To: All Supporters of a Strong Ontarians with Disabilities Act
From: David Lepofsky, Chair, ODA Committee
Date: October 6, 2000
Re: Further Developments on the Leaked Harris Cabinet
Document on the ODA
I want to update you on the unfolding events arising from the
Liberal Party's revelation this week of the Harris Cabinet's
secret plans on the ODA. We appreciate that this week's
extraordinary events has generated a lot of email coming to you.
To make things easier, we are here compiling several items into
one message. If you don't want to read all this material,
I summarize it here.
Below you will find:
1. The ODA Committee's October 5, 2000 letter to Premier Harris
calling for an urgent meeting with him in light of the revelation
that he plans to break all of his election promises to us
regarding the ODA.
2. The ODA Committee's news release dated October 6,2000 which
notifies the media of our condemnation of the Ontario
Government's plans, and our call for Premier Harris to reject the
plans in the leaked document.
3. A powerful editorial that appeared in the Toronto Star on
Friday October 6, 2000 which condemns the Harris Government's
plans regarding the ODA.
4. A transcript of a question put to Citizenship Minister Helen
Johns on Tuesday, October 3, 2000 by the new NDP Disability
Critic, Tony Martin during Question Period. In this, occurring
the day before the Liberal Party's revelation of the leaked
secret Cabinet document, the Minister gives her usual party line.
It sounds especially troubling in light of what we all learned
the next day.
5. Question Period transcript of a question put to Minister
Johns by Liberal Party Leader Dalton McGuinty on Thursday,
October 5, 2000, the day after he revealed the Cabinet document.
The Minister tries to say that they never broke their promise to
enact the ODA in their first term. Yet the Harris promise was to
enact the ODA, not merely to "bring forward" a bill. During this
exchange, former Liberal Disability Critic Steve Peters was
ejected from the Legislature because he levelled certain
criticisms of the Citizenship Minister which he did not withdraw.
6. A news release by the new Liberal Disability Critic Ernie
Parsons calling for Minister Helen Johns to resign.
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE
c/o Marg Thomas
1929 Bayview Avenue, Toronto ON M4G 3E8
Tel: (Voice direct) 416-480-7686 Fax: 416-480-7014
Voice mail: 416-480-7012
TTY: c/o Susan Main 416 964-0023 ex. 343
October 5, 2000
The Honorable Michael Harris
Room 281, Legislative Building
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1
Dear Premier Harris,
Re: Ontarians with Disabilities Act
We were shocked to learn yesterday about the contents of the
secret Cabinet document which reveals your Government's plans
regarding the promised Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It
reveals Government plans to introduce worthless legislation, and
to orchestrate publicity to make it look good.
Premier, this all indicates to us that you have already decided
to break your 1999 election promise to bring forward new
legislation which is better than the toothless, 3-page Bill 83
which you withdrew two years ago. It also clearly indicates
that you plan to break your Government's commitment, made on
November 23, 2000 , to enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act
which is strong and effective within two years of that date.
This further compounds the cruel fact that you broke your 1995
election promises to enact the Ontarians with Disabilities Act in
your first term, and to work together with us to develop it.
On October 2, 2000, I wrote you to again request a meeting with
you to discuss the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We have
received no reply to this request. To date, you have steadfastly
refused to meet with us throughout the five and a half years
that you have served as premier.
In light of this latest development, it is absolutely critical
that we meet with you as soon as possible. Because of the
urgency of this situation, would it be possible for you or your
office to let us know by next Tuesday whether you would be
agreeable to schedule a meeting with us?
David Lepofsky, CM
Ontarians With Disabilities Act Committee
cc: Helen Johns 325-6195
Norman Sterling 326-2913
Dalton McGuinty 325-9895
Dwight Duncan 325-2201
Steve Peters 325-7262
Ernie Parsons 325-4757
Howard Hampton 325-8222
David Christopherson 325-3189
Marilyn Churley 325-3252
Tony Martin 325-7111
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE
NEWS RELEASE - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 6, 2000 - A secret Harris Cabinet document,
released by the Liberals this week, reveals that the Harris
Government has mapped out detailed, cruel and cynical plans for
systematically breaking its promises to 1.5 million Ontarians
with disabilities. The leaked draft submission to Cabinet's
powerful Priorities and Planning Committee reveals Government
plans for an Ontarians with Disabilities Act which will do
"This document exposes that Premier Harris cares only about
marketing his do-nothing plans while he continues to refuse to
meet with people with disabilities to work out a meaningful new
bill", said David Lepofsky, chair of the province-wide non-
partisan ODA Committee. "He promised us real and meaningful
action, but plans nothing more than hurtful tokenism."
In the 1995 election, Premier Harris promised to enact the
Ontarians with Disabilities Act in his first term - legislation
necessary to achieve a barrier-free Ontario for those who have a
disability now or in the future. He also pledged to work
together with the ODA Committee to develop this law. He has done
Two years ago, the Harris Government introduced a toothless
three-page bill which did not require the removal of a single
barrier anywhere in Ontario. It was widely condemned across
Ontario, and died on the order paper days after first reading.
