ODA Committee Update
dated Nov. 25, 2004
posted Nov. 29, 2004
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
ODA Committee Releases Fact Check on Second Reading Debates on Bill 118 - the First Two Days
November 25, 2004
Below we provide a "Fact Check" on MPPs' speeches on Bill 118, the proposed Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This covers the first two days of Second Reading debates on this bill. All the points below pertain to the second day of that debate, held on Monday November 22, 2004.
We do not here comment on the pros and cons of Bill 118, as argued by the
various MPPs. Rather, we only try here to provide you with needed factual
context, historical background and accuracy checks. This will hopefully
help you draw your own conclusions.
We note that the only speaker from any political party who made points that
required our comments in this Fact Check was Mr. Cam Jackson, the
Conservative Party's disability critic, and the former Citizenship Minister
under the previous Conservative Government who brought in the Ontarians with
Disabilities Act 2001. We emphasize that the ODA Committee is non-partisan.
We checked speeches from all three parties to see where comment was
required. We have not singled out any one party. Rather, we have provided
comments where they happen to be required.
Send us your feedback at:
SECOND READING DEBATES FACT CHECK FOR FIRST AND SECOND DAYS OF SECOND READING DEBATES ON BILL 118
* Referring to his efforts at developing Bill 125, his Ontarians with
Disabilities Act 2001, Conservative MPP and former Conservative Citizenship
Minister Cam Jackson stated: "although I must confess that I didn't take
much time at all to speak with the private sector, or even with
municipalities for that matter, by virtue of their adamance at the time that
they could neither afford nor cope with the costs associated with bringing
full accessibility to our province. That's an issue that I think merits
being returned to, because the cost of accessibility is something this new
bill doesn't address and we need to provide some assurances to the
disability community about how we are going to achieve the lofty goals
contained in Bill 118.
The short answer, of course, is that if it wasn't going to cost anybody
anything, we'd already be doing it. The fact that we're not doing it is not
because there is a certain mean-spiritedness or closed-mindedness in this
province, but that there are very real costs associated with making this
great province of ours fully accessible."
FACT CHECK: In fact, back in 2001 and beforehand, the ODA Committee
repeatedly urged Mr. Jackson to bring the disability community, the
municipalities and other stakeholders to the table to discuss what the ODA
should contain. Mr. Jackson's Government's spring 2001 Throne Speech had
pledged to seek common ground from the stakeholders in developing an ODA.
Mr. Jackson then refused to bring us together with these other stakeholders.
He now gives his explanation why. The reason he now gives was never given to
us. Moreover, when the current Liberal government took up our suggestion,
and brought these stakeholders to the table earlier in 2004, a significant
degree of common ground was found.
Mr. Jackson's suggestion that cost is the real, and by implication, the only
reason why there are still barriers is not accurate. Over the past decade,
new barriers have been created which could have been prevented at little or
no cost. Moreover, many existing barriers could have been removed at little
or no cost. It is the absence of strong and effective legislation that has
left these barriers in place.
* Mr. Jackson, referring to his work in 2001 to develop his ODA bill,
stated: "As I indicated, the challenge that was facing me at the outset,
when I began work in this area, was that the private sector simply said,
"Unless the government is going to pay for it, we're not prepared to
respond." Frankly, I have letters and other indications from the Association
of Municipalities of Ontario that, "Under no circumstances should you impose a model in this province unless you're prepared to give the money to the municipalities to make them
Elsewhere in his speech on the second day of Second Reading debate, Mr.
Jackson repeated the theme that unless the Ontario Government pays for it,
it shouldn't require other sectors to remove barriers against persons with
FACT CHECK: In fact, since 1982 the Ontario Human Rights Code has required
persons with disabilities to be accommodated up to the point of "undue
hardship" in access to jobs, housing, goods, services, facilities and
accommodation. This duty involves spending the organization's funds up to
the point of "undue hardship" to that organization.
