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Leaked Cabinet Document
Reveals Harris Plans
Toothless ODA

October 5, 2000

Memo to ODA Supporters

Ontario Hansard Wednesday, October 4, 2000

The Toronto Star article dd October 5, 2000

Text of Secret Cabinet Document on the ODA




To: All Supporters of a Strong Ontarians with Disabilities Act

From: David Lepofsky, Chair, ODA Committee

Date: October 5, 2000

Subject: Leaked Ontario Cabinet Document Reveals Harris Plans
Another Gutless Toothless ODA

Very shocking news has been revealed about the Ontario
Government's plans for the Ontarians with Disabilities Act
yesterday. The Ontario Liberal Party yesterday revealed in the
Ontario Legislature a leaked secret Ontario Cabinet document
detailing their plans for the ODA. They also provided it to us.
In short, it reveals a decision made back at the end of August,
2000 that the ODA will in substance be nothing more than the 3-
page toothless Bill 83 that they introduced 2 years ago, and
which died on the order paper after 17 days in the Legislature.
The only additional feature they plan to add is stronger measures
against people without disabilities who park in the parking spots
of persons with disabilities.

Set out below is the exchange that occurred yesterday in the
Ontario Legislature on this issue during Question Period when
this appalling news was revealed. Also set out below is the text
of a front-page story on this issue in today's Toronto Star. I
will shortly send out the text of the actual Cabinet document.

This demonstrates that when the Minister of Citizenship met with
a delegation of the ODA Committee on September 8, 2000, her
Government had already made up its mind on what the ODA would
contain. the Minister claimed at the September 8 meeting that
she was open to consult with the disability community, and that
she was open to considering any and all options for inclusion in
the ODA. When she said this to us, she must have known that the
decisions on the ODA had already been made.

I am eager to receive ideas from one and all as soon as possible
on what actions you propose that people with disabilities and
others who support a strong ODA should take. Email any and all
ideas to me at oda@odacommittee.net Get others to do the same.

Our shared goal is to reach the public like never before, with
our message and to win as much public support as possible. It is
especially helpful if your ideas include steps that people can
take alone or together with others in their own local community
across Ontario, and that organizations can take as well. Think
of creative ways that people can respond to this new development
that will increase the public support even more for the ODA.

The leaked Cabinet document claims that there is little public
support for what we seek. Lets show that this is untrue! Front
page coverage in today's Toronto Star shows that this story is
getting bigger all the time.


Top of Page

Ontario Hansard Wednesday, October 4, 2000



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My first
question today is for the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and
Recreation. Minister, we in our party believe that people with
disabilities should have every possible and reasonable
entitlement to opportunity and to getting everything they need
to find success in Ontario. Mike Harris promised to enact a
strong Ontarians with Disabilities Act by the end of his first
term, and he broke that promise. Last November, you promised a
tough new act to meet the needs of people with disabilities.

Minister, you will shortly be breaking that promise too. I have
here in my hand a copy of a secret cabinet briefing document
presented by you. It's dated Tuesday, August 29 of this year.
This is presented to cabinet's most powerful committee, and in
this you make it abundantly clear that you have no intention
whatsoever of putting into place any kind of legislation that
is going to advance the cause of persons with disabilities here
in Ontario. Why are you continuing to betray the rights of
people with disabilities in Ontario?

Hon Helen Johns (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and
Recreation, minister responsible for seniors and women)
: Let me
just say that the government has made a commitment that we
would put forward an action plan in the first session of the
House, and we intend to do that. We also made a commitment that we
would come forward with legislation by November 2001, and we
also intend to do that. We've made a promise in the

Let me say that I completely disagree with the member opposite
when he says Mike Harris didn't keep his promise. He put
forward a bill that the disability community wanted to have
another look at, to have more discussions on, and we certainly
have been doing that over the summer. We've done that in the
past, and we will continue to do that in the future. We did
what the disability community asked us to do: we withdrew the
bill and we're working on it again.

Mr McGuinty: Minister, I have a copy of your recommendation to
cabinet. It talks about a recommended approach, it talks about
your action plan and it talks specifically about a new
Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This is really good stuff,
Speaker. Listen to this: "This new act is going to use existing
mandatory requirements and enforcement." They're going to use the
existing Human Rights Code definition of disability, they're
going to reference other statutes-


Mr McGuinty: -and here comes the real teeth of this matter.


