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What Do Canada’s National Political Parties Have to Say About Proposed New Legislation on Disability Accessibility?

Check Out the AODA Alliance’s Analysis of Second Reading Debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

October 9, 2018

SUMMARY

What do Canada’s major national political parties have to say about Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act? Here’s our best chance so far to find out.

Canada’s House of Commons held Second Reading debates on Bill C-81 on September 19, 24 and 26, 2018. After those debates, on a voice vote, the House of Commons unanimously voted for the bill to proceed to public hearings and clause-by-clause debate at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
Below we set out our detailed analysis of what the parties had to say on the bill during Second Reading debates. In it, we set out the most important and relevant passages from the many speeches of the Members of Parliament (MPs). Where appropriate, we provide the AODA Alliance’s comments on what the MP said after each quotation. Wherever possible, we have tried to stick to quotations from MPs about the bill itself, and to avoid the usual partisan banter in Parliament.

Here is a quick summary of the highlights:

* All parties that spoke about the bill support the aim of achieving a barrier-free society for people with disabilities, and the importance of removing and preventing disability barriers.

* All parties agreed that Canada must do more to address this issue than has been done in the past. All parties talked about the plight of systemic disadvantage, unemployment and exclusion that people with disabilities too often face in Canada. Many MPs talked about their own experience with disabilities, either their own disability, or a disability of their parent, child, sibling or spouse. This pointedly shows how disability eventually touches everyone’s lives.

* All parties supported the idea that this bill should go to public hearings before a Standing Committee of the House of Commons, to receive input, and especially input from the disability community. MPs from all parties that addressed the bill supported the idea that the Standing Committee should hear what people with disabilities have to say about the bill, and seriously consider possible amendments to strengthen and improve the bill. No one took a “take it or leave it” approach to the bill, as it is now written.

* All parties made positive statements about the AODA Alliance and its position on Bill C-81. The New Democratic Party, the Conservative Party and the Green Party all raised a number of the concerns about Bill C-81 that we have raised. In a number of cases, we and AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky were identified as a source of that critique of the bill. The AODA Alliance can be proud that it was the most frequently quoted or referenced disability organization during discussions of the bill and the need to strengthen it. Of course, the points raised have also been pressed by many others in the disability community!

The AODA Alliance’s September 27,2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81 is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/please-tell-the-federal-government-if-you-support-the-aoda-alliances-finalized-brief-to-the-parliament-of-canada-that-requests-amendments-to-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act/ A four-page summary of our top 7 recommendations to strengthen Bill C-81 are available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/the-aoda-alliance-is-invited-to-present-to-the-house-of-commons-standing-committee-on-human-resources-skills-and-social-development-and-the-status-of-persons-with-disabilities-on-october-25-2018-to/ * The opposition NDP, Greens and Conservatives all pointed out that the bill is now too vague. It lacks needed specifics. The bill needs to be amended to add time lines for action to implement the bill, and mandatory duties (not just grants to the Federal Government of new powers). The NDP and greens also criticized the bill for splintering the bill’s implementation and enforcement among multiple federal agencies, including the new Accessibility Commissioner, the Canada Transportation Agency CTA, the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunication Commission CRTC, and the federal tribunal that hears federal public service employment cases. They also criticized the bill for giving the Federal Government sweeping power to grant exemptions to obligated organizations from some of their duties under the bill. These are all problems with the bill that we and others in the disability community have raised.

* At some points, Liberal MPs, speaking in support of the bill which their Government has tabled, have made broad statements about what the bill will do, and which exceed what the bill now requires. Our proposed amendments would ensure that the bill lives up to those broad statements by the Federal Government.

* The NDP and Green Party are consistent in their message that this bill needs to be made stronger. In contrast, Conservative MPs took a range of different positions that seem to show divisions within the Conservative Party over the bill.

Some Conservative MPs praised the Federal Government for bringing this bill forward. Others were very critical of the Government’s intentions. Some denounced the bill as just creating more bureaucracy and red tape. Some seemed to oppose the creation of new federal officials like the Accessibility Commissioner and the Canada Accessibility Standards Organization, to implement this bill. Others did not criticize the bill on that basis.

* One Liberal MP offered poor justifications for the bill granting to the Government a sweeping and controversial power to exempt obligated organizations from some of their accessibility duties under the bill. She said, among other things, that some obligated organizations may already be meeting accessibility duties under provincial accessibility standards in Ontario, Manitoba or Nova Scotia.

Yet Nova Scotia appears to have enacted no accessibility standards. Manitoba only has one. Ontario has more. However, they are all far too weak. Federal accessibility standards should be stronger if this bill’s goals are to be met. The Federal Government should not have accessibility obligations sink to the lowest common denominator. Moreover, Ontario has had a practice of not even trying to apply its accessibility standards to any organizations that are otherwise federally regulated.

If you are in the Ottawa area, please plan to attend the October 25, 2018 meeting at the Parliament Buildings of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities from 8:45 to 10:45 a.m., when AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky will be one of the presenters.

Also, as soon as possible, please write Parliament to support the AODA Alliance’s September 27, 2018 brief, calling for amendments to Bill C-81. We welcome support from organizations and from individuals. We are very delighted that a growing list of individuals have written Parliament to support our brief. As well, it has already been supported by CNIB, the March of Dimes, the Ontario Autism Coalition, Communication Disabilities Access Canada, Balance for Blind Adults, DeafBlind Ontario Service and Barrier-Free Manitoba. Let’s get more organizations on that list!

Email to the Standing Committee of the House of Commons:
HUMA@parl.gc.ca

Please also email the minister who is championing this bill, the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister for People with Disabilities, at: Carla.Qualtrough@parl.gc.ca

Please copy the AODA Alliance on your email. Email us at:
aodafeedback@gmail.com

In your email, you might say the following, either as an individual, or on behalf of an organization that you can speak for:

“I’m writing to support the brief which the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance has submitted on September 27, 2018 to the Parliament of Canada that recommends improvements to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act.”

Of course, if you want, you should also add any additional information about Bill C-81 you might wish to share, including anything we did not say in our brief. MORE DETAILS

AODA Alliance Detailed Analysis of Second Reading Debate on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act

First Day of Second Reading Debate, September 19, 2018

Originally posted at: http://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/house/sitting-321/hansard#Int-10245487 * Minister Carla Qualtrough:

The history of how we have treated Canadians with disabilities is not a proud one. It is a history of institutionalization, of sterilization, of social isolation. We addressed our fears of what we did not understand and of difference by creating systems that, by design, took children away from their families, that took power away from our citizens, that perpetuated a medical model of disability that saw persons with disabilities as objects of charity and passive recipients of welfare. We treated our citizens as if they were broken, when in fact it was our systems and policies that were broken.

AODA Alliance Comment:

It is very helpful for the Federal Government to recognize the reality facing people with disabilities in Canada.

* Minister Carla Qualtrough:

Thankfully, Canada’s history is also replete with individuals, families and organizations who fought these systems. As we all know, Canada has a robust human rights system, with strong anti-discrimination laws. Disability is a protected ground under these laws and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Of course, Canada is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. However, anti-discrimination laws, while important, are by design reactive. We have to wait until individuals are denied a service, a job, a program, and then the system kicks in to determine if that denial was discriminatory. We literally have to wait until people are discriminated against before we can help them. These laws place the burden of advancing human rights on individuals. The opportunity for system change can be limited and costly. It is incredible to think that currently close to 60% of the complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Commission are on the basis of disability. Again, thankfully we have these laws, for it is my belief that the most important advances in disability rights in our country have been achieved through individuals using these laws to demand equality. There has been change. However, it has been slow.

As our understanding of disability has evolved, the medical model is giving way to a human rights-based social model. We no longer see the individual’s disability or impairment as a barrier to inclusion; rather, it is the barriers created by society that prevent people with disabilities from enjoying their human rights on an equal basis with others. That is where Bill C-81 comes in. Today, I stand before members to support a bill that will significantly transform how Canada addresses discrimination and ensures a quality for all. As the first-ever minister responsible for accessibility, I take my responsibilities seriously. I want to set a standard worthy of Canadians and of Canada’s place in the world.

Bill C-81 is meant to promote broad organizational and cultural change across the nation. It will benefit all Canadians, especially Canadians with disabilities, by taking the steps to realize a truly accessible and inclusive Canada. It will proactively identify, remove and prevent barriers in a number of areas.

AODA Alliance Comment:

The Minister recognizes compelling reasons why Canada needs strong national accessibility legislation, and offers that the Government’s aims for that legislation are substantial in scope.

* Minister Carla Qualtrough:

Accessibility standards will be established by regulation in the areas of employment, the built environment, information and communication technologies, procurement, program and service delivery, and transportation.

AODA Alliance Comment:

The Minister identifies important areas for developing national accessibility standards. However, these are not the only accessibility standards Canada needs. It is important for the Federal Government to plan for other accessibility standards as well, both ones we know of now, and ones in areas we might not now be able to identify. For example, accessibility standards are needed for all kinds of technology, not only information and communication technology. The Minister’s list of accessibility standards does not include creating an accessibility standard regulation in the area of goods that are under federal jurisdiction.

Moreover, the Minister states that regulations will be made in these areas. Yet the bill only permits the Federal Government to make those regulations. It does not require the Federal Government to ever enact any of them.

* Minister Carla Qualtrough:

From a substantive point of view, it requires the Government of Canada and entities within federal jurisdiction to address not only the barriers themselves but also the systems that perpetuate these barriers.

AODA Alliance Comment:

This ministerial statement also sets a strong set of expectations for this legislation, in areas where there is a pressing need.

* Minister Carla Qualtrough:

Bill C-81 sends a strong message: Canada is a leader in accessibility.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We commend the Federal Government for wanting to be a strong leader on accessibility. However, the mere enactment of this bill as is, without the amendments needed to make it a strong law, does not achieve that commendable goal.

* Alexander Nuttall (BarrieSpringwaterOro-Medonte, CPC):

With the passage of this legislation, if it were to receive assent tomorrow, what tangible effect would it have other than the $290 million to be spent and the 5,000 new employees to be hired? What tangible effect on Canadians with disabilities would they feel on day one?

* Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

Madam Speaker, immediately we will see a difference in the lives of Canadians, not only because of what we are telling them, that they are valued and contributing members of society, but we will begin work immediately to create the standards that we will then hold the Government of Canada and federally regulated private sector companies to

AODA Alliance Comment:

For this bill to have the immediate impact on the lives of people with disabilities, it will require substantial strengthening to require prompt action under it. The second Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act learned that after ten years on the books, that provincial legislation had not had a significant impact on the lives of people with disabilities in Ontario. The amendments that the AODA Alliance are proposing for Bill C-81 are designed to ensure that this proposed federal legislation does substantially better than did Ontario’s provincial accessibility legislation.

* Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle (WindsorTecumseh, NDP):

Madam Speaker, these proceedings on Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, have the potential for tremendous historic significance. We are debating a bill that, if done properly, would create breakthrough legislation that would profoundly impact Canadian society for generations to come. I believe everyone in this chamber is cognizant of the importance of what we are doing here today. Therefore, I speak in support of this bill based on the premise the minister stated yesterday: to get it to committee as soon as possible so that we can make it as substantively great as we possibly can. I agree.
This bill is not all that it needs to be as it stands now. It will require substantial amendments. While we commend the government for tabling it, this bill will need to be altered dramatically in order to become good legislation. That is why New Democrats commit today to working with the government to provide good-faith amendments so that Bill C-81 can become the historic accessibility legislation that persons living with disabilities in Canada deserve.

AODA Alliance Comment:

This NDP MP’s position on Bill C-81 is very much in line with the AODA Alliance brief.

* Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle (WindsorTecumseh, NDP):

However, there are sections of Bill C-81 that I believe miss the mark and that undermine the bill’s own stated goals. These are the provisions that I and my party will work in good faith with this government to fix, should our efforts be welcome.

Most obviously concerning is the bill’s lack of mandatory timelines for implementation. It allows but does not require the government to adopt accessibility standards, and yet does not impose a time frame within which implementation is to happen. Without these, the implementation process, even its start-up initializing process, could drag on for years. Curiously, neither does the bill require all federal government laws, policies and programs to be vetted through a disability lens. This seems a strange omission indeed. I respect the current accessibility minister’s commitment to this file and can only assume that this is an accidental oversight which she will correct immediately.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree with the position expressed above.

* Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle (WindsorTecumseh, NDP):

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities has been a great resource for me as well. Another non-partisan resource I appreciate is the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance for its analysis of this legislation. Its outstanding work allows government representatives, bureaucrats and members of Parliament to do our jobs better when it comes to developing policy and law that provides meaningful impact.

One issue of great concern regarding Bill C-81 is the way in which it would give various public bodies sweeping and unaccountable powers to exempt any or all obligated organizations from a number of important obligations under the bill. This is especially concerning because it has been my experience that where such exemptions exist, they will be used.

Section 46 of the bill, for example, empowers the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, CRTC, to totally exempt any obligated organization it wishes within its mandate from any or all of the accessibility plan requirements. Worse still, the bill provides no means by which persons with disabilities can register their concerns before a decision is made to grant an exemption. This is deeply troubling.

Also problematic is that another section of Bill C-81 gives the federal cabinet the power to make regulations that can exempt any obligated organizations from a wide range of obligations under the act. The bill would allow cabinet to do this, and it need not provide any reasons when it does. Seriously, if cabinet is allowed to do this, why are we here today?

I also find it perplexing that while the bill requires obligated organizations to establish accessibility plans, it does not require these plans to be good plans. It does not require an obligated organization to implement its accessibility plan. This is curiouser and curiouser.

Potentially quite troubling is a situation created in section 172 whereby a regulation created by the Canadian Transportation Agency for example, without debate, could end up trumping obligations under the Canadian Human Rights Act. It should be a basic principle of Bill C-81 that no provisions therein supersede any human rights. This is a perfect example of some of the technical issues that need to be addressed, and I want our stakeholders who understand the impact of this troublesome section to know that we will seek to have it removed.

The bill likewise separates enforcement and implementation in a confusing way over a tangle of different public enforcement agencies rather than providing people with disabilities with the simple one-stop enforcement they need. The CRTC will provide enforcement for its obligated organizations and so too will the Canadian Transportation Agency.

The bill does this, despite the reality that both the CRTC and the CTA have an unsatisfactory track record when it comes to enforcing accessibility over many years. As this is not a new problem, it boggles the imagination as to why the important bill does not address the core problem. It is absolutely vital that persons with disabilities and stakeholder groups be able to navigate our federal system in order to effectively realize their rights and also that the various agencies and institutions are able to respond to criticisms.

Moreover, this snarl of enforcement and administration will result in very similar regulations being enacted by the very different agencies involved rather than by one single agency. The duplication will not just risk inconsistencies, it will create them, causing even further delays. The predictable result is the real possibility that some sectors of the economy will have these regulations ready for them before some other sectors.

The bill should be looking to eliminate the interdepartmental patchwork system that is already in place rather than making it more complex. We simply must fix it. Many of us who follow these issues were seriously expecting that Bill C-81 would include provisions to simplify these processes.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We appreciate the NDP MP’s kind words about the AODA Alliance’s efforts on this bill, and its echoing concerns about the bill which we and others in the disability community have raised.

* Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle (WindsorTecumseh, NDP):

The complaint process will also be unnecessarily confusing. The splintering of the implementation and enforcement mandate will substantially weaken the bill. The likelihood of this creating confusion among many, including public servants, obligated organizations, and people with disabilities and their advocates who come to the federal government seeking justice is all but certain.

Stakeholder groups and disability advocates know from brute experience that this confusion will force them to run from enforcement agency to enforcement agency with their complaints, going around in circles. “Sorry, no, wrong agency” they will be told, they have to go to transportation. Persons living with disabilities have had enough of this particular brand of bureaucratic confusion. We know this is a problem. Let us fix this too.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree.

* Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle (WindsorTecumseh, NDP):

In closing, I would also urge the committee to hold its meetings in different places across this country. As the most significant piece of disability legislation since the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we owe it to Canadians living with disabilities and the people who care about them to demonstrate our intention for meaningful legislation that fully includes every Canadian in the participation of our society.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We too have called on the Federal Government to hold Parliamentary public hearings on Bill C-81 across Canada and not just in Ottawa. However, we understand that the hearings will only be held in Ottawa.

* Ms. Marilyn Gladu (SarniaLambton, CPC):

Madam Speaker, my colleague mentioned the UN convention on disabilities, and I wonder, if she had the ability, what priority actions the NDP would want to have the government take on that.

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Madam Speaker, some of the easy ones, some of the low-lying fruit, which I did mention in my speech are things like when one is required to design an accessibility plan one is required to implement it. That is a no-brainer. I would reiterate the reflection that no one gets sweeping powers and exemptions. There are a few of these. I do not want to get too technical. I hesitate now because my brain goes into the technical and I know that is not very interesting to listeners.

If a decision is made, people need to have a place to appeal that decision. People need to know the reason. Right now those provisions are not consistent. There are exemptions and there are places people can go where human rights are trumped by the protocol that someone gets to make a decision and there is no appeal process for someone with a disability. Those, to me, touch on some of the core issues within the UN convention.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree with the concerns with the bill identified here.

Ms. Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.):

Madam Speaker, I am so glad to hear that the hon. member is supportive of this legislation. I think she said, Everyone wins when everyone can participate, and that is so true. The hon. member also mentioned that this is a step in the right direction and the opposition will work with the government to fine-tune it. That is what we need to do as we move this bill through the committee process.

I want to clarify one point she mentioned in her speech. She talked about how bureaucracy can really be a problem for people with disabilities. No doubt it is and has been for many years. The one thing we are hoping this legislation would do is to actually mean there would be no closed door. If a person with a disability goes to a federal agency and wants to lodge a complaint but it is not the right agency, the person would not be told that he or she has to go somewhere else. It would be up to that agency to talk to the other agency and make sure the complaint is processed.

That is part of the legislation that is so important because we know that barriers have been put in place over the years. Our role and our job is to break down the barriers. Would the member agree that this is a step in the right direction?

Ms. Cheryl Hardcastle:

Madam Speaker, I do not want to give a blunt answer that the approach, as I said in my speech, is misguided. This gives me an opportunity to say this is why, as the minister mentioned, it is important to have the input of people with lived experience, because I have every confidence they will demonstrate for us that there is a better model, a better way for us to do this. This is where we need to make an amendment on paper that says we have more options and open doors. It is actually through speaking to people with lived experience today that we will find that maybe we have been misguided in that approach and there are ways that amendments can at least clean this up.

It is hard for the bureaucrats as well who have to work on the front lines. I am sure that all of you have had the opportunity to speak with those people.

AODA Alliance Comment:

It is good that Liberal MP Kate Young accepted that the there is a benefit to fine-tuning this bill. The AODA Alliance has submitted recommendations for such fine-tuning, and looks forward to presenting to the Standing Committee to offer its ideas on how to do that.

However Liberal Kate Young is incorrect to suggest or imply that problems with this bill’s splintering its implementation and enforcement among several federal agencies are solved by the Federal Government declaring that there is no closed door. This serious problem with the bill is not just a problem with its front door. It is also the conflicting, confusing and ineffective different paths after people with disabilities enter a front door to a federal agency. Under the bill, people with disabilities can be tossed back and forth between federal agencies like a football.

It is also a serious problem that the bill splinters among different federal bodies of the power to enact accessibility standards as regulations. It is wrong as well that the bill gives the Canada Transportation Agency lead authority under the bill over transportation providers, and it gives the Canadian Radio, Television, and Telecommunication Commission CRTC the lead authority under the bill over broadcasters and telecommunication providers. Those agencies have a troubling track record on disability accessibility. Fixing their door won’t undo those problems.

* Ms. Marilyn Gladu (SarniaLambton, CPC):

I want to say at the outset that I am pleased to see that the minister has brought forward this bill. I have absolutely no doubt about her sincerity in trying to improve the lives of people with disabilities. I too am aligned in that direction. I have listened carefully to the debate we have had so far talking about how to get people with disabilities the same rights and responsibilities as other citizens, how to make sure they are able to live independently and how to make sure they are free from violence. I am aligned in all those things. I think I have heard that all the parties in the House are aligned in how we improve the lives of people with disabilities, and what we can we do with this bill to make sure it is effective

I did take the point that was made earlier that no disability lens was used for the legislation. When we do legislation, we do it with a gender-based lens. Therefore, it is very appropriate here to take that recommendation from the member and put a disability lens in place.

