July 8, 1998
The Hon. Mike Harris
Premier of Ontario
Legislative Building Room 281
Dear Premier Harris:
RE: Ontarians with Disabilities Act
I am writing on behalf of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. We are very concerned that your Government has still not launched the public consultation leading to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. You and your Minister of Citizenship have spoken to the Legislature and the public about consultation for well over one and a half years. Over a month ago, your current minister, Ms. Bassett, told the Legislature that it was coming soon. With the summer months now upon us, and with many members of the public looking forward to their holidays, it is especially vital that we all be afforded an adequate time to prepare to participate in the promised public consultation process. It is also critical that the public consultation process be open, accessible, and barrier-free.
We are also very concerned that the Minister of Citizenship has made statements in the Ontario Legislature which create the impression that your Government has been involved in some sort of ongoing dialogue with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. Her response to a question in Question Period on June 16, 1998 is a good illustration of this. While we have wanted to have such a working relationship with your Government, and have repeatedly sought it, we have encountered barrier after barrier. You yourself have always refused to meet with us. Ms. Bassett has not provided us with any opportunity for input since our first introductory exchanges last October and November. You and your Government have declined each invitation we have extended to you to participate in al-party events on the subject of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act at Queen's Park over the duration of your term in office.
It is not too late to change the Government's approach to this issue. We welcome a chance to meet with you at your earliest convenience to discuss this matter. We also urge that the stalled public consultation process, that has been under study at the Ministry of Citizenship for almost three years now be announced immediately. Finally, may we reiterate the views which we expressed to the Ministry of Citizenship a year ago, that our members and the public would require two months to respond to any public discussion paper. We have also consistently told the Minister that any public consultation process must, to be effective, include open public hearings, without pre-conditions, undertaken by members of the Legislature. These hearings must provide a full opportunity for all interested people with disabilities to have input in person across Ontario.
We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience regarding this pressing and long-overdue matter. The fact that you have left this legislation to the end of your mandate should not shortchange the ability of persons with disabilities to have an effective and meaningful voice in a new law which will have an impact on their future.
M. David Lepofsky, C.M., Co-Chair
cc: Hon. Isabel Bassett
Dalton McGuinty, MPP
Howard Hampton, MPP
Marion Boyd, MPP
Gilles Morin, MPP
Frances Lankin, MPP
Dominic Agostino, MPP