Letter to the 3 Party Leaders with ODA Proposal
Re: New ODA Consultation Process
September 10, 1999
To: Premier Mike Harris
Mr. Dalton McGuinty
Mr. Howard Hampton
Re: Ontarians with Disabilities Act
I am writing on behalf of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, a broad-based coalition of individuals and community groups which has united to secure the prompt enactment of a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act to achieve a barrier-free Ontario for persons with disabilities. In 1995 the Premier promised to enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act in his first term. No legislation was enacted.
Now, the Government has committed that a consultation process will be undertaken and then a new strengthened bill will be brought forward. The new Citizenship Minister, Helen Johns, has asked for our input on how this consultation should be conducted.
In response to her request, we have prepared the enclosed proposal for the consultation process. We would ask each of your parties to endorse this proposal, and to work together to ensure that this matter proceeds as a top priority in the upcoming weeks. We note that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act is the only major piece of unfinished promised business from the Government's first term. We urge that it be addressed promptly before new business crowds the agenda of the Legislature.
We would welcome the opportunity to provide assistance to any and all of you and to your caucuses to ensure that a full, open and accessible public consultation is commenced to that end as quickly as possible. This will then be followed by the enactment of a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act as soon as possible.
M. David Lepofsky, C.M.
Chair, ODA Committee
cc: Helen Johns
United to Achieve a Barrier-Free Ontario for People With Disabilities
ODA Committee's Input on How the Consultation on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Should Proceed.
In the April 22, 1999 Throne Speech, a commitment was made that the Ontario Government would hold new consultations on an Ontarians with Disabilities Act and that after this, the Government would move forward with legislation. This was repeated on behalf of the Ontario government in the 1999 election campaign. The other two major parties also supported the enactment of a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
After the 1999 election, the new Minister of Citizenship, Helen Johns, requested that the ODA Committee provide input on how the promised new consultation should be conducted. In response, the ODA Committee is proposing the following as the basis for the new consultation. These proposals are built on proposals made to previous Ministers in the Government's last term, and feedback from our membership across Ontario.
This proposal is intended to ensure that the new Consultation is genuine, meaningful, expeditious, inclusive and that it provides the information needed to move forward as quickly as possible with the introduction and passage of a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
We recommend that the Consultation be designed and carried out in accordance with the following principles:
- The Consultation should be barrier free and accessible so that all people with disabilities who want to can fully participate in all aspects of the Consultation process. This includes, for example, holding the meetings in accessible locations, ensuring that real-time captioning and sign language interpreters are available and providing any material in accessible formats.
- The Government should accept as a starting point the eleven principles which the Ontario Legislature unanimously adopted by resolution on October 29, 1998. They should accept that the purpose of the legislation is to create a barrier-free Ontario. The Consultation should ask the public to advise on how to put those eleven principles into action in the Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
- The Consultation should focus solely on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. There should be no restrictions on the options which people can propose to the Consultation, and which the Consultation will consider for inclusion in the Ontarians with
- The Consultation should be a truly public consultation. Anyone who wants to participate should have an opportunity to present their point of view in person. It should not be an "invitation only" process. The public should be able to attend any meetings held.
- The Consultation should be conducted by MPPs from all parties, to help ensure that this is a non-partisan and bi-partisan effort. It should build on the fact that all three parties have expressed support for the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It should not be conducted by civil servants or consultants, since the MPPs are the ones who will be making the key decisions.
- Sufficient time must be given to those who want to participate to prepare their presentation or submission. A minimum of two months should be given between the time the specifics of the consultation are announced and the first public meetings.
- Adequate time must be given for each presentation so that people have a meaningful opportunity to be heard.
- The Consultation hearings and forums should be conducted across Ontario, with financial assistance provided to those who need to travel significant distances to reach the centres where they are held;
- The Government should widely publicize and solicit public participation in the Consultation process.
- Since people with disabilities have already waited more than four years for the promised Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Government should promptly finish designing this Consultation and should announce it as quickly as possible.
- After the consultation gathers input from the public, including individuals, organizations and business, the information gathered should be promptly made available to the public without need to resort to filing requests under the Freedom of Information legislation;
- Following the consultation and the release of the results, but before the Government makes its final decisions on the bill's contents, major stake holders including the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee should be given an opportunity to respond to those results.
- The Government should introduce a new bill into the Ontario Legislature for debate within as short a period as possible after completion of the Consultation.
- After the new bill is introduced into the Legislature, the Legislature should hold public hearings on the bill. The procedure for those hearings should comply with these principles set out in this document.
Based on the foregoing, it is recommended as follows:
- The Consultation should be conducted by an all-party Select Committee of the Ontario Legislature. The Select Committee would hold public hearings in centres across Ontario to gather input from as many interested people and organizations as possible on how the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should be designed to most effectively achieve the goal of a barrier-free Ontario for all people with disabilities in accordance with the eleven principles that the Legislature unanimously approved by resolution on October 29, 1998.
- The specifics of the Consultation process should be formally announced by November 1, 1999.
- The Consultation's public hearings or forums across Ontario should be scheduled to begin around February 15, 2000.
- The analysis of the input gathered should be completed and reports released to the public by June 1, 2000.
- After completion of the work of the Select Committee of the Legislature, final consultations with major stake holders, including the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, should be held over the period of June 1 to August 15, 2000;
- The Government should introduce a new bill into the legislature for first reading promptly upon the resumption of the session of the Legislature in the fall of 2000, with public hearings on the bill to follow in accordance with the principles set out above.
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