I also do not like the powers to exempt in the bill. I find that when we allow exemptions and have cabinet decide, we get into trouble. We saw this with the carbon tax. The government had the power to exempt and it decided to exempt the largest emitters up to 90% of their emissions. There is an example where having the power to exempt is really not what we want.

In summary, I absolutely want to see persons with disabilities have the independence they need and have the help they need. However, it has to happen faster. I call on the government today to start putting money into infrastructure for accessibility and do the solutions that we already know about, while we craft improvements to the bill.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree with the views of this Conservative MP expressed here.

* Ms. Marilyn Gladu:

Madam Speaker, I think what we should do is put in place two things, timelines and the specific scope. We do not need, for example, to consult more on what to do to make buildings accessible. Believe me, this has been exhausted to death. That is not what we need. If we are going to consult, let us be specific about what we are consulting to achieve. Are we consulting in order to allow people with disabilities to work independently, to live independently? Which parts of this are we going to do? Are we looking for solutions, like the member mentioned, for people who are looking for sign languages to be included in legislation? What is the scope of what the Liberals are going to do? Otherwise, the government will consult and consult, and it will be endless in scope and endless in topics. We need to be crisp on it or allow free rein but allow only a limited amount of time, consulting for a year, for example, on the myriad of things it might want to bring as solutions, and then implement a plan.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We applaud this Conservative MP’s call for time lines to be added to this bill.

However, we disagree with this MP’s claim that there is no need for further consultation. Consultation on the details to include on new accessibility standards is very much needed.

For example, we do not agree with this MP when she said:

“We do not need, for example, to consult more on what to do to make buildings accessible. Believe me, this has been exhausted to death.”

The accessibility requirements in building codes too often fall well short. As illustrations, we point to the widely-viewed AODA Alliance videos that reveal serious accessibility problems in new buildings, such as the Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre, the Ryerson University Student Learning centre, and the new and recently-renovated public transit stations in Toronto.

* Ms. Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.):

Madam Speaker, we do have some obvious agreement on this and we are looking forward to moving this legislation forward. The hon. member did say that she does not like exemptions and I want to explain why some exemptions may be necessary.

The provisions are included in recognition of the fact that some organizations may have alternative methods of meeting the objectives of certain requirements, and some organizations may already have completed the requirements and are living up to existing accessibility standards in some of the provinces. Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and British Columbia have standards and are moving forward on that.

Does the member not see why some exemptions may be necessary in a bill of this size?

Ms. Marilyn Gladu:

Madam Speaker, I do see that exemptions may be needed for the reasons the member has cited, but when it is left wide open and there is no oversight, cabinet can determine what those exemptions will be and it does not have to tell anyone why.

It is better to write them in and to tell people that they have to comply with this, or that they must have a minister approve the exemption. The protocol should be clear and transparent so that we know it is not just people letting their friends do what they want, and also not people weaseling out of their responsibilities.

Businesses have known for an extremely long time that they would have to become accessible and they have really dragged their feet. If we gave an exemption of any kind, a lot of people would drag their feet even longer, and that is not what we want.

Let us have clarity and transparency.

AODA Alliance Comment:

Liberal MP Kate Young gives seriously flawed reasons for the Federal Government’s including in the bill its sweeping power to grant exemptions to obligated organizations from some important accessibility requirements.

Ms. Young said:

” The provisions are included in recognition of the fact that some organizations may have alternative methods of meeting the objectives of certain requirements, and some organizations may already have completed the requirements and are living up to existing accessibility standards in some of the provinces. Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and British Columbia have standards and are moving forward on that.”

It would be wrong for the Federal Government to exempt a federally-regulated organization on the grounds that it complies with accessibility standards under existing provincial legislation. Ontario treats federally-regulated organizations as exempt from any of its provincial accessibility standards, as far as we have heard. We have criticized the Ontario Government for that, since they need not give such a blanket free pass.

Ontario accessibility standards are quite weak. Complying with them does not assure that accessibility standards will ever be achieved. Manitoba only has one accessibility standard, in the area of customer service. It is similarly insufficient in scope. As far as we have heard, Nova Scotia has not enacted any accessibility standards. None of the three provinces has shown themselves to be effectively enforcing any accessibility standards on the books.

If, as we hope, the Federal Government will create stronger federal accessibility standards regulations, it should not ever exempt any federally-regulated organization from complying with them just because they are meeting weaker provincial accessibility standards.

If an obligated organization is already meeting federal accessibility standards, they need no exemption from those standards. An exemption would only give an obligated organization an reason to be less vigilant, since it would be exempted from federal regulatory oversight.

Second Day of Second Reading Debate September 24, 2018

Originally posted at:
http://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/house/sitting-324/hansard#Int-10254384

* Ms. Sheri Benson (Saskatoon West, NDP):

I know that people have raised with me that they are very concerned that the bill lacks timelines. There is some concern that we could be going on for quite a long time before we actually see some of the changes on the ground.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree. This has been a problem in the three provinces where accessibility legislation has been enacted.

* Ms. Pam Damoff:

I know the minister has made a commitment to see that this is legislation that will impact people’s lives and not years from now, but in the near term.

I look forward to the deliberations that happen at committee and to hearing from witnesses. If there are improvements to be made, the committee will benefit from the expertise that will be provided at the committee meetings.

AODA Alliance Comment:

The bill will need the substantial amendments that we have proposed in the ‘ AODA Alliance s September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament, to fulfil the Minister’s commendable commitment to its having an impact on the lives of people in the near term.

* Mr. Earl Dreeshen (Red DeerMountain View, CPC):

However, going through the summary of the bill, I know that there is a lot of talk about how there are going to be some changes and help as far as how individuals are concerned. The reality is all we are looking at is a bunch of bureaucracy. We are looking at an accessible Canada act and we are dealing with a Canadian accessibility standards development organization. We are looking at a commissioner associated with that, the chief accessibility officer. It seems as though what we are building, instead of continuing to talk to people who have done so much work in the past, is just another set of bureaucratic stumbling blocks that we will have to deal with.

It has been two and a half years or three years since this was first introduced. I am wondering how people can have assurances that there is actually going to be some action taken from all this bureaucratic information that we have in front of us.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree with the concern that there are no assurances under the bill, as now drafted, that there will be positive action under the new measures and new accessibility organizations and officials that the bill permits. However, we disagree with the suggestion that this bill is “all a bunch of bureaucracy” and “just another set of bureaucratic stumbling blocks that we will have to deal with.” If proper duties and time lines are established for these public agencies and officials, as we have proposed, they can make a positive difference.

* Ms. Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, NDP):

Madam Speaker, there is no doubt that legislation to address accessibility for people with disabilities in Canada is overdue, so I am glad to see this bill before us. However, it is missing some significant components, including a timeline to achieve full accessibility. I would just quote David Lepofsky, Canadian lawyer and disability advocate. He said:

“Its a good starting point and certainly the most substantial piece of legislation introduced by any government in Canada. But its going to need substantial additions and improvements to be effective, including a deadline to reach full accessibility.”

Would the government be open to accepting amendments to this bill at committee stage so that we can truly work toward full accessibility with a timeline to meet the needs of Canadians in a non-partisan way?

* Mr. Arif Virani Lib:

It is important not only to have a strategy and objectives, but also a sense of when those objectives and strategy should be fulfilled. I heard from Mr. Lepofsky, as I mentioned, at my own town hall, I know him from legal circles prior to being elected to the House. He made the exact same important point to me. It is informed by his understanding of the Ontario act, which does have a timeline. That is an important facet to keep in mind.

As for the member’s question with respect to the committee process, as always we are hoping for a very vigorous and comprehensive study at the committee stage, and robust amendments that would fulfill the important areas of this legislation and flesh out areas that may not have been contemplated earlier can be proposed.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We appreciate and support the NDP MP’s endorsement of our concerns with the bill. We also appreciate the Liberal MP’s invitation for “robust amendments” to be considered at the Standing Committee that will study this bill and his tacit recognition of the need for time lines.

* Mr. Earl Dreeshen (Red DeerMountain View, CPC):

When I first heard that the government might have an interest in helping the disabled, I immediately thought it would be formalizing some of the great work done by advocacy groups for the disabled, perhaps looking at special initiatives to enhance the disability tax credit program or considering ways to help caregivers cope with their everyday stresses. Truly it was disappointing to hear that its initiative was instead centred around the creation of a government bureaucracy. When the creation of a regulatory body to facilitate consultations is the main focus of the proposed legislation, it makes one wonder what has been happening on this file since the initial mandate letter was presented back in 2015.

When this government looks at ensuring a barrier-free Canada, it is not just the management of a bureaucracy that needs to be considered. It is not about hiring thousands of people to ensure that government workers make sure government departments heed their directives. It is not about setting up an enforcement regime to ensure that all are following a government mandate. It should not be about just giving lip service to the real needs of the disabled. Rather than pushing for years and years of consultation, we should be looking at the many success stories that are part of Canada’s efforts of inclusion. We are a nation of champions and we know how to accommodate those who need help. We are a nation that respects all of its citizens. We always have and we always will.

How can we reduce barriers and help integrate those with disabilities? How can we do this quickly so that logical solutions are implemented as soon as possible? It takes vision and commitment.

AODA Alliance Comment:

As noted earlier, it is incorrect to call this simply the creation of more bureaucracy. Key ideas in this bill come from recommendations from the grass roots in Canada’s disability community; built upon extensive experience with the barriers we face every day, and different attempts to tackle these barriers. It is that experience that also fuels the recommendations for amendments that many, including the AODA Alliance, are calling for, to make this bill an effective law.

