March 7, 2001
Here is even more Media coverage recently given to the
Ontarians with Disabilities Act issue.
As of March 7, 2001, there are only 261 days until November 23, 2001,
the Legislature's deadline for a strong and effective Ontarians with
Disabilities Act to be enacted into law.
London Free Press Monday March 5, 2001 Page A-3
Disabled target Queen's Park
'We've tried to meet with the premier for six years,'
By JOE MATYAS, Free Press staff
Premier Mike Harris was accused at a London public
meeting yesterday of breaking his promises to disabled
people in Ontario.
Harris was criticized for his government's failure to pass strong
legislation to create a barrier-free province for
people with physical, sensory and mental disabilities.
"We've tried to meet with the premier for six years," said David
Lepofsky, chairperson of the Ontarians with
Disabilities Act Committee, a provincewide, grassroots
organization of disabled people, their families, friends
"Mr. Harris said he'd work with us to develop the act, but he's
refused to meet with us. He's broken every promise
he made to us."
In 1995, Harris promised to pass an act by the end of his
Progressive Conservative government's first term, but it
didn't happen, Lepofsky told about 80 people at Mount
"Mr. Harris has given us three ministers with no mandate
to produce a strong piece of legislation and two bills that were
quickly withdrawn because they were weak, voluntary
and unenforceable," Lepofsky said.
He said he hoped a satisfactory bill will be passed by Nov. 23
because of a unanimous resolution passed by the
legislature, mounting public opinion and growing municipal
Twenty-one municipalities -- including London -- have
passed resolutions urging the province to act on a new
bill, Lepofsky said.
In addition, the Ontario legislature voted 88-0 to pass a
bill by Nov. 23.
The vote, on a motion by Elgin-St. Thomas-Middlesex
Liberal MPP Steve Peters, showed members of all
parties were in favour, Lepofsky said.
He blamed Harris and key ministers for failing to deliver
on the promises so far.
"We're a non-partisan movement," Lepofsky said. "If the
government came forward with a good law, we'd
congratulate them and give credit where it's due."
Peters, London West Tory MPP Bob Wood and London
Coun. Sandy Levin attended the meeting.
Invited to speak, Wood said he's prepared to introduce a
private member's bill at Queen's Park to strike a task force to
survey Ontarians with disabilities about problems of
access to jobs, housing, goods and services.
He also invited members of the ODA committee to meet
a Conservative caucus committee on justice and social
services that he chairs.
Lepofsky thanked Wood and said his group would work
with any MPP prepared to assist the cause.
Audience member Richard Yake appreciated Wood's
goodwill but wondered what good a private member's bill
would do when barriers to the disabled are already well-known.
Michael Lewis, another audience member, said a new
act would be worth it if it could prevent "one more Covent Garden
Market from being built." That building is an
accessibility nightmare for the disabled, he said.
Levin said city councillors and administrators are
determined not to let it happen again.
"We learned a lot from Covent Garden Market and we're
determined to make the new central public library and
downtown arena a lot more accessible," he said.
Levin also said council has passed a new accessibility
policy and is currently reviewing "our own accessibility
and what has to be done to improve it."
Crystal Easton and her hearing ear dog, Nelson, attend a meeting in
London yesterday that focused on securing provincial
legislation to improve conditions for people with disabilities. The
forum was co-hosted by the MS Society of Canada and the London
chapter of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Comittee. PHOTO.
Canadian Press Wire Service
March 2, 2001
National general news
HEADLINE:Tories cut off legislative session leaving crime and
health bills to die
By Colin Perkel
Ontario's Conservative government pulled the plug on the
legislative session Friday, leaving several key bills to die on
the order paper.
The legislature will now resume with a throne speech on April 19,
Premier MikeHarris said.
"Our priority for this session will be taking specific
actions to maintain Ontario's strong economic outlook," said
"Reduced taxes, fiscal responsibility and fostering strong
communities are essential to maintaining Ontario's healthy growth
and unsurpassed quality of life."
The opposition attacked the decision to end the session as a
cynical ploy to silence debate and prevent important pieces of
legislation from proceeding.
"This has nothing to with governing and everything to do with the
Tories wanting to dodge question period as the Walkerton inquiry
resumes," said New Democrat Leader Howard Hampton. Hampton was
angry at the government's decision, especially in light of the
fact that five bills sponsored by the party will now die.
Among those bills is one to protect Ontario's drinking water and
another to regulate the use of restraints on elderly
"We ask the government not to throw the baby out with the
bath water," said Hampton.
Liberal house leader Dwight Duncan urged Harris to recall the
legislature on March 19 as had been scheduled rather than wait
until a month later.
"We want the opportunity to debate the issues as well as the ideas
we've put forward for solving them," said Duncan.
But it's not just opposition bills that may not now see the light
Several key Tory initiatives are also going by the way side,
including much-ballyhooed legislation that would allow the state
to seize the assets of organized criminals in the absence of any
However, the government has said it plans to reintroduce that
The controversial Personal Health Information Act is another
casualty. That bill has been criticized for giving the
government and bureaucrats far too much access to highly
confidential personal information.
The fall session did see the government push through 23 laws just
before the Christmas break.
They included changes to employment legislation and labour laws
that have been attacked by labour as anti-union and
measures to allow private universities to set up shop in the
But activist David Lepofsky said the government has failed again
to live up to its word regarding legislation promised five years
ago to help dismantle barriers facing the disabled.
"They promised they would release an action plan on the
Ontarians With Disabilities Act in this session," Lepofsky said.
"By proroguing, they have officially broken that throne speech
The session began in June 1999 following the election of the
Tories to a second straight majority.