Therefore, business and government bodies already are obliged to address
these costs up to the point of undue hardship. They can't refuse to take
any action unless the Ontario taxpayer finances it.
As well, an organization that pays to remove barriers gets the financial
benefits of doing so .e.g more customers with disabilities, more employees
with disabilities, and thus, a better profit margin.
The ODA Committee's position has been that while it would be helpful if the
Government could help to cover these expenses, it is no excuse to fail to
address barriers that the taxpayer won't foot the bill. By comparison, no
one would argue that businesses should be free to pollute the environment as
much as they wish, and that they should only be required to take corrective
action if the Ontario taxpayer foots the bill.
Moreover, the ODA Committee's position has been that the accessibility
standards and time lines should take into account the costs involved in
making change. If action is more costly, organizations should be given more
time to take that action under the standards that will be set under new
disability accessibility legislation. Bill 118 is designed to reflect this
* Mr. Jackson stated: "However, it taught me the first principle of working
on these reforms: You must begin with the disability community. You must
begin with a model that empowers them, because if we ever attempt to put the
disabled community on the same footing as those in positions of authority,
they will never be able to move the benchmarks, and negotiated outcomes have
never worked anywhere on our continent. "
FACT CHECK: There is no evidence that "negotiated outcomes" where the
disability community is at the table, negotiating with other stakeholders
such as business and government, has never worked. This is the very model
which the ODA movement has campaigned for.
* Mr. Jackson stated regarding his 2001 ODA bill: "One of the first
dichotomies between the new government's Bill 118 and the existing law in
the province, Bill 125, is that there are very rigid, prescriptive outcomes
required for the province of Ontario, as a government, to make all its
publicly owned buildings and programs fully accessible. It goes on, in its
regulatory framework, to say they have 10 years in which to make this fully
FACT CHECK: In fact, the ODA 2001 set no 10-year deadline. The previous
Conservative Government, under Mr. Jackson's direction, rejected any
deadlines or time lines that the ODA Committee proposed be added to his 2001
bill. The Liberals and NDP proposed such amendments to his bill in Standing
Committee on December 11, 2001.
Mr. Jackson's 2001 Bill 125, which became the Ontarians with Disabilities
Act 2001, was not in truth "proscriptive". We had no remedy if the Ontario
Government ignored that bill's words.
Moreover, Bill 125 was certainly not "proscriptive" regarding accessibility
of Ontario Government programs. It left it to the Ontario Government to
decide what steps if any to take, and when if ever to take them. Indeed,
the previous Conservative Government itself opted to ignore its own
Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001's requirement to make its first annual
accessibility plans public by September 30, 2003. It used the ongoing 2003
election campaign as its reason for withholding them, thereby disregarding
its own law.
* Regarding his 2001 bill, Mr. Jackson stated: "It was built on one basic
principle: The government of Ontario was in no position to go lecturing the
private sector, the extended public sector or the municipalities on how they
should become more accessible when we as a government were not leading by
example." He later stated: "The big issue in the previous legislation, and
one that isn't clear in this new legislation, Bill 118, is the fact that the
province of Ontario has to become fully accessible first."
FACT CHECK: In fact the previous Conservative Government said that it was
"leading by example" all throughout its eight years in office. Its "example"
included its disregard of its own legislation, described above.
The ODA Committee has argued that while such legislation should of course be
phased in, persons with disabilities shouldn't have to wait for all Ontario
Government programs to be accessible before efforts at accessibility even
begins in the private sector. People with disabilities need to buy food,
clothing and medications, to see a doctor, etc., now, not only after the
Ontario Government leads by example.
* Mr. Jackson stated: "I'm going share with you one little example of why,
in my view, this became so important. The day I was given the assignment,
the first question I asked of my ministry -- the same ministry that my
colleague from Hamilton Mountain now has the privilege of serving -- was,
"How many people in our ministry have a disability?" In other words, I
wanted to put a disability lens on the very ministry I had inherited. "
FACT CHECK: It is, of course, positive that Mr. Jackson sought the
experience of persons with disabilities in his efforts. In fact, before the
Conservatives took power in Ontario in 1995, the previous NDP Government had
passed legislation requiring the Government and others to collect such data
on representation of persons with disabilities in the workplace. The NDP
Government had collected such data on the Ontario Public Service.