* Mr. Earl Dreeshen:

Madam Speaker, the point I was trying to make was that there are a lot of solutions that are already there. It is one thing for the government to say that it is going to try to bring them together, but nowhere in here do I see where it talks about real initiatives and engagement with those groups that are involved. No doubt the government has talked to them about it and there have been discussions. However, when we go through the summary and the various parts of the bill, all we see is how it is going to set up bureaucracy. Nowhere does it talk about, other than in the very short preamble, how the government would attempt to realize some of the goals that it has mentioned. I think this is the critical component. It is a big bill and there is a lot in there, but once we read the bill, we realize that it is all bureaucracy and red tape.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree that the bill lacks much-needed specifics to ensure it works. As explained earlier, we do not agree with labelling it bureaucracy and red tape.

* Ms. Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.):

Bill C-81 proposes to create the Canadian accessibility standards development organization. This innovative organization, the first of its kind in Canada, would have a mandate to develop model accessibility standards that would guide the requirements that organizations under federal jurisdiction must respect to identify and eliminate obstacles, and to prevent the creation of any new obstacles.

AODA Alliance Comment:

This statement is correct, but too restrictive. As we understand it, CASDO is also supposed to be able to create non-binding model accessibility standards that could apply to disability barriers, even if they are not within federal jurisdiction. We want CASDO to be able to do so. This would help any province that wants to adopt a model CASDO regulation as provincial law. It would also help guide organizations that want to know what to do on accessibility, where there are no such accessibility standards in their province.

We have called for an amendment to make it clear that this lies within CASDO’s mandate.

* Ms. Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.):

In addition to Bill C-81, the Government of Canada will invest in a procurement accessibility resource centre. We will also adjust policies to ensure that the products and services purchased by the Government of Canada are accessible. We hope that our leadership will encourage organizations all across the country to join the movement and be proactive for accessibility.

AODA Alliance Comment:

These are useful proposals for action by the Federal Government. We had not earlier been told about these plans. These should be mandated in this bill so that they are permanent and guaranteed by law.

* Ms. Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.):

This bill represents a real transformation in the Government of Canada’s approach to accessibility. Up to this point, any action for accessibility was up to those affected. It was up to them to take the initiative and file complaints with authorities about systematically inaccessible processes, with the hope that it would lead to results. This is now changing with this bill. It will no longer be up to Canadians with disabilities to fix the system.

We want to ensure that barriers are eliminated before they become problems. We are doing this through new measures for compliance with an application of the bill. As a result, organizations under federal jurisdiction will now be responsible for the implementation and equality of accessible practices.

AODA Alliance Comment:

This statement reflects good intentions that we support. however it overstates the bill, as now written. Amendments to require the measures to which this MP spoke are needed.

* Ms. Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.):

Through the historic new investment in the investing in Canada plan, all federally-funded public-facing infrastructure will be required to meet the highest published applicable accessibility standards in our respective jurisdictions.

Also, the national housing strategy will ensure that a minimum of 20% of new construction and repaired units must meet accessibility standards and all projects must be designed barrier-free. This strategy also includes a commitment of 2,400 affordable housing units built for persons with developmental disabilities.

AODA Alliance Comment:

These are also potentially very positive steps, ones which we had not learned about before this debate in Parliament. The bill should be amended to require these measures in law, rather than leaving them to the frailty of federal policy that can be wiped out at the stroke of a pen.

* Ms. Elizabeth May (SaanichGulf Islands, GP):

I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for using the word must just now when she said we must move forward. My question actually relates to that. The word must is all too infrequently in the legislation and the word may is there a lot more. I do not mind the word may for obvious reasons, but in legislative terms, I would rather see must.

I will give the parliamentary secretary an example and hope for some encouragement. We need to amend the bill in committee. For instance, the all-important section states, The Governor in Council may, by order, designate a member of the Queens Privy Council for Canada, otherwise known as the cabinet, as the Minister for the purposes of this Act. There is another section like it that says the accessibility commissioner may provide written reports to the minister, who of course may be appointed. It is pretty clear that we need a minister responsible and the intention and spirit of the act make it obvious.

Could the hon. parliamentary secretary reflect on why we would not make it mandatory that cabinet always appoint a minister responsible for purposes of this act?

* Ms. Kate Young:

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague’s underscoring how she likes to use the word may in some instances, but would like the word must to be used in this instance. This is one of those discussions that can be had at the committee level. These are discussions we as a government need to hear, of where there may be room for improvement with the legislation.

I know we have said, time and again, talking about this legislation, that we have to respect the disability community and that it is nothing about us without us. That is why we continue to hear that phrase. It is important that the people with disabilities get to appear before committee and express their concerns and what they would like to see in legislation, moving forward.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We commend the leader of the Green Party for raising her concerns regarding the bill’s weaknesses, which we share. We also appreciate the Liberal MP’s recognizing that there may be room for improvements to the bill, and pointing to the upcoming Standing Committee hearings as the place to learn from people with disabilities.

* Ms. Rachel Blaney (North IslandPowell River, NDP):

This bill is a positive step in the right direction, but I am concerned that there are some significant gaps. The majority of these gaps are around allowing these organizations to decide instead of enforce. Persons with disabilities are put in positions that often are uncomfortable. It is our job as Canadians, as it is the job of the government, to look at what those barriers are and make a difference.

Bill C-81 does not have any mandatory timelines for implementation, which concerns me, as action is required. The best way to measure action is through outcomes. The bill would not require all federal government laws, policies and programs to be studied through a disability law lens. I think that is important to do as we look into the future of this country. The bill would give several public agencies or officials far too much sweeping power to grant partial or blanket exemptions to specific organizations from important parts of the bill. This is very concerning. Also, the bill would separate enforcement and implementation in a confusing way over four different public agencies. Rather, it should be providing people with disabilities a single service location, a one-stop shop. They really require that to get the action they need.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We appreciate this NDP MP also raising some of the key concerns with Bill C-81 that we have also raised.

* Mr. John Brassard (BarrieInnisfil, CPC):

Madam Speaker, there are several areas of concern with respect to this piece of legislation. On this side, we are hopeful that when it does get to committee, we are going to be able to work it out.

I know the member spoke about this, but a particular issue is that there are no mandatory timelines. There is $290 million being spent over six years, but within that six years, there is no measurement or time frame in which the action is to be taken.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree with concerns that this Conservative MP has raised, and which we too have raised, regarding this bill.

* Ms. Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, NDP):

The government talks about how we must move forward, yet the bill itself does not require us to work with provincial or municipal governments or the communities to realize accessibility.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree.

* Ms. Rachel Blaney:

How can this bill be better? What do we need to do to get it right? Here I will turn to the work and words of those in the know, the individual advocates and groups working to ensure that the human rights of those living with disabilities are respected and protected.

I want to acknowledge the work of Debbie Windsor, Barrier Free Saskatchewan, the National Institute of Disability Management and Research, and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance for their work and expertise, which has been extremely helpful in informing my comments today.

How do we make this bill better so that it can really be historic in its impact on the lives of people with disabilities? When Debbie mentioned accountability for change, or the lack of accountability, I looked to see if this bill would deliver. It would not. The lack of timelines in the bill is a concern. Without clear timelines, many are concerned that there is no way to hold the government to account for timely implementation.

Splitting enforcement and implementation and spreading those functions over four different agencies seems confusing and overly bureaucratic. I do not see how this would be a preferred way to serve people. I am curious as to how anyone would see this set-up as effective or efficient. It sounds like a system built to serve government, not people.

My colleague, the member for WindsorTecumseh, said it well in her speech when she described the enforcement and administration of the bill as a snarl, with the result of very similar regulations being enacted by the different agencies involved rather than by one single agency. The duplication would not just risk inconsistencies, it would create them, causing even further delays. The bill should be streamlining systems, not creating more barriers and bureaucracy.

Exemptions should be the exception, not the rule, but I am afraid that the bill would allow too much latitude for officials to exempt organizations, with little to no oversight or public accountability for why these exemptions were being allowed. This needs to change. If the bill would truly put people first, exemptions would need to be exceptional and reviewed independently.

Both the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC, and the Canadian Transportation Agency remain in the frame around enforcement. To my earlier point, most agree that a one-stop enforcement agency is preferred by just about everyone who has commented on the bill. Putting that aside for a moment, neither of these agencies have proven effective in enforcing their current obligations on accessibility. Both of them have broad powers to exempt organizations from complying with the proposed legislation. Hopefully, committee members will carefully review and improve this aspect of the bill.

As the minister mentioned in her speech, the definitions of barrier and disability put forth in Bill C-81 draw from the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. They are broad and inclusive, supporting the greatest number of Canadians.

Since ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2010, Canada has not proceeded with enabling legislation to bring our laws in line with this international obligation. It is good to see this legislation using definitions found in the convention. It is a good start, but we must not stop there. Bill C-81 does not fulfill all of Canada’s obligations under the treaty, so a reference in the legislation to a timeline for when Canada would fully meet its obligations would be an important addition to the bill. I encourage the committee to give this aspect of the bill its attention as well.

David Lepofsky, a Canadian lawyer and disability advocate, in a recent interview, summed up very well where we find ourselves with the tabling of Bill C-81. He said:

It’s a good starting point and certainly the most substantial piece of legislation introduced by any government in Canada. But it’s going to need substantial additions and improvements to be effective, including a deadline to reach full accessibility.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree with concerns expressed, and thank the MP for recognizing our contribution and that of others from the disability community.

* Hon. Erin O’Toole (Durham, CPC):

Madam Speaker, the member from the NDP mentioned David Lepofsky. He has been a leading advocate for a barrier-free Canada and is probably one of the best examples of thoughtful advocacy I have seen in my time in public life. I recall him teaching, in my bar admission course in Ontario, through the Law Society of Upper Canada, issues related to people facing disabilities. I want to thank Mr. Lepofsky. He is also quite tenacious on social media in making sure that these issues are not forgotten.

The member highlighted a number of the areas where this falls short. All parties, I think, want to see fewer barriers, more engagement and more opportunities for people. The fact is, and this is what Mr. Lepofsky’s group has also highlighted, the government provides the ability for itself to set standards or regulations but sets no timeline for the government to lead by example with respect to future plans for its infrastructure in future federal jurisdiction areas, such as ports, airports and these sorts of things. Is that lack of a timeline and a commitment to federal leadership something the member feels is a bit of a shortcoming in Bill C-81?

* Ms. Sheri Benson:

Madam Speaker, I think it was clear in my speech that I am concerned that there do not exist, as another member of the House mentioned, enough musts in this legislation so that those folks who have been advocating for legislation such as this would see something happen sooner rather than later.

