in the Ontario Legislature
re: ODA Legislation
May 17, 2000
Here is an exchange which occurred between Liberal Disability Critic Steve Peters and Premier Harris regarding the Ontarians with Disabilities Act during Question Period on Wed., May 17, 2000. By way of background, in January of 2000, Citizenship Minister Helen Johns revealed that she was holding secret, invitation-only consultation meetings on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Both the ODA Committee and Opposition MPPs have been unable to get Minister Johns to reveal whom she is consulting, or what they are suggesting to her.
As a result, MPP Steve Peters filed a request for relevant documents on this secret consultation process under the Freedom of INformation Act legislation. Minister Johns' office responded that there will be a charge of some $450 which Mr. Peters must pay to get an answer in the form of disclosure of the requested documents.
Here is what happened in the Ontario Legislature. As Mr. Peters asked the supplemental question set out below, he had a cheque delivered to the Premier on the floor of the Legislautre. :
Ontario Legislature Question Period May 17, 2000
Ontarians with Disabilities Legislation
Mr Steve Peters (Elgin-Middlesex-London): My question is for the Premier. My question is about honour, integrity and being a man of your word. Five years ago, you promised in writing that a Harris government would enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act within your first term of office. You promised personally that
you would work with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act committee towards developing that legislation. That was your personal promise, Premier. You're now one year into your second term of office, half a decade, two elections and three ministers since you promised action. Two broken promises, Premier, and no legislation-and don't tell us Bill 83 was legislation-and you continue to refuse to meet with the committee.
You talk about being a government that does what it says it's going to do. Premier, you've broken your trust. You've broken your word. Why won't you meet with the committee? Are you afraid to face them?
As the Premier of this province, would you show some integrity and keep your promise to the more than the one and half million persons in this province with disabilities. I implore you, will you stand up today and commit to one hour of your time to meet with the committee to whom you made that promise and have not kept.
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I think there were maybe 10 or 11 questions contained in the preamble. Let me say very clearly that I committed to bring legislation forward in our first term of office and I did bring legislation forward in our first term of office. It was debated. In fact, it had considerable consultation. I was asked by the representatives of the disabled community if I would withdraw the bill and have more
consultations. I honoured that commitment as well. Immediately upon re-election, probably primarily on that commitment, we asked the new minister to begin those consultations, which, of course is taking place. I'm a little surprised, from a party that says we do too much too fast, you're now telling me I'm too slow. But
we'll try and find the right balance of getting all of our commitments done.
Mr Peters: Bill 83 was a joke. When you look at the government's own website it doesn't say that it was withdrawn by the government; it died on the order paper.
Premier, I have repeatedly asked the minister responsible for disabilities issues, not only in this House but by letter, details of her elusive action plan. I have asked her who the groups are she claims to be meeting with and what the results are of those supposed consultations.
Now, Premier, I've been forced to go through the freedom of information, and you know what? You want $465 to get simple answers to simple questions. It's absolutely appalling and undemocratic that this government would see fit to charge money, rather than giving open and honest answers to that question that both the opposition and the public have a right to know. Answers and question period are an ancient parliamentary right. Premier, will you save the taxpayers $465 and instruct your minister to openly and honestly answer a question in this Legislature, otherwise I'm sending the cheque over to you. Here's your money, Premier, now will you please get me the answer to my questions. Where is the minister on her action? When is this action plan going to be released? With whom has the minister been consulting? What are the results of these consultations? It's been six months since that action plan was announced. The time is ticking. The time has come for action.
Hon Mr Harris: In addition to honouring the commitment to bring the bill in and honouring the commitment to have more extensive consultations to bring forward legislation, which your government refused to do in five years, the NDP refused to do in five years, which is why it befell our government, like so many things you
refused to do-in addition to doing that, without the legislation, we brought in the Ontario disabilities support program. We've committed $68.4 million over the next five years to address the needs of Ontarians with Alzheimer's disease. We've provided direct funding to persons with disabilities to enable them to
arrange and manage their own attendant services. We've provided 35 new million in resources for more support and services for people. We've committed a new workplace tax incentive to encourage businesses. I might say, I have a cheque here for $465. If it doesn't come with strings attached, like most of your
promises, the Minister of Finance will be pleased to cash it.