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ODA Press Release
March 2, 2001

Ontarians With Disabilities Act Committee


Mike Harris Today Breaks
Yet Another Promise To 1.5 Million
Ontarians With Disabilities


FRIDAY, MARCH 2, 2001 - When Premier Harris prorogued the Legislature today, terminating the current legislative session, he broke yet another promise to 1.5 million Ontarians with disabilities. In the October 22, 1999 Throne Speech, his Government committed to announce an "action plan" regarding the proposed Ontarians with Disabilities Act during that session of the Legislature. It repeated this pledge in numerous letters to the public and statements in the Legislature. Fully 17 months later, Premier Harris today brought the legislative session to an end, without bringing forward his promised action plan on the ODA.

In the 1995 election, Premier Harris promised that in his first term, he would enact the Ontarians with Disabilities Act - needed to achieve a barrier-free Ontario for people with disabilities. He did not keep that promise in his first term, nor almost two years into his second term. He also promised in 1995 to work together with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee to develop this law. Yet in almost six years as premier, Harris has repeatedly refused to even meet with this broad-based coalition.

"It's more cruelty upon cruelty", said David Lepofsky, chair of the province-wide ODA Committee, a non-partisan, grassroots coalition organized in 21 regions of Ontario. "The Premier says over and over again that he always keeps his promises. When it comes to his commitments to people with disabilities, it's just one broken promise after another."

Only 266 days remain until November 23, 2001 - the deadline which the Legislature unanimously fixed by resolution for a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act to be enacted into law. Harris has never explained why after so many years in office, he needs over 17 months just to draft an action plan.

In 1998, the Harris government introduced a toothless 3-page bill. Widely condemned, it died on the order paper after only 17 days, and after only receiving first reading. It did not require any barriers to be removed. A leaked draft cabinet document last fall mapped out Harris's plans to re-introduce similarly toothless legislation by December 2000. Concerted grassroots action across Ontario led the government to back off that timetable.

Public opinion polls conducted by the government in 2000 and by the ODA Committee in 1997 show strong public support for a mandatory, effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act.




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Last updated March 3, 2001 8:15 pm