The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Order. Would the member take his
seat. Rude comments back and forth are not helpful, I say to
the member for Hamilton East. The leader of the official

Mr McGuinty: In addition to merely referencing existing
legislation, the new and compelling legislative objective will
be the following-and listen to this; this is nothing less than
earth-shattering, groundbreaking and something we're all going
to want to write home to our mothers about-it says this
government is going to strengthen penalties for unlawful use of
disabled parking spaces. That is the earth-shattering, compelling
commitment being made by this minister.

I ask again, Minister-this is your document, your
recommendation to cabinet-why are you continuing to insult and
betray Ontarians with disabilities?

Hon Mrs Johns: Let me be very clear: the legislation in the
action plan will be fair and reasonable. We have every
intention of moving the bar forward so that people in Ontario
have more access to more facilities in the province.

I have to say to the member opposite that I think disabled
parking is a problem in this province. I think it's a disgrace
that we have people who aren't disabled who have parking passes
and use them. I think it's a disgrace that there aren't spots
for people with disabilities to be able to park. If you
disagree with us, please tell me.

The Speaker: Final supplementary.

Mr McGuinty: It's of passing interest to see that the minister
is showing a little passion when it comes to parking spaces.
What about everything else that Ontarians with disabilities
need so they can enjoy opportunities in Ontario?

The cynicism which is found throughout this document is nothing
less than breathtaking. On page 4 of this minister's document,
this champion of Ontarians with disabilities, this is what it
says: "Public-opinion research has shown that the general
public has little awareness and interest in an Ontarians with
Disabilities Act." It goes on to say, under "Anticipated
Stakeholder Reaction," that "the general public may not have
much interest." I want to tell you that we have one hell of a lot
of interest in making sure Ontarians with disabilities have
every opportunity. We want room for them at the Ontario table.

Why don't you admit you have given up as any kind of champion
when it comes to the cause of Ontarians with disabilities?

Hon Mrs Johns: I couldn't disagree more. I see me job as
minister responsible for disabilities as building bridges
between the disability community and the private sector, the
public sector-all communities-so we can all move forward
together and lead by example. As everyone in the House will
know, the ODSP that we have is the most generous plan in all
Canada. This government spends $6 billion annually on services
for people with disabilities. That's an increase of-


The Speaker: Order. Would the member for Essex come to order,
please. Minister.

Hon Mrs Johns: This government spends $6 billion annually on
services for people with disabilities. That's and increase of
more than $800 million ...

The Speaker: Order. Member for Essex come to order please.

Hon Mrs Johns: This government spends $600 billion
annually on services for people with disabilities. That's an
increase of more than $800 million since Mike Harris came to
government in 1995. I don't think anyone can complain about the
way we're moving forward and let me once again confirm that
we're coming forward with an action plan, as promised, and with
legislation, as promised, to make sure that we move forward in
the province of-

The Speaker: The minister's time is up.

Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): This is for the
same minister.

Minister, a short while ago I got off the phone with David
Lepofsky who represents Ontarians with disabilities. You met
with him on September 8-I want to remind you that your document
here that you presented to cabinet is dated August 28. You met
with him a week later. You had already taken a hard and fast

I told him about this document. He said that during your
conversation you assured him that you had an open mind and that
you were in still in a consultation phase. Now I want you to
tell Ontarians with disabilities right now-because they are
very, very interested in your answer-why is it that you told
their representative-you sat across from him, face to face-he
asked you, "Are you still consulting or is your mind made up?"
You said, "No my mind's not made up. I'm still consulting," and
yet a week earlier you submitted a recommendation to cabinet
which clearly said that your mind was made up.