The other big concern for me, which I have spoken about before and was a big part of my life when I was a social worker, is that I am a real advocate for the one-stop shop. I find the way compliance and enforcement are described in this legislation is very confusing and overly bureaucratic. It certainly does not speak to the issues that were brought to my attention, which is that it is very hard to hold a government to account when there are all these different agencies involved. One needs a road map to deal with them.

I am really hopeful that the government is sincere in what I have heard in the House about being open to amendments to make this legislation stronger and will speak to the many advocates who have said that the legislation is historic but needs help and amendments at committee.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree with concerns with the bill that both these Conservative and NDP MPs have raised in these statements, and appreciate the acknowledgement of our advocacy and representations on Bill C-81.

* Hon. Peter Van Loan (YorkSimcoe, CPC):

Bill C-81 seeks to enhance accessibility in areas of federal jurisdiction. It is a worthy objective. Accessibility is an area where we have seen much change and progress in my lifetime. However, it is progress that has been largely driven not by politicians, but rather by Canadians who saw the need and pressed for changes to the rules.

The success of those changes has been largely due to an incremental approach that has not placed undue burdens on Canadians trying to make a living, allowing progress over time. It is an example of the importance of applying common sense when delivering change for the better. That goal, delivering change for the better, has been my purpose in my time here.

The rationale behind accessibility rules is to create opportunity for people to achieve their potential. The preamble to the bill focuses on that question of ensuring equal opportunity.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree that part of the improvements in society on accessibility have been due to the efforts of individuals, battling individual barriers. However, one key reason why we need a strong national accessibility law is so that individuals with disabilities don’t have to shoulder that undue burden.

* Hon. Kent Hehr (Calgary Centre, Lib.):

Over and over again, we heard from Canadians that this legislation would need strong measures, with teeth, to make sure that it gets the job done. We listened, and we have a plan to make sure that accessibility is a priority for all areas under federal jurisdiction.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree that the legislation needs strong measures with teeth. Our proposed amendments to the bill are needed to put those into this bill.

* Ms. Emmanuella Lambropoulos (Saint-Laurent, Lib.):

The government also engaged the federally regulated sector, which provided valuable advice on how the government could assist industry to meet its obligations under established standards. Industry representatives stated that standards under the new legislation should be clear and unambiguous. Industry partners also want the Government of Canada to strive to achieve as much as possible harmonization with similar models in effect across other Canadian jurisdictions such as Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia, where members already operate and are familiar with existing requirements.

The federally regulated sector wants the government to provide supports to organizations during the implementation of the legislation. They are looking for the Government of Canada to support organizations through dedicated resources and developmental tools such as websites, background documentation, guidelines, tool kits and videos that can assist them with the implementation process.

Helping supporting organizations to meet their obligations would be one of the roles of the new Canadian accessibility standards development organization. Establishing clear and concise standards that apply to all obligated organizations equally would help them understand and comply with requirements and would ultimately be good for business, which could lead to economic benefits for those organizations.

During our extensive engagement with Canadians, they overwhelmingly expressed a desire for mandatory standards.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree with much of this statement. For example, both the obligated organizations and the needs of people with disabilities call for accessibility standards with clear requirements.

The measures that the Liberal MP outlines should be required in the bill, with one important suggestion. Federal accessibility standards should not have to be “harmonized” with provincial accessibility standards, if the provincial accessibility standards are weak or inadequate. It would work against the needs of all, including people with disabilities, for accessibility standards to sink to the lowest or weakest. Ontario by far has the most in the way of accessibility standards. Ontario’s are too weak. They largely deal with barrier-prevention and not barrier-removal. Federal accessibility standards need to be much better.

Moreover, as noted earlier, Ontario has earlier announced an unfortunate practice of declining to even try to apply provincial accessibility standards to any federally-regulated organization. As such, there is no need for such “harmonization.”

* Ms. Emmanuella Lambropoulos (Saint-Laurent, Lib.):

As a departmental corporation, the Canadian accessibility standards development organization would be considered part of the federal public service administration but would operate independently from the government department agencies and Crown corporations that eventually would be subject to these standards. This would allow the minister to provide general direction on priority areas and areas of concern for the development of accessibility standards while facilitating the organization’s independence in day-to-day operations.

AODA Alliance Comment:

It is very good that this Liberal MP speaks strongly in support of the CASDO being independent of the Federal Government. However, as now written, Bill C-81 does not assure this. We have proposed amendments to make it, and other key accessibility agencies and officials, fully and operationally independent of the Federal Government. After all, the Federal Government is the largest organization that will have to obey this legislation.

* Ms. Emmanuella Lambropoulos (Saint-Laurent, Lib.):

The Canadian accessibility standards development organization would be established following the coming into force of Bill C-81, and would be operational within one year of the date. A transition team would be put in place immediately afterward to operationalize the organization, with some of the early activities to include the appointment of the board of directors, the establishment of a leadership team, including the chief executive officer, the development of bylaws and determining the location of the head office within Canada. Once the Canadian accessibility standards development organization has a developed set of standards, the minister responsible would bring forward enforceable regulations to guide regulated entities.

Regulated entities include the federal government departments, agencies, Crown corporations and other points of the federal public administration, such as the RCMP and Canadian Forces, as well as the federally regulated sector and parliamentary entities. Once the Canadian accessibility standards development organization was established, the first standards would take approximately two years to develop. The length of the development process would depend on the complexity of the standard and the level of consensus on requirements of the particular areas. The priority areas for the standards development would mirror those set out in Bill C-81, which include employment, the built environment, transportation, information and communication technologies and delivery of programs and services and the procurement of goods and services.

Although the main role of this organization would be the development and revision of standards, it would have a very broad mandate. Indeed, the organization would also be responsible for providing information, products and services in relation to the accessibility standards that it has developed or revised. It would also be responsible for the promotion, support and conduct of research into the identification and removal of barriers and the prevention of new barriers. Also, it would be responsible for the dissemination of information, including information about best practices in relation to the identification, removal and prevention of new barriers.

This organization would be required to submit annual reports to the minister responsible for accessibility, who would then table the report in Parliament. Along with ensuring transparency, the annual reporting would communicate organizational priorities to Canadians and the success in achieving them. The report would also lay out future priorities.

Such an arm’s-length organization dedicated to the creation of accessibility standards would be new in Canada. It would, however, function in a similar way to other standards development organizations, such as the Canadian Standards Association and the Canadian General Standards Board. As a matter of fact, it is anticipated that the Canadian accessibility standards development organization would seek accreditation from the Standards Council of Canada. The proposed organization would be somewhat similar to the United States Access Board, which is an independent federal agency that develops and maintains accessible design criteria for the built environment, transit vehicles, telecommunications equipment, medical diagnostic equipment and information technology.

Provinces and territories would have opportunities to work with the Canadian accessibility standards development organization and the new organization could be asked to assist with standards making at the provincial and territorial levels.

AODA Alliance Comment:

This Liberal MP outlines what appears to be the Government’s implementation plan for this bill, which we hear learn for the first time. These helpful measures and time lines are, however, not assured in the bill itself.

* Ms. Elizabeth May (SaanichGulf Islands, GP):

Mr. Speaker, in looking at Bill C-81, it is very clear there is an expectation and certainly a desire on the part of many members in this place, and I suspect not just opposition members but government members as well, that the bill be improved at committee. I wonder if the member has any insight as to the openness of the government to accept amendments at committee.

* Ms. Emmanuella Lambropoulos:

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately I am not on that committee. I am giving this speech because I am very pro accessibility and I approve of Bill C-81. I like the way that it is written. Of course, there is always room for improvement. Therefore, I am hoping that we can accept some input from other members as well. I am sure the government is open to hearing what improvements people seek to make.

AODA Alliance Comment:

This statement reflects a growing and commendable bi-partisan support in the House of Commons for the Standing Committee to seriously consider strengthening the bill through amendments, based especially on the recommendations for amendments from the disability community.

* Hon. Diane Finley (HaldimandNorfolk, CPC):

Here we are three years later and are getting a bill from a minister that is said to have been the result of extreme consultations across Canada. I have no doubt the minister and her staff did extensive consultations across the country on this matter. That is what they claim; it must be true. However, one would normally have expected something of deeper value and more tangible change to have been proposed as a result. Instead, all this piece of legislation does is propose the creation of yet another agency, at a cost of $290 million to taxpayers.

Here is the sad part. None of the money would actually be spent on helping Canadians who face accessibility issues on a day-to-day basis. Instead, it would go to hiring more bureaucrats and paying auditors to audit all government buildings and buildings that fall under federal jurisdiction, such as banks, and for more consultations on what the standard regulations for accessibility should be. In my humble opinion, this would be a waste of money. We do not need more consultations to develop regulations. We have those already. As a matter of fact, during our time in government, we spent many millions of dollars making hundreds of federal buildings more accessible. When we put that in the budget, the Liberals voted against it. We were able to do all of these updates and set regulations without the need for yet another multi-million dollar agency to develop another report.

The proposed legislation says that the regulations, after being developed over the next six years, would apply to the Parliament buildings, among other places.

I have a few questions for the minister. As members of Parliament, we all have at least two offices: one in Ottawa and one, although often more, in the riding. Would auditors be auditing our constituency offices to ensure that they comply with these new regulations? If our offices do not comply, who would be responsible for paying for the upgrades?

I know from my own experience that it was extremely difficult to find office space that was both accessible and affordable in many small towns. Our member office budgets would not cover the cost to make an office accessible because of the high dollar amount involved. Simply building a ramp and altering the front door of my office would have cost three years’ rent. The landlord could not reasonably be expected to pay for that, and house management would not pay for it.

In addition to our constituency offices, our Parliament buildings were not designed to be disability-friendly. While we as a government have made great strides in fixing that, these buildings were not designed with accessibility issues in mind.