Making Mr. Jackson's efforts as described above more difficult, the
Conservatives, on taking power in 1995, promptly repealed that legislation,
the former Ontario Employment Equity Act. The Conservatives' law, repealing
the NDP's Employment Equity Act, , required that any such data on
representation of groups like persons with disabilities in the Ontario
Public Service and other workplaces be destroyed.
* Mr. Jackson stated: "What is of concern to me in this legislation is that
we are now putting everybody on the same time frame, and we're putting
everyone on the same mutual goal of achieving negotiated standards for
FACT CHECK: In fact, this new bill, Bill 118, doesn't require the same
"time frame" for everyone. It permits different time frames for the Ontario
Government, municipal governments, bigger businesses and smaller businesses.
During the consultations this spring, business and the municipal sector
wanted that kind of flexibility. We were entirely agreeable with it.
* Mr. Jackson stated: "If I were a member of the disability community, I
don't think I'd want to sit down and negotiate it. I think I'd want to be
put in an empowered position to say, "Here's the standard which we need to
apply" -- non-negotiable; this is the standard."
FACT CHECK: Back in 2001, Mr. Jackson, while he was Citizenship Minister,
bemoaned the lack of accessibility standards. He then promised that under
his bill, the disability community would be put in the "driver's seat,"
driving change, and setting those standards and deadlines. None were created
under his Government thereafter. His own successor, Conservative Citizenship
Minister DeFaria, supported his Accessibility Advisory Council's refusal of
our request that they hold public consultations on accessibility standards.
* Mr. Jackson stated: "I'm going to use a reference which may be offensive
to some, but it is a valid point. That is that we should ask no less of the
government to set a standard for accessibility for disabled persons, in a
model not too dissimilar from the way in which we provided language rights
in this province for francophones.
Yes, it was controversial; yes, it was expensive, but it was right. It was
right because it was improper for a unilingual francophone to be struggling
in a hospital, unable to communicate with anyone in that hospital. This is
fundamentally wrong and shouldn't occur in this province. Yet we're not
applying that same principle to the empowerment of the disabled community,
who need to communicate for their own medical health and well-being, for
emergency services and for access to government programs."
FACT CHECK: In fact, Mr. Jackson's hospital example is significant about the
need for new, strong legislation. His raising this example may signal a
shift in the Conservative Party's approach.
In the fall of 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada held under the Canadian
Charter of Rights that provinces must fund the cost of sign language
interpreters in hospitals to enable deaf persons to get full access to such
things as emergency room services. The Conservative Ontario Government had
intervened in the Supreme Court of Canada to oppose that argument, but lost.
The ODA Committee repeatedly wrote the previous Conservative Government to
urge it to comply with that Supreme Court of Canada ruling. The Government
often refused to even answer our letters. It took that Government some four
long years to come up with funding.
* Mr. Jackson criticized the new bill, Bill 118, and specifically its
approach to negotiating standards, by reference to what he called the
stronger model of provincial Employment Equity legislation. He stated: "With
a little bit of history -- I know my colleague Mr. Marchese spoke at length
on this bill and talked about employment equity, and he made some very
important points and some significant insights into the mind of the governments, past
and current, about our level of commitment. But if we look back at those
days -- and I recognize a couple of ministers from the government in the
House tonight who were around when the NDP, as part of the accord, insisted
the government of the day of David Peterson, a minority government, bring in
Employment equity treated five identified groups equally: the disability
community was identified, aboriginals, francophones, and so on.
