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Please Support a Strong & Effective ODA



December 31, 2000

As another year ends, let's take a deep breath and see how far we
have travelled over the past twelve months along the long,
winding road to a strong and effective Ontarians with
Disabilities Act. Again we should all be extremely proud of the
ground we covered this hectic year.

Throughout the year, ODA supporters across Ontario, working on
their own, or with local groups and with province-wide community
organizations, undertook a wide range of successful local
activities. They gave speeches to community groups, held local
meetings and forums, pressed municipal councils to pass
resolutions supporting the ODA, wrote letters to the editor, gave
media interviews, met with MPPs, and recruited others to get
involved in this cause. As of the end of 2000, over twenty local
and municipal councils have passed resolutions
calling upon the
provincial government to pass the ODA. As well, our movement grew
from eighteen regions at the end of last year to twenty-one regions
where the ODA Committee is locally organized. We were
delighted to expand to our new Sault Ste Marie-Algoma, Kitchener-
Waterloo, and Chatham-Kent regions.


In January we reached a major milestone on the road to a strong
ODA. The Ontario government had taken no meaningful steps to
fulfil its 1999 election promise to consult with the public on
what to include in the ODA, since their failed three-page Bill 83
died in December, 1998. To fill this vacuum, the Ontario Liberal
Party announced at an ODA Committee event in London at the end of
January that its Disability Critic, Steve Peters, would hold an
ambitious ODA public consultation tour across Ontario in March.
Over the next weeks, many volunteered their time and effort to
get word out across the province about this public consultation
tour. The ODA Committee, a non-partisan group, would offer the
same assistance to anyone holding an open, public consultation.

In March, Liberal disability critic, Steve Peters, MPP, held
open, accessible public forums on the ODA in fully fifteen
different communities
right across Ontario. Also, the ODA
Committee Durham Region happened to plan a public forum on the
ODA around the same time. This provided Mr. Peters with yet
another opportunity to hear from the public and to gather input.
These tremendously successful events were all well-attended. Many
who came were newcomers to this issue. All reflected the strong
grass roots feeling across Ontario that there is a pressing need
for a strong, mandatory and effective ODA.

As in the past, unfortunately both the Premier and the
Citizenship Minister Helen Johns refused to attend any of these
events. They were invited to them all. One event was held right
on their doorstep at Queen's Park. One was held in London when
the Citizenship Minister was in town. Only one government MPP
attended one of these many events anywhere in Ontario.

The Liberal Party's ODA public consultation tour triggered great,
widespread local media publicity for the ODA. Our message reached
more people than ever before. Many more hurried to become
involved in the efforts across Ontario to win a strong ODA.

A few short weeks after this, ODA supporters across the province
marked May 24, 2000 as the fifth anniversary of Premier Mike
Harris's broken 1995 election promise
to enact the ODA in his
first term in office. People rallied around the theme that "Half
a Decade is Long Enough
," grass roots action again brought home
our message to the public directly and through the media.

As this was happening, the Ontario government claimed it was
holding ongoing consultations on the ODA. Citizenship Minister
Helen Johns claimed to be having weekly meetings about this with
disability groups. These claims were proven grossly exaggerated
when the Liberal disability critic, Steve Peters, MPP filed and
pursued a Freedom of Information request seeking disclosure of
the Minister's documents related to the so-called "consultation."
Mr. Peters was forced to appeal the Ministry's failure to release
these documents. The Ministry was ultimately ordered to turn over
the requested documents. The released documents contradicted the
Government's claims about its consultations. They revealed that
the government internally had recognized that it had made strong
commitments to enact an ODA which complies with the eleven
principles put forward by the ODA Committee, and which the
Legislature unanimously approved by resolution on October 29,


The summer months saw a frustrating process of trying to set up a
meeting with the Citizenship Minister. When that meeting was
finally held on September 8, 2000, it was quite revealing. For
the first time, the Minister broached the subject of the cost of
implementing a strong and effective ODA. It was shocking when the
Minister revealed that she did not know that her own Ministry had
commissioned and obtained a 100-page study by the Roeher
into the costs and benefits of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA). That report showed that legislation had
been significantly effective, while not imposing substantial
costs. This Minister had previously told us that she was a "hands
on" minister, who read every piece of paper they had on the ODA
issue. The Minister did not take up our suggestion that she bring
us and the business community together with her to discuss ways
to design a strong, effective ODA.

During the summer and fall, ODA supporters actively deployed a
new three-part strategy unveiled at an August 3, 2000 Queen's
Park news conference, which attracted great media coverage around
Ontario. First, we launched our new "Call Mike" campaign. People
from all over the province flooded Premier Harris's office with
phone calls, asking why we still did not have a strong and
effective ODA. Second, ODA supporters successfully raised the ODA
issue during the late summer Hamilton by-election campaign. The
winning Liberal candidate, like the unsuccessful NDP candidate,
supported a strong ODA. The unsuccessful Conservative candidate,
running in a traditionally Conservative riding, had refused
during the campaign even to meet with local ODA Committee
representatives. Third, ODA supporters raised the ODA issue
during the fall local municipal election campaigns.


A dramatic milestone on the road to the ODA occurred on October
4, 2000. Liberal Opposition leader Dalton McGuinty revealed a
leaked secret draft Cabinet document outlining the government's
secret, cynical, cold and calculated plans for the ODA. This
included an agenda over the fall to introduce another weak,
ineffective bill that would not bring us to our goal of a
barrier-free Ontario. It included a strategy for Government
diversionary tactics to distract the media from expected
criticism. This document revealed that the government had already
formulated their plans the week before the ODA Committee
delegation met with the Citizenship Minister on September 8th. At
that September meeting with us, the Citizenship Minister had
claimed that she was still open to consider all options, and
wanted the ODA Committee to encourage others to consult with her.
The leaked document shows that the Government had already made up
its mind on its planned actions and its timetable. Any subsequent
consultations by the Government would be a staged sham.

ODA supporters immediately sprang into action over this year's
final three months to convince the government not to act on its
leaked, cynical plans. The leaked Cabinet document suggested that
the government thinks Ontarians do not care about a strong ODA.
We were especially concerned that the Government would try to
sneak a weak ODA through the Legislature while the media was
distracted by the fall federal election campaign. We responded
with our "Ontarians Do Care" campaign. Actions occurred all over
the province, including:

Our "Ontarians Do Care" campaign has been a success so far. Our
efforts across Ontario convinced the Government to back off its
fall timetable. As of the end of 2000, the Government has neither
introduced a bill, nor even come forward with an "action plan" on
the ODA which it has been promising since October of 1999. Late
in the year, in the face of all our efforts, Conservative MPPs
have finally started to take some cautious steps to quietly meet
with more people (albeit not at public, open forums) to discuss
disability issues including the ODA. Our success to date leaves
the door open for new efforts by us in 2001 to get the Government
to introduce a strong bill.


A huge thank you is extended to everyone for your wonderful and
successful efforts and for your support through this long and
challenging process. Also, a huge thank you to those politicians
and their staff who have been prepared to devote time and energy
to supporting the effort at winning a strong ODA. May one and all
have a wonderful holiday and a great, barrier-free new year. May
next year see major strides along the road to a strong, mandatory


Follow this link to read 1999 Year End Report


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