With Centre Block shutting down in a few months for a much-needed 10-plus years’ renovation, has the minister made plans to ensure that when this building reopens it will be disability-friendly for not only Canadians when they visit the Parliament buildings, but also the MPs, senators and thousands of people who support this institution? For example, will rounded doorknobs be changed over to lever knobs? What about the bathroom sink faucets and the toilet flushers? What about the many ramps that need to be built? Will they be built to the appropriate 1-to-10 ratio? How about a distinguishable baseboard that would allow someone with a visual impairment to see where the wall and floor meet? Will there be visual and audible warnings for people in the event of emergencies? Right now in my Confederation Building office the fire alarm is an audio-only alarm. That works for me and my staff, but what if I have guests or what about cleaners who cannot hear? What is planned for wheelchair access to the hill? Perhaps more importantly, what plans exist for true emergency evacuation by wheelchair or walker?

I know that while I was the Minister of Public Works, I took all of these things into consideration and required that they be incorporated into the Parliament Hill renovation design plans. Are those features still included? I know that many of those plans have been changed.

Will the minister ensure that Centre Block and the other Parliament buildings will be accessibility-friendly after these once-in-a-century renovations?

As I mentioned earlier, I am also concerned about the jurisdiction under which this bill is being placed. As the bill currently stands, the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities will be responsible for implementing this bill, yet much of the work will require execution by Public Services and Procurement. I am concerned that as a result of this, the minister will be unable to adequately assess and address the issues as they arise.

While I do support sending this legislation to committee and I do support its intended goal, I have some serious concerns about the need to create a new agency, the amount of funding requested, and how the division of responsibility, authority, and accountability for its implementation will be addressed. I am also concerned that all that this legislation does is essentially reiterate the minister’s mandate letter. She has already consulted with Canadians, so instead we should be discussing the regulations, not the creation of another agency.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We believe that the new agencies created under the bill are fundamentally important. We disagree with this Conservative MP’s suggestion that the Federal Government needs no further consultations on what to include in detailed federal accessibility standards. These are very technical requirements which take time and effort to properly develop.

*Hon. Diane Finley:

I talked about accountability. If we are going to have accountability, we have to establish what is going to be done, by whom and when. Those things are not in this bill. There is talk about consulting. That was supposed to have been done already.

We managed to go ahead and do a whole lot of things as a government that had tangible results. We upgraded several hundred buildings to make them more accessible. We did not sit around and gaze at our navels like the bill is proposing to do, spending six years to develop standards. Across Canada and around the world those standards already exist.

I would encourage the Liberal government, if it is serious about going ahead and helping people with disabilities, that it try to not reinvent the wheel, that it put some deadlines on this and name one person with the authority, responsibility and the accountability to deliver on this item and get on with it.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree with the need to add time lines, and identified measures and lines of responsibility to the bill.

* Ms. Sheri Benson (Saskatoon West, NDP):

What I have heard from people in my constituency is about the lack of timelines and the lack of accountability in the bill, advocating for some good amendments to the bill. They want something to happen sooner rather than later.

People have asked me about the need for more and that need to be able to go to one place to have that accountability. The fact that implementation and other things in the bill are sort of spread out over four different agencies seems confusing, overly bureaucratic and not effective or efficient. Would my hon. colleague like to comment on those points?

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree.

* Hon. Diane Finley:

Mr. Speaker, I could not agree with the hon. member more. In fact, that is one of the biggest flaws with the bill. There is no one charged with delivering. The minister whose name is on the bill is not the minister who tabled it in the House. It is a third minister who would have to deliver with respect to physical changes to these buildings, as well as the office of the Speaker. The office of the Speaker does have a responsibility for some of the facilities in this building.

It is important to have what is known in the business world as a locus of control, someone who is responsible, who is accountable and who has the authority to make things happen. Otherwise, nothing happens and nobody is held accountable for it, especially when there are no timelines.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree. We have proposed specific amendments for this purpose. We have found in the Ontario Government that the lack of someone in charge within the Ontario Public Service significantly contributed to delays in progress.

* Mr. Mel Arnold (North OkanaganShuswap, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, a couple of things I have noticed in the debate today is that there is all kinds of talk about punishment or penalties for non-compliance.

About two weeks ago I met with a group in my riding, the Independent Living Vernon. It has been helping people with accessibility issues of all sorts, not just physical disabilities. However, what it is focused on is driving incentives within the community so there is an incentive for a business to be more physically accessible, or visually accessible or hearing accessible. It has worked with the city. For example, in Salmon Arm, our city council meetings are now streamed over blue tooth so people with blue tooth hearing aids can hear the meetings. Those are the types of incentives that really make a difference in a community.

Does the member for HaldimandNorfolk feel that type of approach would be more suitable in the bill rather than heavy penalties for non-compliance?

* Hon. Diane Finley:

Mr. Speaker, people with disabilities have so much to offer to businesses and to their communities. Some 750,000 Canadians could be at work but they are not. They are people with disabilities who want to work, but they cannot because of artificial barriers that are put in place, including prejudice.

The landmark study that was done a number of years ago to which I referred showed that the average company that adapted its workplace to someone with disabilities spent no more than $500. That is lot less than the average recruitment cost of $3,200 per employee. When people with disabilities joined the workforce, the company overall, not just the employee, saw improved absenteeism, improved morale, improved productivity, and therefore improved profitability.

Communities are the same way. When a municipality broadcasts its town hall meetings or its mayoral or town council meetings, the disability community is more engaged. Everybody benefits from that.

The positive side, the carrot in this case works much better than the stick. When those people get engaged, when they can participate, they can contribute and we can all benefit from that for sure.

AODA Alliance Comment:

These statements are built on the incorrect premise that a law can either impose penalties, or incentives, but not both. It is important for this bill to provide both. Extensive experience with accessibility legislation in Canada and elsewhere around the world amply shows that without effective enforcement of mandatory accessibility requirements, progress is far too slow and spotty.

* Hon. Diane Finley:

Mr. Speaker, the bill has the potential only to be good legislation that would make a difference.

I invite my colleagues to join us at committee to make amendments that would make the bill relevant. That means establishing clear lines of accountability, of responsibility for its execution. It means not spending six years having consultations that the government has taken three years to do already. The government has consulted for three years to make a recommendation to consult for six more. That is not what four million Canadians with disabilities need. It is not what they want. Another six years of consultations is not going to help them. Then, who knows? There may be another recommendation for yet another study.

Canadians need access now. They need to be able to get to work and they need to be able to get around once they get to work. They need to be able to hear and see or use some tool or technology that will substitute for that, so they can contribute to Canadian society, so they can earn a living for themselves and get the dignity and self-worth that comes with having a job.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree that the bill needs clear lines of responsibility assigned for the bill’s implementation, and amendments to ensure early action and early progress under the bill. We do not believe that the Federal Government’s one year of consultation on how to design this legislation covered the technical specifics on which upcoming consultations are needed regarding the contents of detailed mandatory accessibility standard regulations. We also agree that there should be clear time lines for those future consultations, so that they do not drag on, as has been and now is the case in Ontario.

* Ms. Elizabeth May (SaanichGulf Islands, GP):

I think this bill is a good first step, but we should do more to make Canada a truly barrier-free nation

However, there are criticisms and I want to go over them briefly.

We have heard a number of them through debate since Bill C-81 came to the House. I should make it clear that I will vote for the bill at this stage. I want it to get to committee where I hope we can make significant changes.

This is the first thing that needs to be said, and I raised this already in questions. As I went through the legislation, I was surprised at the language of the goal in the purpose of the act, section 5. It states:

The purpose of this Act is to benefit all persons, especially persons with disabilities, through the progressive realization, within the purview of matters coming within the legislative authority of Parliament, of a Canada without barriers…

We find the same language in the mandate of the the Canadian accessibility standards organization, to contribute to the progressive realization of a Canada without barriers. We can go through and find the accessibility commissioners are also working toward progressive realization.

I was so interested in the language. As someone who studied legislative interpretation at law school, I have read every bill that has gone through this place since I became an MP seven years ago. I have never seen any bill where the goal is progressive realization of something. I double-checked by searching the legislative record, which we can now do much more easily than reading every bill. This is the first time any piece of legislation in Canada has set a goal of progressive realization of anything.

We usually, in legislation, set goals that are limited by timelines, within x number of years of the bill coming into force, that sort of thing. Progressive realization speaks to the underlying framework of this legislation, which is that it does not demand that Canada achieve a time without barriers by a specific time, even within the federal purview, and that is clearly a weakness.

It is discretionary at many other points. I mentioned earlier today in debate that the Governor in Council, which, for those watching who might not recognize the term, means cabinet, at section 4 of this act may, by order, designate a member of the Queens Privy Council for Canada as the Minister for the purposes of this Act. I cannot imagine, having created an act that is discretionary and says we are going to have a timeline into the future where we are working in progressive realization of our goal, why on earth it is not required that cabinet appoint a minister to be in charge. Other speakers have already noted that the minister who tabled this legislation is not the minister who worked on the legislation, and so on. We really should, in committee, be able to address some of the discretionary elements and ensure that cabinet must appoint a minister from within the existing cabinet to have responsibility for carriage of this legislation. It is nonsensical to leave that part discretionary.

A number of the groups dealing with this issue of accessibility and looking at this legislation have made note of some other things, and certainly the discretionary nature and the lack of timelines has been repeated by many. In looking at the legislation, I thought as well that it is much better, in looking at a goal for all of government, that there be accountability with one agency. In this legislation, for instance, the rights of accessibility to transport are handled through the Canadian Transportation Agency, whereas the rights to access to telecommunications, radio and TV is left with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

I want to read a quote into the record by disability advocate and lawyer David Lepofsky. I certainly leaned on his advice and will be doing so as I am preparing amendments for Bill C-81. He said, That kind of splintered approach, by which I just referred to different agencies having responsibility, to implementation and enforcement is a formula for confusion, delay, duplication and ineffectiveness. We would rather have it all under one roof. So would I. It would be much more effective if it were all under one roof, with one agency being accountable.

There is another element that has come up for discussion since the bill was tabled, and that is access to languages, particularly sign languages, the right to recognize that sign languages are languages and, in the national context, must be protected as official languages. Recently, there was a demonstration in Ottawa about the concerns that sign language in English and French as well as indigenous sign languages, be recognized as languages, as part of a national language. This is a concern that was expressed by a nationwide rally that occurred not that long ago and it is one that I share. I want to go on the record as supporting that American sign language, langue des signes du Québec and indigenous sign languages be understood to be official languages. One cannot have full accessibility if one cannot read, find and hear the information due to physical limitations.

