Toronto - Monday, February 3, 1997 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.

Advocates for Ontarians with disabilities will urge that the Harris Government fulfil its hitherto-ignored election promise to enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act before it wields more cuts to the provincial budget, when they present a brief to the Standing Committee on Social Development at 3:30 p.m., today, Monday, February 3, 1997 in Room 228 of the Main Legislative Building, Queens Park.

During the election campaign Mike Harris promised that he supported removing barriers that prevented people with disabilities from full participation in education, training and the workplace. He pledged in writing that a Harris Government would develop and enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act - a new law to ensure a barrier free Ontario. Since then the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee has watched the Government's actions vigilantly, but nothing has happened. With one third of his term in office now expired, Harris still refuses to even meet with this coalition. His Disability Issues minister, Marilyn Mushinski, has offered nothing more than vague rhetoric and a single courtesy meeting months ago.

"The ODA Committee, a broad based disability coalition, wants Mike Harris to know we are holding him to his election promise. When we appear before the Standing Committee, we will reveal that provincial cuts and mega-off-loading especially hurt people with disabilities. Harris must pass the Ontarians with Disabilities Act before further budget cuts. Otherwise his restructuring will create new mega-barriers for people with disabilities that even the Ontarians with Disabilities Act may not be able to fix" says David Lepofsky, ODA Committee Co-chair. "The barriers against people with disabilities which the mega-plans will create are preventable. But we need the Ontarians with Disabilities Act in place before the cuts, or else it may be too late. If they don't keep their promise to us first, their so-called cost-saving plans will end up costing Ontarians a fortune. This mess is all totally avoidable."

Seventeen per cent of Ontarians now have disabilities. This segment of the population is growing. Laws and programs now in place have not substantially reduced barriers preventing full participation. The current Ontario budget slashing, downsizing, restructuring and off-loading will only drive up the already high unemployment rate among people with disabilities and force continued reliance on social assistance. The ODA Committee believes that this bleak outlook of enormous human and economic cost is preventable.

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