Tell Ontarians with disabilities what this is all about, right
now. Hon Helen Johns (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and
Recreation, minister responsible for seniors and women): Let me
say that we continue to work on the action plan and the
legislation as we speak. I'm always looking for information. In
fact, the week before the House came back I was in Washington
looking at the Americans with Disability Act and other
legislation that the States have, because, as you know, when we
come forward with legislation here it will be the first in
Canada that we will be presenting. I'm looking at jurisdictions
all around the world. I'm talking to all of the different
ministries within the government to make sure that I understand
that services we provide for people. Let me also say that I've
met with Mr Lepofsky more than once. I met with Mr Lepofsky
last year at this time and this year at this time. In fact, Mr
Lepofsky has had the opportunity of meeting with 13 ministers
over the time that this government has been elected.

Mr McGuinty: Minister, if I go back to your document which you
presented to cabinet, it says here under strategic goals:
stakeholder management and issue containment. It says that: "we
will seek controlled opportunities to frame the discussion and
get government messages to the media." That's what your
document says. See?

Well, I want to tell you, Minister, you can forget about issue
containment and you can forget about controlled opportunities
to frame the discussion. You may not believe in the dignity of
Ontarians with disabilities and you may not believe in
opportunity for Ontarians with disabilities but we in this
party do and there will be no such thing as issue containment.
The Speaker: Member take his seat. Minister of Education come to
order. Order. Order. Thank you very much.

Mr McGuinty: Ontarians with disabilities, Minister, are looking
for somebody in the inside of government who's going to
champion their cause. Now it might be one thing if this
document had been prepared by the cabinet or by the Harris
inner sanctum and sent back to you, but for you to prepare this
on behalf of Ontarians with disabilities and to introduce this
into cabinet is nothing less than disgraceful. You have betrayed
those people whose cause you're supposed to be championing. You
should do the honest and honourable thing here and now: you
should resign.

Hon Mrs Johns: It's hard to take criticism from the members
opposite. As we all know, both of these governments were in
power in the last 10 years and neither of them did one thing to
help people with disabilities in this province.

As everyone knows, when the legislation is passed in the
province of Ontario it'll be the first legislation all across
Canada and I think that's a milestone for it.

When we were campaigning-


The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Member take her seat. Member for
Elgin-Middlesex-London, this is your last warning. Minister?
Hon Mrs Johns: In 1999, when we were all campaigning, the
Liberals told the ODA committee that they could introduce
legislation within the first three years of the mandate. We
said that we'll be able to do it by November 2001. I don't want
you to forget that we're moving ahead of you faster.

Let me also say that the NDP, who are sitting quietly here,
even had a private member's bill with respect to this, and they
did nothing with that bill.

The Speaker: The minister's time is up. Final supplementary.

Mr Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings): My question is to the
same minister. The number one priority for people with
disabilities is opening doors, not parking spaces. It's the
dignity of entering a public building by the front door. It's
the dignity of having access to education. It's the dignity of

Your government has a mantra about jobs, but for thousands of
citizens in Ontario they cannot even get to a job interview.
There is 85% unemployment among our deaf community because of
your funding cuts to translators. A real Ontarians with
Disabilities Act would open the door to employment for people
with disabilities.

Your plan will raise yet another barrier for the disabled.
Minister, you are a barrier to 1.5 million disabled people in
this province. Will you do the right thing now and resign?

Hon Mrs Johns: We've introduced $800-million worth of new
programs over the last five years to ensure that people with
disabilities have more access, one of the best things that can
happen for people with disabilities if they need supports, and
we've doubled those supports in the province of Ontario.

We're going to move and we're going to be fair and we're going
to be reasonable, not only for people with disabilities but
also for those who are in a position to accommodate people with
disabilities. That's an important balance that we intend to
meet. The action plan and the legislation will come together by
the end of the session and by November 2001. That's the
commitment we made and that's the commitment we're moving
forward to make.

Top of Page

The Toronto Star Page A-1

October 5, 2000

Tougher laws for disabled rejected
Legislation will break promises, secret cabinet document shows

By Theresa Boyle
Toronto Star Queen's Park Bureau

The province won't force private companies and a big chunk of the
public sector to reduce barriers to the disabled, a secret
cabinet document shows.

The report, dated Aug. 29, 2000, says the government plans to
introduce long-promised disabilities legislation this fall.

The document says the government considered much tougher measures
than were finally decided on.

Rejected were mandatory requirements to reduce barriers for the
private sector and for the broader public sector that includes
municipalities, school boards, hospitals and universities.