Our embracing of the United Nations declaration on the rights of people with disabilities must be at least as strong. Of course, there are other United Nations declarations, such as on the rights of indigenous persons, on which we have the same concern. We can endorse these United Nations declarations, but when it comes home to implementation in Canada, we must be serious about ensuring that our goals are not in the far distance. Therefore, progressive realization is not language I want to see in this legislation at royal assent. What I hope we will all see, and we can negotiate it, is that within four years, five years, six years of royal assent given to this legislation a barrier-free Canada must exist and all peoples of Canada must be able to access, as citizens, all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of citizenship.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We again appreciate the leader of the Green Party reiterating a number of the concerns that we have raised with Bill C-81, as well as concerns raised by others from the disability perspective. We again appreciate the explicit endorsement of our bottom-line concerns.

* Ms. Elizabeth May:

I clearly stated that I would vote in favour of sending the bill to committee, where I very much hope improvements can be made to the timelines and discretionary matters that need clarification.

At first reading, this bill seems rather anemic, but I know the government is trying, and I thank it for that.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree.

* Mr. John Brassard (BarrieInnisfil, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, one of the issues we hear is that of the timeline on this piece of legislation. If there is nothing mandated, it effectively pushes the timeline down the road. There is no consistency. There is certainly no time frame within which many of the proposals in the legislation are to be implemented. The hope is that we can get this to committee and work among the committee to try to narrow that down. I wonder if that is a concern of the hon. member as well.

Ms. Elizabeth May:

Mr. Speaker, I could not agree more. There has been a strong degree of non-partisan concern from all members of this place in the debates on Bill C-81, whether Conservative, Liberal, New Democrat or Green. There is a hope that we will see the legislation improved in committee, and it is with that spirit that I will vote for the legislation at second reading and hope that we can see more precision.

As I said, I know the language “progressive realization” is found in some United Nations language, but I submit to this House that progressive realization of a goal is not a terminology that belongs in Canadian law. If they are serious about doing something, they give it timelines, they state goals, and they create accountability. Otherwise, it becomes a legislative effort in empty promises and dreamy hope but without the kind of rigour that brings change through legislation.

AODA Alliance Comment:

These statements show that some core concerns we have raised with Bill C-81 have some bi-partisan support, at least among opposition parties in Parliament.

* Ms. Sheri Benson (Saskatoon West, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, I have learned a lot today from members on all sides of the House. I want to concur with my hon. colleague’s statement that there appears to be a lot of consensus that this bill is important, but also a lot of consensus that this bill needs to be open to amendments at committee.

There is one thing I want to put forward for my colleague, just to hear her thoughts. I do not pretend to know all the ins and outs of the legislation, but could we not, inside Bill C-81, include some type of timeline for Canada to actually bring in line our laws and policies with the declaration for the rights of persons with disabilities that we signed so many years ago? It has come to my attention that this could be one thing we could put in the bill to work toward.

* Ms. Elizabeth May:

Mr. Speaker, clearly, timelines make sense in this legislation, and we do not have them now. To quote again the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, it pointed out that to meet this goal of progressive realization within the purview of matters coming under the legislative authority of Parliament, one new ramp per year somewhere in Canada would entirely fulfill that insufficient goal.

I do not think the government nor the minister who brought this legislation forward would be satisfied with such an insufficient outcome. I can almost imagine in the legislative drafting someone saying, It will cost too much if we actually mean what we say; let’s make it really fuzzy. I think the minister carrying the file does not want fuzzy hope. She wants to really deliver for people who have physical challenges, as she does. She is a remarkable tribute to overcoming physical limitations to do all that she has done.

The way to ensure the legislation delivers is to put in timelines, such as: all federal buildings must be fully accessible by day x, or as the member for HaldimandNorfolk brought up, we should ensure that all riding offices of members of Parliament are fully accessible. We can put timelines on these things, and we can break them apart so that one agency does not feel that it is going to be bankrupted by the effort. Surely, we can do better than progressive realization of a goal that could recede into 2150 without breaking a single clause.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree.

* Mr. Kelly McCauley (Edmonton West, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-81, or as I call it, another Liberal feel good bill that is short on details, does not note how it will actually help the disabled, and yet somehow manages to detail how it will grow the bureaucracy, but that is just a working title.

We will support this bill in order to get it to committee, where hopefully we will get the Liberals to actually work on concrete measures to help improve the lives of the disabled.

AODA Alliance Comment:

As indicated earlier, while the bill has shortcomings that need to be fixed, it is incorrect to describe this bill in terms of just growing the federal bureaucracy.

* Mr. Kelly McCauley (Edmonton West, CPC):

We have a lot of questions on this legislation. We do support it like our colleagues in the NDP and other parties. We want it to get to committee so that we can get some teeth into the measures currently in it and help disabled people.

We do have some questions for the minister, though. When will the new regulations come into effect? The six-year time frame would suggest that the entire process is going to take six years to get done between now and the time help will be given to the disabled. How much is it going to cost federal workplaces and private businesses? What will the new standard be? Why will we be voting on legislation when we do not know the regulations that will come out of it? Is it going to be properly defined to avoid a flood of human rights complaints?

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree that the bill needs to have teeth added to it. We do not agree that the content of future accessibility standard regulations need to be delineated before the bill is enacted. Respectfully, that puts the cart before the horse. We need the bill passed to put in place a mandatory process to create those regulations.

* Mr. Kelly McCauley (Edmonton West, CPC):

I note that in the 10-page slide deck or briefing document the government sent out, it provided more information on the bureaucracy going after people and penalizing them, etc., than it did on how the bill would help the average disabled person. We are worried about that.

Is the government going to build a bureaucracy that will create paperwork and go after people? It has not put anything in the bill specifying how it is going to physically and pragmatically help the disabled. What will the outcome be? We do not know. We do know that there will be a lot more bureaucrats going after people.

The $290 million will not even scratch the surface of what it is going to cost the federal government and the federally regulated private sectors to catch up to the new standards.

We have a lot of issues with this legislation, but we do support it.

AODA Alliance Comment:

As noted earlier, for this legislation to be effective, it must have effective enforcement. How many would obey the rules of the road, like speed limits, if there was no law enforcement on the road?

* Ms. Linda Lapointe (Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, Lib.):

I would like to ask my friend whether the Conservatives will be supporting Bill C-81.

* Mr. Kelly McCauley:

Mr. Speaker, I think I mentioned about eight times that we are going to support it. We want to help people with disabilities. We are going to support it and get it to committee.

AODA Alliance Comment:

It is helpful that there is bi-partisan support for getting this legislation brought forward to a Standing Committee, and for that Committee to be tasked to improve it through recommendations.

* Mr. Kelly McCauley:

Mr. Speaker, my colleague made a lot of great points. We want to see people living with disabilities have full access to everything that Canadians enjoy, whether with respect to work, access to public buildings, or access to anything that regular Canadians enjoy. We very much want to see a plan that helps the disabled get to work.

However, Bill C-81 is so vague about what it is going to do that it has disappointed us. We want to get it to committee where we can study it and get some firm, outcome-based teeth to the legislation.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree that the bill is in some important ways too vague. It is good that there is such widespread bi-partisan support for ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to Canadian society.

* Mr. Larry Maguire (BrandonSouris, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, earlier today I was wondering about the complaints process in this bill. My colleague has talked about many of its shortfalls, and one of them is what looks like another form of a complaints process, which is the main thing in this bill. Could he elaborate on that? I know he has expounded on many of the areas of concern that are not in the bill, and a number of things that could be. One of the reasons he wants it to pass at second reading is so that we can see if the government will come forward with amendments, or if it will allow others. Could he elaborate on that?

* Mr. Kelly McCauley:

Mr. Speaker, that is a concern. As I mentioned, in the slide deck the government gave us introducing the legislation, there is one page on implementing accessibility requirements, one page on helping the disabled, but two full pages on how it is going to set up a bureaucratic regime to go after people. The way the government is going at it is backward. It needs to focus on actually helping the disabled rather than creating a new bureaucratic nightmare to go after people. We need to focus on pragmatic results and helping the disabled, and not spending money and resources on the bureaucracy. It needs to be spent on Canadians suffering with disabilities.

AODA Alliance Comment:

Contrary to this statement, it is very good that this bill includes a complaint process. Our brief to Parliament offers detailed recommendations on how to improve that complaint process. Among other things, it is far too complicated for people with disabilities and others, because it is a splintered process, not a single unified process.

We disagree that the bill is “creating a new bureaucratic nightmare to go after people”

* Mr. John Barlow (Foothills, CPC):

This bill is, for lack of a better description, a horribly missed opportunity. I think all of us in the House would agree that any opportunity we have to enact legislation that would help Canadians with disabilities, or all Canadians, access employment opportunities so they could help their families and their communities would be a benefit and something we should all be focused on doing. Unfortunately, the Liberal bill, the accessible Canada act, does none of those things. It is very thin, it lacks any details, and it certainly lacks any tangible results or aspirational goals we are trying to meet. I think the four million Canadians who have disabilities would be extremely disappointed, because this is certainly not what they were promised by the Prime Minister in the 2015 campaign.

Bill C-81 is extremely weak. It does not outline any regulations or details. It only calls for more consultation and another regulatory process to begin, but the price tag is $290 million. I cannot go back to my constituents and explain to them what the $290 million is going to be used for and what the results are going to be.

AODA Alliance Comment:

As indicated earlier, we agree that the bill lacks important details. It would also be helpful for the Federal Government to explain in detail its 290 million budget that it is appropriating for this bill’s implementation over several years.

* Mr. John Barlow:

Mr. Speaker, what are the standards? We can have all these aspirational points as part of the bill, saying that we want to do this and achieve that, but there are no clear standards in there that say this is what is going to happen step by step, and with timelines. If we speak to those stakeholders and, with all honesty, say that we will have these standards, we do not know what they are, but they will be sometime in the next six years or so, is that really what those stakeholders have asked for? Is that really what they are supporting? I would question whether that was the bill of goods they were sold.

