Monday, November 22, 1999
Monday, November 15, 1999: For Immediate Release
Ontarians With Disabilities Act Committee
WILL ONTARIO LEGISLATURE FORCE AN END TO GOVERNMENT DELAY ON DISABILITY BILL?
Monday, November 22, 1999:: At 3:00 p.m. on November 23, 1999 Ontarians with disabilities will converge on Queen's Park to watch a three-hour debate on an Opposition resolution introduced by Liberal Steve Peters. The resolution requires a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act to be enacted within two years. It is supported by the Liberals and the NDP. The real question now is whether Mike Harris will show up for the debate and whether his caucus will vote in favour of this resolution with its firm timetable for enacting this long-delayed legislation first promised in the 1995 election.
The ODA Committee will hold a news conference in the Queen's Park Media Studio at 11:30 a.m. on November 23.
In the 1995 election, Premier Harris promised to enact the Ontarians with Disabilities Act in his first term, a law needed to tear down the barriers that impede people with disabilities having access to jobs, goods, services and facilities. After four and a half years, three ministers, and two elections, there is still no Ontarians with Disabilities Act on the books.
"This debate takes place on the first anniversary of the painful day when the since-defeated Minister Isabel Bassett introduced the toothless three-page Bill 83, which did not require a single barrier to be removed anywhere," said David Lepofsky, ODA Committee Chair. "It's a full year later and 1.5 million Ontarians with disabilities are no further ahead, and in fact are falling behind. We face the spectre of this Government creating more barriers with taxpayers' dollars, more budget cuts that hurt people with disabilities, and still no effective legislation to prevent these hardships."
"We hope Premier Harris will attend the debate and vote in favour of this resolution to show strong leadership," said Lepofsky. "After his 1995 election promise to work together with us, he has steadfastly refused even to meet with us, even after his 1999 election night promise to reach out to those he has previously ignored." So far, he has avoided attending previous debates in the Legislature on opposition motions which sought to get him to fulfil his 1995 election promise.
This debate comes on the heels of the announcement that the Tories will slash more funds from the Ontario Human Rights Commission - the very body that the Tories planned to have enforce any new disability legislation.
During the afternoon debate, ODA Committee members, including some from various regions, will be available for media interviews as they watch the debate from committee rooms. Unfortunately the public galleries remain largely inaccessible despite recent renovations to the Legislature.
- May 24, 1995 Mike Harris makes written election promise to enact the ODA in his first term and to work with the ODA Committee to develop it.
- May 16, 1996 Ontario Legislature unanimously passes resolution calling on Harris Government to keep its ODA election promise.
- April 22, 1998 ODA Committee delivers comprehensive brief to the Legislature including a blueprint for strong and effective legislation.
- July 13 to September 1998 Ontario Government conducts closed, invitation-only consultations in eight cities on what to include in the ODA.
- October 29, 1998 Legislature unanimously passes resolution calling for ODA to be passed which embodies 11 principles to make it strong and effective.
- November 23, 1998 Citizenship Minister Basset introduces Bill 83, a three-page bill which was completely voluntary, limited to government and did not require any barriers to be removed.
- December 17, 1998 Bill 83 allowed to die on the order paper after only one reading.
- April 22, 1999 Pre-election Throne Speech announces Bill 83 will not be re-introduced due to criticisms of it. New consultation promised to be held before new bill to be introduced.
- May - June 3, 1999 Ontario election Campaign - Harris Government promises strengthened ODA after more consultations. Liberals and NDP promise to enact strong and effective ODA which complies with the Legislature's October 29, 1998 resolution.
- September 10, 1999 ODA Committee presents three parties with proposal that new ODA public consultation take the form of an all- party Select Committee of the Legislature to hold public hearings before a bill is drafted.
- September 11, 1999 London Free Press quotes new Citizenship Minister Helen Johns as stating that a new strong disabilities act is a "huge priority for me."
- September 20, 1999 NDP accepts ODA Committee proposal for Select Committee on the ODA.
- September 21, 1999 Liberal Party accepts ODA Committee proposal for Select Committee on the ODA.
- September 28, 1999 ODA Committee Delegation meets with new Citizenship Minister Helen Johns to discuss ideas for ODA public consultation process. Minister makes no commitments on format, content or timing of public consultations.
- October 21, 1999 Throne Speech says Government's "goal" is to introduce a "new action plan" this session.
- October 27, 1999 ODA Committee writes Minister Johns asking what is meant by an "action plan." No answer received.
- October 27, 1999 In Question Period, Citizenship Minister Johns contended that the Government kept its promise to enact the ODA because it had introduced Bill 83, which was later withdrawn.
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