Ms. Isabel Bassett
Minister of Citizenship, Culture and
77 Bloor Street West, 6th Floor
Dear Ms. Bassett,
Re: Ontarians with Disabilities Act
Thank you for your telephone call of November 12, 1997 in response to my November 11 letter. We are very concerned that instead of addressing the specific questions that we raised at our October 27, 1997 meeting with you, and set out in my subsequent letter, you said that you cannot yet provide any answers to us. You indicated that you are in effect starting over again and reviewing all aspects of the process leading up to and including the introduction and passage of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. In response to our request for a reaffirmation of the commitments made to us by the previous Minister with respect to the public consultation process and the target date for introduction of the legislation, you said that you did not consider yourself bound by those commitments. You are apparently reconsidering whether there will even be a public consultation process before the law is drafted. This despite the fact that a public consultation is included in the Business Plan for your Ministry released earlier this year.
We acknowledge that you and the Premier have stated that you continue to support an Ontarians with Disabilities Act and will live up to the commitments made by the Premier. However, with more than 2-1/2 years gone in your government's mandate, it is difficult to see how this can be accomplished without severely restricting the opportunity for a broad public consultation which includes all stakeholders including people with disabilities. At our October 27, 1997 meeting, as well as in correspondence to you and your predecessor, we made it clear that our membership takes the strong position that any Ontarians with Disabilities Act must be the result of an extensive, open public consultation process and must be strong, inclusive and effective.
Since you did indicate that you are reviewing all of the matters that we discussed with your predecessor, I want to reiterate the offer I made during our telephone conversation to meet with you to review the matters which we covered with your predecessor. This would give you the benefit of our views before you make any further decisions. I hope that you will take us up on this offer so that we can all begin moving forward as quickly as possible.
The ODA Committee is a non-partisan, volunteer coalition. Members of the committee have worked hard over the last 2-1/2 years just to get to the point where a public consultation appeared imminent. Any further delay or back-tracking on previous understandings with your predecessor will be viewed with a great deal of concern and frustration. As you are considering your options, it is important to remember that every day, people with disabilities continue to face existing barriers, and are forced to deal with new barriers that would have been prevented if the Ontarians with Disabilities Act were now in place.
I hope that we will hear from you very soon that you are prepared to meet for a briefing or to discuss specific proposals for the consultation process, the introduction of the legislation and the other matters raised in our meeting and earlier letters. Our goal in meeting with you is the same as it was for your predecessor - we want to work together with you to pass a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act as promised by the Premier during the election campaign. We look forward to hearing from your office to schedule a meeting with you, in person, when you are in a position to respond to our specific inquiries.
M. David Lepofsky, Co-Chair
cc Hon. Mike Harris