Mr. Jackson: And women and multicultural. So we've used the policy framework
many times in this province with empowerment and prescriptive outcomes as to
what must change. In those days, for example, David Peterson didn't ask
women, "Well, look, why don't you just go out and negotiate with your
employers? We'll give you 20 years to reach a happy medium and then we'll
create some group that will ultimately arbitrate between you, the person who
wants this dignity, and the employer, who has the upper hand." That's the
model, which, in my view, may not get this government to the point it wants
to be when they say they would like Ontario to be fully accessible in 20
Later Mr. Jackson added: "I am reminded of my colleague Mr. Marchese's
eloquent and passionate discussion about employment equity. We still don't
have employment equity. I'm not here to discuss my party's past with it. He
put on the record that the NDP was very committed to that. For them, that is
a really important measure of whether the disabled community is going to be
able to get full access to employment and not be discriminated against. That
is one mechanism. That's a prescriptive way in which governments can address
that challenge. There is none of that in this legislation, in terms of
achieving certain goals or benchmarks for persons with disabilities in our
FACT CHECK: Mr. Jackson's evident support of employment equity also appears
to signal a possible shift in Conservative Party policy.
As noted above, Mr. Jackson and the previous Conservative Government
campaigned against employment equity legislation in 1995 and promptly
repealed it after they took office. In the 1995 election, the Liberal Party
also campaigned against the employment equity Act. That Act wasn't brought
in during the period of the Liberal Government under David Peterson. It was
brought in under the NDP Government 1990-1995.
* Mr. Jackson stated regarding his ODA 2001: "However, if you look at the
current legislation, Bill 125, it already has some very specific language
that is prescriptive for transportation systems in this province. It puts an
onus on the government of the day to fund those programs. It says you cannot
fund new transportation systems that aren't accessible. It puts those
conditions on that. We don't need to negotiate that with the municipality;
we merely have to say, "If you're going to get one cent on the dollar for
gasoline, and we're going to pump another $180 million into transit systems,
they must be accessible." We don't need to sit down with Toronto's transit.
We don't need to sit down with AMO to say, "You know, we could buy two buses
that, because they're discounted because they don't buy them in the United
States anymore, we could get a real bargain. Let's just get those kind of
buses." We already have on the statutes their inability to do that."
FACT CHECK: In fact, Bill 125, the Conservative Government's Ontarians with
Disabilities Act 2001, didn't impose those strict requirements on public
transit providers. In 2001, the ODA Committee proposed amendments to Mr.
Jackson's bill to impose such strict requirements. At Mr. Jackson's
direction, the previous Conservative Government voted them down, when the
opposition Liberals and NDP tabled amendments setting out our proposals.
Moreover, before the Conservatives took power in 1995, the earlier NDP
Government had implemented a funding policy requiring local public transit
providers to only use provincial tax dollars to buy accessible new buses.
The Conservative Government eliminated that policy after it took power in
* Regarding his 2001 ODA bill, Mr. Jackson stated: "They have been a part
of the legislation and the law of this province, that every single minister
and every single ministry must report to the Chair of Management Board how
much it's going to cost them to modify their ministries to make them
accessible to persons with disabilities. That's in the legislation. It's not
going to be in the new legislation. "
FACT CHECK: In fact his bill never required provincial ministries to prepare
and submit those cost estimates.
* Mr. Jackson repeatedly referred to his bill, Bill 125, as "proscriptive".
That term means that it was mandatory - it required barriers to be removed.
In fact his bill generally didn't require barriers to be removed. Its only
enforcement mechanism, a fine provision, was never proclaimed in force. That
fine, in any event, wasn't available if a public sector body failed to
remove or prevent a barrier. It only would have applied, had it been
proclaimed in force, had a municipality with a population over 10,000 failed
to create an accessibility advisory committee, or if a public sector
organization failed to make an annual accessibility plan. As explained
above, Mr. Jackson's bill was not "proscriptive" enough to make his own
Government obey its own law, when that Government decided not to bring
forward annual ministry accessibility plans on September 30, 2003.