The Toronto Sun Tuesday February 20, 2001
Don't get around much any more
By Eli Shupak
Olympic-bid president John Bitove promises to make Toronto the most
handicapped-accessible city in the world should we win the 2008
Summer Games. That said, when it comes to the disabled, the
government of Ontario Premier Mike Harris just keeps making and
breaking its promises. Between the two of them, we can only hope
something is finally done to remove the barriers that the Greater
Toronto Area's 400,000 people with some form of
disability face on a daily basis, problems they may encounter when
trying to find a job, get to work, ride a bus, obtain an education,
or use our health care system.
This is, yet again, supposed to be the year that an Ontarians with
Disabilities Act (ODA) is introduced.
But we've been hearing that since Harris first promised an ODA
during the 1995 election campaign.
Former Culture and Citizenship Minister Helen Johns recently told
the Sun's Christina Blizzard that the Tories are committed to
bringing in the ODA by November.
However, the proposed legislation would do little to enhance the
quality of life of those with disabilities.
(An Ipsos-Reid survey tabled in the Legislature in December showed
61% of those polled felt the government was not committed to
introducing the legislation, while 66% felt the current level of
services for the disabled was insufficient.)
A leaked cabin document obtained by the Liberals indicated that
cost was the chief impediment. It said the Tory government
considered, but then rejected, the idea of establishing
mandatory requirements for the private and broader public sector to
reduce barriers to the disabled in services and jobs, along with a
separate enforcement agency. The only substantive
initiative in the document was a plan to strengthen penalties for
the unlawful use of disabled parking spots.
"It was .... in response to a breach in the integrity of the
system," said Sgt. Brian Keown of the parking enforcement's
disabled liaison unit. "We've had a very strong public response in
... reporting illegal use of these permits."
The parking objective itself required little new investment the
city of Toronto is responsible for issuing the permits. The cabinet
paper suggested the province was vulnerable on this issue in that,
while polling showed people had little awareness of the disability
act itself, 71% said disability legislation should be mandatory
regardless of the cost.
David Lepofsky, chair of the ODA committee a voluntary group
working to ensure passage of the legislation said this should
serve as a wake-up call to the Harris government.
Without a law, business owners will continue to avoid or evade
complying with building regulations. Nothing will really change
until the law forces compliance. (Forty-five percent of those
polled by Ipsos-Reid believed businesses would never voluntarily
make their premises accessible to the disabled.)
However, as the baby boom generation ages, there will be
increased political pressure on businesses and government to become
more accessible to those with limited mobility.
The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act was the catalyst for major
changes in the way Americans now design buildings. Full
accessibility features add a mere 0.5% to the cost of a new
building if they are included at the planning stage. It's when they
have to be done after the fact that costs skyrocket.
Similar legislation here would help disabled people from all walks
of life live more independent and productive lives,
including those who use wheelchairs, walkers, scooters and canes,
as well as the visually and hearing-impaired and the elderly.
Toronto's bid book for the 2008 Summer Olympics (which includes the
Paralympic Games) talks of making Toronto the most accessible city
in the world. But what, exactly, does that mean and what will be
done to achieve this important goal if Toronto doesn't win the
The Toronto Transit Commission is making an effort to accommodate
more people with disabilities on its regular service and millions
of dollars are being spent to purchase low-floor buses and equip
subway stations with elevators.
This is encouraging, but does anyone know what's actually
happening to the people with disabilities using public transit? For
example, a broken elevator at the Bathurst Station (which happens
more often than you might think) has forced me to go all the way to
Islington Station, cross over to the other side and go back to
Spadina, where I used the elevator to get back up to street level.
From there, I've had to wheel along Bloor to
Bathurst at all hours to catch a bus for home. To its
credit, the TTC has set up an information line indicating the
status of elevators in accessible subway stations.
This includes St. Clair West, which has an elevator from street
level to the mezzanine but nothing down to the platform. (The next
accessible stop is Downsview.)
For years, hockey fans in wheelchairs couldn't get tickets to watch
the Leafs because of the inaccessibility of Maple Leaf Gardens.
There are plenty of spots available at the Air Canada Centre, but
the majority of them don't seem to be occupied by those with
physical handicaps. Why not? Chris Overholt, VP of sales and
service for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., said the
ACC's handicapped spots are held up to 6 p.m. on game night, before
being offered to able-bodied fans, adding the ACC is working to
improve accessibility to the disabled and the availability of
On another front, with most wheelchair-accessible taxis
contracted out to Wheel-trans, few are available for other
duties. Some taxis that offer this service charge a premium rate.
Last summer, an emergency trip from SkyDome to Yonge and Eglinton
cost me $36. Drivers say there wouldn't be enough business if they
relied solely on metered fares.
As for Wheel-trans scheduling, how does one explain a scheduled
five-minute trip from SkyDome to the Toronto General Hospital
following a ball game when it takes at least that amount of time to
get a wheelchair loaded and strapped into a vehicle before the ride
Things like this cause taxis to run late and drivers to go
without breaks during 12-hour shifts, assuming there are no
cancellations. Then again, you often see two vehicles or more at
the same place at the same time, taking one or two riders to the
same place. Since the typical bus capacity is five, is this an
efficient use of resources?
The Employment Supports program within the Ontario Disability
Support Program has been operating for a year, having taken over
from Vocational Rehab Services.
But how effective have they been in placing people with
disabilities into suitable jobs and accommodating their workplace
needs? How stringent is their criteria for funding?
If we want to think of ourselves as a world-class city, it's time
the Tories made a meaningful Disabilities Act a part of their
Common Sense Revolution.
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Last updated March 7, 2001