In the 1999 election, the Harris Government promised a new round
of public consultations, to be followed by a stronger law. The
government committed in a 1999 all-party resolution to enact a
Disabilities Act which is "strong and effective."
This leaked document shows Mike Harris plans to break every
promise he has made to Ontarians with disabilities on this
subject. Yet he keeps claiming he is a man of his word.
"We now know that Citizenship Minister Helen Johns' September 8,
2000 meeting to consult with us was a staged scam. She had
already gone to Cabinet with her plans to pass a sham of a bill.
Yet she claimed during our meeting that she is open to all ideas,
wants to consult with people with disabilities on this
legislation, and even wants us to publicize her availability to
consult," said Lepofsky.
The ODA Committee has called for an urgent meeting with the
Premier. It challenges the Premier to categorically reject this
document and to show that he will keep his promises, so that all
Ontarians can truly and fully take part in Ontario life.
The most shameful policies of the Mike Harris
government since 1995 have involved 1.5 million
Dumping employment equity legislation
undercut their chances for jobs. Cuts in
welfare and community programs shrank support
cheques and bus service alike.
Huge cuts to special education funding
created a still festering school crisis for
disabled kids and their parents.
And Harris' 1998 Ontarians with Disabilities
Act was so empty it almost
certainly defeated a cabinet minister.
Has anything been learned? Clearly not.
A cabinet document leaked this week makes it
plain the government's priority is
public relations. The document - a
``presentation to Priorities, Policy and
Communications Board'' sets out
recommendations for legislation and an action
The legislation will ``use existing mandatory
requirements and enforcement,'' and
``codify'' existing directives. The action
plan will involve ``minimal new
investment.'' It proposes, for example, a
``full review'' of the disabled person
parking permit program.
The document anticipates that groups who act
for the disabled will be
disappointed. But it says, ``June 2000
polling indicates that the general public
may not have much interest and may support
(the) government's approach.''
What we have, in short, is a government
demonstrably unconcerned about meeting
the real needs of the disabled.
It is concerned, rather, with doing the least
it can get away with, secure in its
belief that the ``general public has little
awareness and interest.''
This is a disgraceful basis for decisions
affecting not just the quality of life of
1.5 million Ontarians but their chance for
Ontario Legislature Hansard Tuesday, October 3, 2000
Ontarians with Disabilities Legislation
Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): My question is for the Minister
of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, with responsibility for
seniors and women: Minister, why won't you table, this session, an
Ontarians with Disability Act?
There are telephones, there are pay phones in this building that
the disabled cannot access. There are heavy doors that slam in
their face almost every time they turn around and now we find that
the Ontario Human Rights Commission has slammed Famous Players
Theatre and told them to remove the barriers that deny people with
disabilities the simple right to watch a movie.
But your government's no better, so why don't you introduce the
Ontarians with Disability Act and let people with disabilities have
it guaranteed in law that they will have access to services and
opportunities that they deserve in this province?
Hon Helen Johns (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation,
minister responsible for seniors and women): This government is
working to make Ontario the best place to work, live and raise
families, and that's no exception when we talk about people with
disabilities also. The government promised that they would bring
forward an action plan within the first session of the Legislature.
We intend to do that. We've promised in an opposition day that we
would have legislation forward by November of 2001. That
legislation will be fair, it will be reasonable, not only for
people with disabilities but it will be also fair and reasonable
for people who need to accommodate those people, who want to
accommodate those people, so that we can make sure that people with
disabilities are able to be accommodated in the province of
As everyone in the House will know, we have moved forward with
people with disabilities but there's a lot of work that needs to be
done and we intend to move the benchmark forward to make sure that
people with disabilities have opportunities.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): The minister's time is up.
Mr Martin: Minister, if you're really serious about
what you just said, if you really meant what you just said, you
just simply table that legislation this session and give some
comfort to the people with disabilities out there that you actually
are going to do something. If you brought that bill in before the
House now, people living with disabilities will be able to attend
a movie at a Famous Players theatre by Christmas, just like
everyone else; people will be able to use payphones, just like
everyone else. One single piece of legislation could literally open
doors to thousands of people living with disabilities. Will you
stop making excuses and commit to table an Ontarians with
Disabilities Act this session?
Hon Mrs Johns: There's a number of things I'm doing to move the
legislation and the action plan forward. All of this of course
takes time because this is a complex area. Of course, everyone in
the House would know that the legislation in America is a federal
statute, the Americans with Disabilities Act. Certainly the federal
government in Canada hasn't looked yet to say that they'd be moving
forward with that. We've looked at the legislation in many of the
states across America because, as everyone in this House knows,
there's no legislation at all across any of the provinces. Ontario
will be the leader when it comes forward with its first piece of
legislation and its action plan.
