Members Statements in the Ontario Legislature
Re: Bill 83
November 30, 1998
| Marion Boyd   |
| Frances Lankin, Hon. Janet Ecker   |
Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): Last Thursday I was honoured to attend a hastily called meeting sponsored by the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee in London, Ontario. My colleagues Dwight Duncan from the Liberal Party and Bob Wood from the Tory party were with me to hear the disgust, disappointment and distrust expressed by the disabled community in London towards this government, and the betrayal they felt at the introduction of Bill 83, which incidentally they refuse to call an Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
I'd like to read into the record a letter sent on November 24 to Premier Harris from David Lepofsky on behalf of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. I'll read one paragraph of that.
"We cannot accept your bill as in any way fulfilling your election promise to enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act to achieve a barrier-free Ontario for people with disabilities. Your bill will do nothing to redress the barriers we face. It does not even speak to the vast majority of barriers that we face, namely, those outside the Ontario government. Of those that it does address, namely, those within the Ontario government, it leaves their removal and prevention to the sole discretion of each ministry. It is unenforceable, provides no remedies, and is, with respect, a hurtful insult to the one-and-a-half million Ontarians who now have a disability. It fails to comply with any of the 11 principles which the Ontario Legislature unanimously adopted for this bill on October 29, 1998."
Frances Lankin, Hon. Janet Ecker
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is to the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. Minister, you say that your new Ontarians with Disabilities Act will require the government to review more than 600 pieces of legislation, as well as policies and programs, to ensure that people with disabilities are being treated properly. I wonder if the minister is aware of money being taken away from the children of disabled parents by your government. When the federal government implemented the national child benefit, your government deducted $50 per child from welfare benefits. But that money is not just being deducted from welfare recipients; it's also being deducted from families who depend on the Ontario disability support program.
That national benefit was supposed to help children in low-income families and it was supposed to help parents in low-wage jobs. Many of the parents receiving disability support will never be able to work. Their children need those benefits. I'd like you to tell us what kind of teeth your new legislation will have. Will your legislation mean an end to the clawing back of the national child benefit from disabled parents and their children by the Mike Harris government?
Hon Isabel Bassett (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): I'll refer that to the Minister of Community and Social Services.
Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I think the honourable member's research is usually quite good and I think she probably understands that the goal of the national child benefit, the increase in money that Ottawa has given the provinces, is designed to go to families who are in low-income working situations. It's to be a top-up and an assistance to people who are in working circumstances. Any additional monies for the provinces are being reinvested in high-priority programs to help individuals who may well be in working circumstances and to help get people off welfare into those working circumstances. For example, we're using the national child benefit monies to help put actual hard dollars into the pockets of low-income working parents to help them with their child care expenses.
Ms Lankin: This is a further betrayal of persons with disabilities, and you won't even answer the question and defend your own legislation. To the minister who stands up and defends this: This money you're clawing back from parents who are receiving disability support programs, many of them are parents who will never be able to work. That national child benefit was supposed to help low-income children. It's supposed to help bring children out of poverty.
Hon Mrs Ecker: By getting them off assistance.
Ms Lankin: You're yelling at me that you want to take people off the system. These are people with disabilities. You said you were taking them off welfare. You said this was a different program. You're applying the same rules, and you're clawing back money from disabled families and children of disabled parents. That is discriminatory. That is not what you said you were going to do. Your legislation that your other minister won't defend obviously won't solve the problem. You explain why you're discriminating against families with disabilities and their children.
Hon Mrs Ecker: With all due respect to the honourable member, there is no change in their assistance benefit level. What they are eligible for remains what they are eligible for. We are not reducing or taking away the money that is part of their monthly income, and she knows that.
I think we should stress to the honourable member that our benefits for those who have disabilities who are on the system are 47% more generous than the other provinces. Again, Ontarians would very much support that. Perhaps she's prepared to say that because someone with a disability is living on income support, somehow they're not going to be capable of employment. Certainly that's not what we heard from people with disabilities. Their program had a 50% failure rate getting people into employment. People with disabilities said that was unacceptable. That's why we developed the new Ontario disability support program, with its employment supports, so that those individuals would have the best crack they could have at the employment market, to work the way they want to work.
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