February 13, 2001
Harris Government Appoints
New Citizenship Minister
On Thursday, February 8, 2001, in a major Ontario Government
Cabinet shuffle, Premier Mike Harris appointed a new Citizenship
Minister, Mr. Cam Jackson. What is the significance of this for
our efforts to secure the passage of a strong, mandatory
Ontarians with Disabilities Act? How should this event affect
our strategy in support of the ODA?
SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS EVENT
This event is a further indication of the Harris Government's
disorganized, helter-skelter and ineffective handling of the ODA
issue. Mr. Jackson is now the fourth Citizenship Minister to
take on this issue in five and a half years. For each of the
three previous revolving-door ministers, the ODA was their
highest-profile issue. It was also their highest-profile failure
Premier Harris gave each Minister no real authority to develop a
meaningful ODA. Each minister struggled to put a good face on
the Harris Government's inaction on its promise to enact the ODA.
None of the previous Ministers were willing to have a true,
meaningful exchange with the ODA Committee and the disability
community on how to ensure that the ODA is strong, effective and
In the end, each previous Minister left this office after a poor
performance. The first Harris Citizenship Minister, Marilyn
Mushinski, was shuffled out of this office and indeed out of
Cabinet in 1997. The second Harris Citizenship Minister, Isabel
Bassett, was voted out of the Legislature in the 1999 election.
Following in their path, the third Harris Citizenship minister,
Helen Johns, has now just been shuffled out of this post. She
received an evident demotion to the subordinate role of
"associate Health Minister", under the Cabinet's new lead Health
Minister Tony Clement.
What does Cam Jackson's new appointment mean for us?
Premier Harris still calls all the shots on the ODA. It may mean
little or nothing for Premier Harris to shuffle a new Minister into
position as his "front person" or mouthpiece.
Each time a new Citizenship Minister has taken over this post, it
has meant another period of delay for months while the Minister
and their staff are brought up to speed on the ODA issue.
Ontario does not have time for this kind of delay. The Ontario
Legislature unanimously passed a resolution requiring that a
strong, effective ODA be enacted into law by November 23, 2001.
This is only 284 days away from the date of this message.
STRATEGY FOR ODA SUPPORTERS
We should watch Mr. Jackson closely to see if he shows any signs
of new, positive leadership on this issue, unlike his three
predecessors. We will want to see if he is prepared to persuade
his 57 Conservative caucus members, including Premier Harris, to
support a strong, mandatory ODA. We will look to see if Mr.
Jackson does more than reciting the script he receives from
We will offer to work together with the new Citizenship Minister
to develop a strong ODA and to get it passed into law by the
November 23, 2001 deadline. We hope that Mr. Jackson will truly
take us up on this offer, unlike his predecessors.
However, we should not be distracted by this recent development.
We recommend that one and all remain focused on our strategy
of reaching each individual MPP, including all 58 Conservative
members of the Legislature. We must keep our focus on getting
MPPs to reach Premier Harris with our message. It is the
Premier, not Cam Jackson, who will be making the big decisions on
In speaking to individual MPPs, you may wish to add two points to
the message set out in our recent New Year's Action Kit, namely:
* This recent change in Citizenship Ministers cannot be allowed
to further delay the ODA. The countdown to the November 23, 2001
* The Harris Government should use the appointment of Mr. Jackson
to change its entire approach to the ODA. The Government should
discard its old plans to introduce a weak, ineffective, ODA. Mr.
Jackson and Premier Harris should now announce plans for a
strong, comprehensive and mandatory ODA.
We will have more information for you over the next days and
weeks. We really look forward to hearing from you about your
efforts to reach MPPs in your community. Also, let us know of
anything you hear that may be helpful regarding Cam Jackson as
In Premier Harris' news release announcing his Cabinet shuffle,
he stated among other things that Jim Flaherty was appointed
Finance Minister to, among other things, "remove barriers to
growth". Its time to also remove barriers to persons with
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Last updated February 14, 2001