ontario including employment, transportation, education, recreation and health care," said David Lepofsky, Chair of the ODA Committee. "Despite this, they introduced a toothless, three-page Bill which applied only to the provincial government, was not enforceable and did not require a single barrier to be removed ever," said Lepofsky. This widely-denounced Bill died on the order paper in December.
"If the Throne Speech offers us nothing, or just something like the toothless Bill 83, the Premier will have to face voters with disabilities to explain why he won't listen to them," said Lepofsky. Last week the ODA Committee kicked off its barrier-free election campaign designed to ensure that people with disabilities, their families and friends can and do vote in the upcoming election and that they know what the choices are.
If the Premier breaks his 1995 election promises to Ontarians with disabilities, then voters will be able to compare this Government's record of inaction with the efforts over the last four years by both the Liberal and NDP leaders to press for a strong, effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act. In contrast to Premier Harris, both Mr. Hampton and Mr. McGuinty have met with ODA Committee representatives, and each has released detailed written 1999 election pledges to enact a strong law within specified time lines.
ODA Committee representatives will be on hand at Queen's Park to offer responses to the Throne Speech. "In the last Throne Speech setting the Government's agenda for the rest of this term, there was not a word about the Ontarians with Disabilities Act," said Lepofsky. "Voters with disabilities, their friends and families will watch closely this year to see whether this Government is willing to continue maintaining the barriers that shut us out from full participation in Ontario society."
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