Let me remind you that in Ontario we spend $6 billion annually on
services for people with disabilities. That's an increase of over
$800 million since this government was elected in 1995-$6 billion-
The Speaker: The minister's time is up.
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for
the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. Minister, I want to
return to the matter of your betrayal of Ontario's disabled community
and particularly to the secret document that you had submitted to cabinet
on the subject of a new Ontarians with disabilities act. In particular,
I want to draw your attention to those things that you considered putting
into law but which you rejected.
It says here that you considered extending the law to eliminate
barriers in our hospitals and our schools, but you rejected that.
It says that you considered merely encouraging private sector to
improve access, not compelling, merely encouraging, but you
rejected that. It said that you considered creating a separate
agency to help remove barriers for people in Ontario who have
disabilities and you rejected that. Minister, all the very things
that are absolutely essential to a real Ontarians with disabilities
act you rejected.
I ask you again, why have you betrayed the community in Ontario
that has disabilities?
Mr Steve Peters (Elgin-Middlesex-London): You're the biggest
barrier facing this province.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Member take his seat. Order. Last
warning to the member for Elgin-Middlesex-London. You can't shout
out like that. Last warning. Minister?
Hon Mrs Johns: Let me say first off that this government is
committed to working with Ontarians to make Ontario the best place
to work, live and raise their families. We're committed to having
that economic strength and we're committed to making sure that we
help people with disabilities to be able to have the same lives as
We promised legislation; we're moving forward with that
legislation. We said we would move forward within the goal posts of
the Common Sense Revolution to improve the lives of persons with
disabilities all across this wonderful province. We said we would
put forward legislation by 2001, and we intend to do that. I
promised yesterday that the legislation would be fair and it would
be reasonable, not only for people with disabilities, but for
people who are in the position of accommodating those needs. We
intend to keep that promise.
The Speaker: Supplementary.
Mr McGuinty: Minister, the jig is up. You have been found out.
People now know what your real intentions are. I produced your
secret recommendations to cabinet. You have no intention whatsoever
of standing up for Ontarians with disabilities.
Mike Harris promised to enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act
during his first term in office and he broke that promise. Last
term you personally voted for a resolution on the 11 principles
that you promised your legislation would include. You promised in
particular that your new act would apply to hospitals and schools.
You've broken that promise. You promised that it would include a
new agency to help remove barriers. You've broken that promise as
well. You promised to eliminate barriers in the private sector. You
have broken that promise as well.
Minister, you are no longer of any value and of any use to
Ontarians with disabilities. Do the honourable thing: step aside
The Speaker: Member take his seat. Stop the clock. I have to name
the member for Elgin-Middlesex-London and ask him to leave. We
can't have a situation like that. I name him and ask him to
withdraw from the chamber.
Mr Peters: Speaker, I will not withdraw that statement; on behalf
of 1.5 million-
The Speaker: Member take his seat.
Mr Peters was escorted from the chamber.
The Speaker: Minister. Sorry for the interruption.
Hon Mrs Johns: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Let me be very
clear about the promises that were made by Mike Harris and this
government. Mike Harris promised in 1995 that he would put forward
a bill that related to Ontarians with disabilities, and he did
that. He did that in 1997. At that time the Ontario disability
community asked that he pull that back and have another look at it,
and we are doing that. We've promised in the throne speech that we
would come forward with an action plan in this session, and we
still stand by that commitment.
We also promised that we would have legislation by November 2001,
and we live by that commitment. The legislation will be fair and it
will be reasonable. The action plan will be fair and it will be
reasonable. We intend to improve the lives of people with
disabilities all across the province.
The Speaker: I'm afraid the minister's time is up.
October 4, 2000
Queen's Park - Today in the Legislature, Ernie Parsons,
MPP Prince Edward -Hastings and Critic for Persons with
Disabilities, called for the resignation of Helen Johns, Minister
of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation.
In a Ministry document leaked to the Opposition, it has been
discovered that the Mike Harris government has no intention of
keeping its promise to persons with disabilities.
According to the secret ministry document, Helen Johns Minister
responsible for Persons with Disabilities will introduce a bill
that will at most increase fines for Parking in Handicap Space
"This is offensive to all Ontarians. I cannot believe that this
Minister would be so shortsighted as to even think of introducing
such a bill. The top priority of people with disabilities is
opening doors, not parking spots", Parsons decried.
11 principles establishing the base for an effective Ontarians with
Disabilities Act were unanimously passed by the Legislature two
years ago. None of these principles were addressed in the ministry document.
"Promise made, promises broken. This Minister has become a barrier to the 1.5 million people with disabilities in this province. She should resign", Parsons declared.
For more information contact:
Ernie Parsons, MPP
Queen's Park Office Room 421
Main Legislative Building
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A4
Tel: (416) 325-4700
Fax: (416) 325-4757
183 Front Street
Belleville, Ontario K8N 2Y9
Tel: (613) 962-1144
Fax: (613) 969-6381
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