Letter to the Hon. Mike Harris
Premier of Ontario
March 22, 2000
March 22, 2000
The Honourable Michael Harris,
Room 281, Legislative Building,
Re: Ontarians with Disabilities Act
I am following up on Citizenship Minister Helen Johns' two
February 17, 2000 letters to the ODA Committee. We regret that
once again, the Minister has failed to respond to our key
questions. People with disabilities need answers and deserve
It is clear that for action on the promised Ontarians with
Disabilities Act, all roads lead back to your door. If this
government is committed to moving forward with this legislation,
as you have said, then we urgently request that you agree to meet
with us. We ask you to take leadership to kick-start this
stalled process, so that a strong and effective Ontarians with
Disabilities Act can be enacted as soon as possible.
In the 1995 election, you promised to enact the Ontarians with
Disabilities Act in your first term, and to work together
personally with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee to
develop that law. We are now well into your second term. That
law has not been enacted. Since you took office almost five
years ago, you have declined every request from us to have a
meeting with you. In sharp contrast, you have moved quickly on
many other pieces of legislation in other areas.
To date, your response to our many requests to meet with you has
been to refer us to work with each of three successive Ministers
of Citizenship. We have attempted in good faith to work with
each them. We have offered our advice and assistance to them
time and again. We regret that our advice and offers of
assistance are virtually always disregarded without explanation.
Our inquiries are for the most part left unanswered. As a result
this much-needed legislation remains stalled.
To help move forward on this important initiative, we are also
asking that you provide us with the answers to important
questions that your Minister has been unwilling to answer:
1. What does your Government plan to do to achieve the enactment
of a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act by
November 2001 as mandated by the unanimous November 23, 1999
resolution of the Legislature?
2. Your October 1999 Throne Speech said it was your Government's
goal to have an "action plan" by the end of the current session
of the Legislature, expected this June. What is this action
plan? Is it a consultation plan? Is it a timetable for
introducing the legislation? Is it a plan for some other
activities? Why does it take your Government one year to develop
a mere "action plan"?
3. We learned in late January of this year that your government
already has underway a closed, invitation-only consultation
concerning the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The Government
has made no public announcement of this, nor has it invited the
public to participate in it. Could you please let us know who
has been invited to participate in this consultation process?
Why is it not being held in public, and open to the public to
participate? May we have copies of feedback and submissions
which the Government receives during these consultations?
4. Will you provide us with any and all polling data which has
been conducted by or on behalf of the Government or your Party
since 1995, or will conduct touching on the issue of barriers or
discrimination against people with disabilities? At the
Citizenship Minister's request, we have given the Minister a
large volume of materials constituting all the background
information we have from the polling firm which conducted a
survey for us in 1997. We asked the Minister in turn for similar
access to the same data from any polls which have been conducted
by or on behalf of the Government.
We have told the Minister that we would be willing to grant the
Minister's request to have our consent to the Minister speaking
directly to the firm that conducted the poll for us, if the
Government made reciprocal disclosure to us of any and all such
polling conducted for the Government's benefit. Instead of
cooperating, the Minister has given evasive responses. She has
told us only that her Ministry has done no such polls. She has
refused to indicate whether any polls have been done for anyone
else within the Government. She has shuffled us off to ask each
and every other ministry.
She has left the misleading impression that we have been
uncooperative, even though we have provided every piece of data
we have. In contrast, the Government has not provided us with
anything on this score.
Because the Minister has not been prepared to deal with us on any
of these matters, we urgently require a meeting with you. It is
clear that only in your office can we seek both the leadership
and coordination across the Government that is needed for a
strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act to be
Premier, while 1.5 million Ontarians with disabilities are still
waiting, many people with disabilities continue to face real
hardships due to the existing barriers in our society, as well as
the added hardships from the new barriers that are now being
created. These barriers face people with disabilities when they
try to get a job, to get an education, to get on a bus, to use
our health care system, or even to just go to the library or to
the park. These barriers hurt us all. They help no one.
We ask that you set aside 1 hour in your schedule to meet with
us. We believe that in your first five years in office as
Premier, it is reasonable to ask for this small amount of time.
Even your current Citizenship Minister has lent her voice in our
request for this meeting.
Last June 3, on election night, you indicated your intention to
extend your hand to work together with groups who had been left
out during your first term in office. At that time, we extended
our hand to you. There is no better example of a group in
society who were left out in your first term, than we with whom
you had promised in writing to work together on the Ontarians
with Disabilities Act. We ask you now to act on your remarks on
election night. We hope you will find us a helpful source of
advice on how to make Ontario a barrier-free society for all
people with disabilities.
David Lepofsky, CM
Chair, Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee
cc: Helen Johns 323-5910
Norman Sterling 326-2913
Dalton McGuinty 325-9895
Dwight Duncan 325-2201
Steve Peters 325-7262
Howard Hampton 325-8222
David Christopherson 325-7111
Marilyn Churley 325-7111
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