* Describing his 2001 ODA bill, Mr. Jackson stated: "These are the
individuals who are part of the history of this province in terms of their
commitment to developing an Ontarians with Disabilities Act that was far
more prescriptive and kept more of the control in the hands of the actual
access advisory committees."
In fact, under the ODA 2001, municipal accessibility advisory committees had
no "control". They could make recommendations. Municipalities neither had to
implement them nor give any reasons for not doing so. Under Mr. Jackson's
directions, the previous Conservative Government defeated our proposed
amendments, put forward by the opposition Liberals and NDP, which would have
given those accessibility advisory committees more "control" by requiring
municipalities to at least respond to recommendations that the accessibility
advisory committees make.
* Mr. Jackson said regarding the Liberals' new bill: "Again, I want to
publicly state how much I appreciate that the minister has retained about
80% of the model and the framework and the foundation upon which decisions
were being made by the disabled community. If there's any criticism, it's
that their composition is now being somewhat watered down in the name
of the ability to come in and negotiate outcomes with the private sector and
FACT CHECK: In fact, nothing in the Liberal Government's new bill, Bill 118,
regarding the participation of persons with disabilities in setting
mandatory accessibility standards "waters down" anything in the earlier
Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001.
* Mr. Jackson states: "In my view, the second level of government which
doesn't have the right to say, "We can't afford it," is a municipal
government, and they too should be prescriptive in terms of the reforms they
create. They have to, in fact, respond to the needs of the disabled
FACT CHECK: In fact, earlier in the same speech, as noted above, Mr. Jackson
said that the municipalities told him they opposed new mandatory legislation
back in 2001 unless the province would pay for barrier removal. He also said
earlier that this was what stopped him from going further in his Ontarians
with Disabilities Act 2001.
* Regarding the impact of his earlier ODA bill on municipalities, Mr.
Jackson stated: "They have to, in fact, respond to the needs of the disabled
community. It's why, in the legislation, we insisted that if you're building
a brand new building or substantively retrofitting one, the access advisory
committee has to have a sign-off authority to ensure that their access
standards are met."
FACT CHECK: In fact, the ODA 2001 didn't give this "sign off" power to
municipal accessibility advisory committees. Section 12 of the ODA 2001 lets
those committees give the municipality non-binding advice on the
accessibility of new municipal buildings. It doesn't require the
municipality to follow that advice or explain why if it doesn't.
* Mr. Jackson stated: "I have some concern with legislation which continues
to support the notion that there is still the opportunity to file appeals of
any decisions that are made and file charges with the Human Rights
Commission. Under no circumstances would we ever support anything that
denied that to someone in our province. On the other hand, you can look at
that as saying, "How good can the legislation be if it still envisages a
significant amount of activity with the Human Rights Commission?"
FACT CHECK: In fact, the firm position of the previous Conservative
Government was that the only enforcement mechanism persons with disabilities
need was to file complaints with the Ontario Human Rights Commission against
barriers, one at a time.
* Mr. Jackson stated: "In the brief time I have to wrap up, I just want to
remind members of this House that, in 1995, all three leaders vying for
voters in this province were asked if they would bring in an Ontarians with
Disabilities Act. The NDP said they would. The Conservatives, with Mike
Harris's signature attached, said he would and he was held to that. At the
time, Lyn McLeod did not sign that. That's a matter of historical record."
FACT CHECK: In fact, the Liberal party under Lyn McLeod was the first party
in the 1995 election to promise an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The
Conservatives made the second promise. The NDP didn't make any election
commitment to pass an ODA in the 1995 election campaign.
Five years earlier, the first party leader to ever promise an Ontarians with
Disabilities Act in any provincial election was the NDP's Bob Rae, in the
1990 election. The NDP was elected in 1990, but that Government never
brought forward an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Despite that, NDP
private member Gary Malkowski did bring forward his own Private member's ODA
bill in 1994. It made it through second reading, but the 1995 provincial
election prevented that bill from reaching third reading in the Legislature,
needed to pass into law.
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