Also rejected was the creation of a separate enforcement agency.

It makes it clear that cost was the chief impediment to more
sweeping legislation.

An objective of the plan is that it require ``minimal new
investment,'' the document says.

What will be left in the legislation are requirements for the
government itself to reduce barriers to the disabled in services
and jobs.

The document, which contains highlights from a presentation to
the powerful inner cabinet, predicts disability activists will
not support the legislation. But it outlines a communications
strategy for blunting the negative reaction.

"It's toothless, gutless, worthless, of no value
whatsoever to people with disabilities."

- Dalton McGuinty Liberal leader


``It's toothless, gutless, worthless, of no value whatsoever to
people with disabilities,'' Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty
charged yesterday, waving a copy of the document in the
Legislature after his party obtained a copy. McGuinty called it
an ``insult'' to the disabled.

The Tories are once again breaking a promise to the 1.5 million
Ontarians with disabilities, he said.

McGuinty called for the resignation of Helen Johns, minister
responsible for the disabled, arguing that the proposed bill does
little more than repackage existing legislation.

The controversy in the Legislature came after The Star published
a three-part series last month that highlighted the barriers
disabled people face every day. The stories drew hundreds of
phone calls, e-mails and letters, many calling for tough

Johns denied having seen the document and insisted her government
is committed to introducing ``fair and reasonable'' legislation.

While campaigning for the 1995 election, Premier Mike Harris
promised he would pass an Ontarians With Disabilities Act during
his first term. In 1998, then Culture Minister Isabel Bassett
introduced a three-page bill that was subsequently withdrawn
because of criticism that it was woefully inadequate.

In last year's election, Harris again promised to introduce
disability legislation.

McGuinty said the Tories have simply recycled Bassett's bill.

``Why are you continuing to insult and betray Ontarians with
disabilities?'' he demanded.

``It's repackaging what already exists,'' scoffed David Lepofsky,
chairman of the Ontarians With Disabilities Act Committee.

"This shows the government has no intention of
keeping either its '95 or '99 election promises to enact a
disability act that means anything."

- David Lepofsky, Chairman
of Ontarians With Disabilities Act Committee


``This is shocking and cruel. This shows the government has no
intention of keeping either its '95 or '99 election promises to
enact a disability act that means anything.''
Lepofsky said the proposed legislation would do little for
Ontarians with disabilities who encounter barriers when trying to
get a job, ride a bus, get an education, use our health-care
system, buy products or just go to the park.

He's demanding an immediate meeting with Harris.

``This is another slap in the face to people with disabilities by
Mike Harris,'' he charged.

Lepofsky said he was especially perturbed by the fact that Johns
told his committee that the government hadn't yet made a decision
on the legislation. On Sept. 8 - a week after the document was
presented to cabinet - she assured the committee that the
government was still consulting on the legislation.

``It was a bogus charade,'' Lepofsky said. ``It was a hoax
because they've already decided.''

The document states that the government anticipates disabled
advocates won't like the legislation and that ``some media'' may
give it ``negative coverage.''

But it goes on to suggest the government is risking little
because ``June 2000 public opinion research showed (the) general
public has little awareness and interest in the (act).''

The document offers a rare glimpse of back-room manoeuvrings by
laying out details of communications and ``rollout'' strategies.

``Stakeholder management and issue containment'' are at the top
of the list of strategic goals.

``Minimize attacks against the government's action on this
issue,'' the document states. ``Maintain low-profile in advance
of introduction of action plan and legislation to avoid readying
opponents,'' it continues.

``The cynicism which is found throughout this document is nothing
less than breathtaking,'' McGuinty exclaimed.

He said the only substantive initiative contained in the document
is a plan to strengthen penalties for unlawful use of disabled
parking spaces.

The Conservative government is ``driven by polls,'' not by making
good public policy, he charged.

``This minister who is supposed to be championing the cause of
persons with disabilities in Ontario turns out to be their
betrayer,'' he charged.

Johns said a decision on whether to include the broader public
sector in the legislation will be up to cabinet.

``We have every intention of moving the bar forward so that
people in the province of Ontario have more access to more
facilities,'' she said.

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