January 6, 1999
Wednesday, January 6, 1999: For Immediate Release
Ontarians With Disabilities Act Committee
HARRIS GOVERNMENT'S DISABILITY BILL DIES - 1.5 MILLION ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES MORE FRUSTRATED THAN EVER
PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, January 6, 1999: With no fanfare or notice, the Harris Government quietly let its widely criticized 3-page disability bill die on the order paper when the Ontario Legislature rose for the holidays, three and a half short weeks after the bill was first introduced. In the 1995 election, Premier Harris promised in writing to enact a new law in his first term to achieve a barrier-free Ontario for the 1.5 million Ontarians with disabilities.
But after three and a half years of delays and inaction, all the Harris Government introduced was its Bill 83 on November 23. That bill would not require a single barrier facing persons with disabilities to be removed anywhere in Ontario ever.
"After spending three and a half weeks claiming that this bill was the best thing any government has done for people with disabilities, the Harris Government just let it die. We are right back where we started three years ago. Ontarians with disabilities are more frustrated than ever," said David Lepofsky, Co-Chair of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, a broad non-partisan provincial coalition that has led the fight for strong and effective new disability law. "In the face of blistering condemnation of this bill from right across Ontario, Premier Harris still has not got the message. Instead of accepting our offer to work together to develop a meaningful law, his Government has said that it simply plans to reintroduce this empty bill when the Legislature resumes in the spring."
The ODA Committee has written to the Premier asking for an urgent meeting so that new legislation can be drafted which reflects the 11 principles unanimously adopted by the Legislature's resolution passed last October 29. "We just cannot understand why Premier Harris, who promised before the election to work with our Committee in developing and passing this legislation, has refused every single request we have made to even meet with him. We are hoping he will end this boycott of us now", said Lepofsky.
With the start of the New Year, the ODA Committee's membership, organized in 15 communities across Ontario, is kicking off a two-pronged campaign. It will bring to bear increasing pressure on Premier Harris to immediately meet with ODA Committee representatives to hammer out a new, strong and effective bill. They will also start to plan for the impending provincial election, in order to make sure that disability issues will be prominent in that campaign.
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