By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer
Thursday, February 23, 2017
Councillor James Carmody is running for a second term on Petawawa town council.
PETAWAWA James Carmody is ripping the province for what he sees as “overbearing nanny state” legislation with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
As the town begins to implement customer service standards to stay compliant with the act, the councillor took sharp exception to regulations demanding that volunteers and municipal councillors be trained in the various aspects of accessible customer service delivery. Carmody said it makes no sense to introduce these requirements midway through their term.
Council was presented a bylaw Tuesday night enacting the customer services policy. It orders staff, councillors and volunteers to take the mandatory training within the next six months and requalify every five years. That training includes instructions on how to interact and communicate with people with various types of disabilities and on interacting with people with disabilities who use assistive devices or require the assistance of a guide dog. The training also covers the use of equipment or devices available, such as wheelchairs, and on what to do if a person with a disability is having difficulty accessing municipal services.
While he commends staff and the Petawawa Accessibility Committee for its work, Carmody criticized Premier Kathleen Wynne for further eroding individual rights and refused to endorse the bylaw deciding instead to abstain from voting. If he doesn’t take the training, Carmody asked rhetorically if the province feels he is unfit for office despite being elected twice by the residents of Petawawa.
“What will happen if I refuse to take the training?” Carmody stated before council voted on third reading of the bylaw. “Will I be removed from office effectively telling the voters of Petawawa that the provincial government’s preference overrules the voters? The Wynne government would do well to remember that governments are the servant in this relationship, and the electorate is the master.”
Had these requirements been made known to candidates in the 2014 election, Carmody said he would have no problem viewing it as a pre-requisite for assuming office. If he runs again in 2018, Carmody said he would undertake the training as a condition of holding office. But in this instance the province has acted in a very underhanded manner, he added. The councillor said if he votes for the bylaw he’d be perpetuating what he sees as a wrong. If he votes against it, he would be advocating that the municipality break the law.
“I am disappointed by the quiet erosion of our rights by an overbearing nanny state,” said Carmody. “The rights of one group cannot be secured at the expense of the rights of another. This is one of the basic fundamentals of our system and treating tenets with contempt is something that the Wynne Liberals are really good at.”
Carmody wasn’t the only member of council with grave reservations about this legislation. While he didn’t feel it was serious enough to cast a vote against the bylaw, Deputy Mayor Tom Mohns said this will mark another hit to the town’s volunteers.
“I still have concerns that we are forcing our volunteers to take this course,” Mohns said. “I have a feeling it’s going to erode our volunteer base which is already seeing a decline.”
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act seeks to make the province accessible by 2025.