Again, I think all of us support the essence of Bill C-81. This is the direction we want to go. We want to ensure we are removing barriers for Canadians with disabilities, but we want a clear path and clear rules on how we get there.

AODA Alliance Comment:

It is correct that the bill lacks needed step-by-step implementation deadlines. However, this should not be confused with accessibility standards, which will only be created and enforced once the bill’s implementation machinery is established, up and running.

* Mr. Robert Kitchen (SourisMoose Mountain, CPC):

Canadians living with disabilities deserve meaningful and effective action from their government to help them improve their quality of life where possible. There are good things about this bill. It would hopefully make it easier for some Canadians with disabilities to deal with the federal government. However it is unclear as to how this helps with the rest of their lives.

Something I also support in this legislation, the clearest and most repeated point, is that it spells out the complaints process. This, however, is just a tiny aspect of a much greater piece of legislation that should provide common-sense regulations and standards, which I believe is what disabled Canadians were hoping for.

I cannot comprehend why the government would put out this legislation unless it was simply to say it was doing something. It had two and a half years to consult and this is what it came up with. I believe it does a disservice to those involved. To put it casually, there is no meat in this meal.

Before I can support this bill, I and all Canadians need to know these facts. In my view, this bill is putting the cart before the horse. I think that every person sitting in the House today would say that they support initiatives that benefit Canadians living with disabilities, but this piece of legislation fails to have any meaningful impact and sets out to spend a lot of money to do nothing.

* Mr. Robert Kitchen:

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend, the member for Fredericton, for his question and all the good work that he has had to do in Fredericton over the past year. I know he has been hard at that.

I agree with a lot of what he said about working together. That is part of what this legislation should be doing. I had a conversation with the minister a couple of days ago on this issue. One of the things we discussed was maybe taking two Liberals, two Conservatives, two NDP, and putting them in a room to sit around and hash out all of the little details so that we could get all of the fine lines. It is important to do that, and I expect we will see a lot of that at committee. I hope to see that help us move forward, and to help those with disabilities so we can advance our country to the benefit he suggested.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We would support any such bi-partisan effort to address the proposed amendments that we and others have proposed to strengthen this bill and to ensure it fulfils the Federal Government’s commendable intentions that it has announced for this bill.

Third Day of Second Reading Debate on Bill C-81 September 26, 2018

Originally posted at:
http://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/house/sitting-326/hansard#Int-10263898

* Ms. Sheila Malcolmson (NanaimoLadysmith, NDP):

Bill C-81 would empower the government to create accessibility standards or regulations, but it would not require the government to do that. We like the idea of an accessibility commissioner in charge of enforcement.

New Democrats are going to support this proposed legislation at first reading so we can get it to committee and make as many constructive amendments as we can to serve the people with disabilities who need this to work well, but we could not support it if it were to come back in this form.

The bill would not bring us into conformity with our obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The text on civil rights legislation for persons with disabilities is really the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is dated 1990. We have a good model out there. Canadians should be at least meeting the standard set by the Americans.

My New Democrat fellow MP for New WestminsterBurnaby in 2007 tabled proposed legislation in the House. My fellow MP in this Parliament, the MP for WindsorTecumseh, has been very strong as our critic for the NDP on this bill, saying that any accessibility bill tabled has to be seen as enabling legislation for Canada’s commitments to the United Nations. Therefore, we will be pushing in committee for mandatory timelines for implementation. Without those, the implementation process, and even a start-up process, could drag on for years.

We will be pushing to require that all federal government laws, policies and programs be studied through a disability law lens. We will be asking that the bill not continue its error right now of giving several public agencies or officials much too much power to grant partial or blanket exemptions from important parts of the bill. The bill right now would separate enforcement and implementation in a confusing way over four different public agencies. In committee the NDP will argue instead that Bill C-81 should provide people with disabilities with a single service location or one-stop shopping so that they can access the services with dignity and the support they need.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We share the concerns expressed here.

* Mr. Larry Maguire (BrandonSouris, CPC):

I am encouraged that this legislation would establish proactive compliance measures. Making buildings and workplaces accessible should never be an afterthought; it should be at the forefront of any architect or engineer’s plans. It is important that we have common accessibility standards across the board.

While I note that this legislation only impacts federally regulated workplaces, it is my sincere hope that it will lead to a much broader conversation within provinces and territories. I believe there is willingness across the country to get this done. There is such opportunity for businesses and organizations to encourage as many people as possible to either be employed, to volunteer, or to shop.

As with any new regulation or law, we must always be mindful about the costs to be borne by those who will be impacted. The other element we have to look at is what it will cost taxpayers to implement, enforce and measure. It costs money to hire people and to perform the day-to-day operations of a new federal entity.

I think all members would agree that we should measure the success or deficiencies of a particular program or organization.

The question at the end of the day is this: Does the federal government need to set up completely new bodies, or can we find ways to harness existing resources? While the fine details will be worked out at a later date, I urge the government to focus squarely on tangible outcomes and projects that will improve accessibility. It would be disappointing if all of the dollars allocated to this legislation just created new full-time equivalents rather than going to bricks and mortar projects. These are the sorts of questions that must be asked up front, because once a government entity is created, it is normally quite difficult to make the necessary changes down the road.

Because this legislation will only impact federally regulated workplaces, most small businesses and community-led organizations will not be directly impacted. That said, the federal government must work hand in hand with federally regulated workplaces and the disabled community. For this legislation to have the impact that we all want it to have, it cannot be drafted in a silo or entirely by the civil service. The regulations and standards must be written in easy-to-comprehend language. There must be crystal clear expectations, coupled with appropriate enforcement measures. I also encourage everyone involved to look for best practices not only in the various provinces, but also around the world, and we must make sure that we do not just create another bureaucratic institution.

Building a new institution that would just create mounds of paperwork and have limited buy-in from workplaces would not be in anyone’s best interest.

I know that when this legislation goes to committee, there will be great interest in it. It would be prudent for the government to provide the committee with as much information as possible so there is meaningful dialogue. It is imperative that the minister spend the necessary time to get this right. I will definitely be voting in favour of this legislation so that it gets the proper study and engagement it so rightfully deserves.

AODA Alliance Comment:

There is much in the preceding statement with which we can agree. We note that there are, at times, a need to create new agencies, such as the Accessibility Commissioner. It would be a false economy to assign this bill’s implementation in part to the Canada Transportation Agency and the CRTC. In fact, that will yield poor results and higher implementation costs in the end.to create

* Ms. Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that the implementation and administration of this accessibility legislation is going to take resources and investments. Where possible, I agree that we would build on our existing authorities and expertise. This only makes sense in efficiency and cost savings terms. I am certainly not thinking that the member opposite would suggest that we should not put money and resources to this very important issue.

AODA Alliance Comment:

Neither the CTA nor CRTC have expertise in disability accessibility nor a proven substantially positive track record on disability accessibility to make it more efficient to leave them with lead responsibility under this bill for the sectors they traditionally regulate.

* Ms. Elizabeth May (SaanichGulf Islands, GP):

I found this legislation curious, in that it states that the Governor in Council may appoint a minister to be responsible for this area of responsibility. I think it is clearly the government’s intent that there will be such a minister because so much hangs on a minister acting.

Can the hon. member for BrandonSouris suggest any reason why this would not be supported by all parties to make it a mandatory responsibility of cabinet to appoint a minister to have conduct of Bill C-81?

Mr. Larry Maguire:

Mr. Speaker, I cannot think of a good reason. However, not being the government and among the ones who put this bill forward, I guess we will have to leave that up to them.

My colleague is quite right about the wording of the bill. I wanted to make very clear as well that the government may have some reason for not using that and going forward with it, but we want to make sure. There may even be amendments that will still come forward in this bill as it goes to second reading.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree with the amendment that the leader of the Green Party here proposes.

* Mr. David Yurdiga (Fort McMurrayCold Lake, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, today I stand before you to support Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. The bill is an excellent step in the right direction in reducing barriers for people living with disabilities

The bill sets out to benefit all Canadians, especially Canadians with disabilities, through the progressive realization of a barrier-free Canada. Over $290 million has been committed to be spent over six years. This is an excellent first step, but people with disabilities deserve more. They deserve more funding, more research, more programs and more access.

Together, we can create better employment supports; improve income and disability support; increase access to treatment, comprehensive care and housing; and invest in fundamental research for all disabilities.

AODA Alliance Comment:

Different members of the Conservative party take widely differing views of this bill, as the preceding statement exemplifies.

* Mr. Jamie Schmale (HaliburtonKawartha LakesBrock, CPC):

On this side of the House, we are going to support Bill C-81 at second reading. We thank the government for bringing it forward. This will allow all of us to have a robust debate in committee, and in the House, and talk about how we can make all our communities in Canada more accessible for everyone, not just those who do not have mobility issues.

AODA Alliance Comment:

It is important to note that this bill is meant to address the needs of people with all kinds of disabilities, not just those whose disability affects their mobility.

* Ms. Elizabeth May (SaanichGulf Islands, GP):

Mr. Speaker, I join my colleague in voting for Bill C-81 at second reading to go to committee. I do so in the fervent hope that we will see many improvements made to it at committee.

I do not understand why at this stage, after years of consultation, we would bring forward legislation to achieve a barrier-free Canada that uses language like progressive realization of. I have checked and there is no legislation anywhere else in Canada on any topic that sets a goal of progressive realization of. Our legislation usually says that by so many years or months from royal assent, we will have achieved tangible goals.

The disability groups that have commented on the proposed legislation say that progressive realization of could mean one ramp a year built somewhere across Canada to remove a barrier. I do not think the government and the fine ministers who brought the bill forward actually intend a go-slow plan to remove barriers. This is why I hope that in committee the Conservatives, the New Democrats and the Liberal members of the committee will accept amendments to provide real progress, which is measurable toward a barrier-free Canada.

* Mr. Jamie Schmale:

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member. There are items in the bill about which we on this side of the House have a few questions and concerns. It is an opportunity in committee to iron out the finer details.

All of us will carefully examine the legislation as it progresses through committee. Hopefully, witnesses are able to come to committee to provide testimony and their suggestions on how to improve the bill. All of us will have another opportunity to look at the final draft and then make a final decision on it.

AODA Alliance Comment:

We agree.

* Mr. Luc Berthold (MéganticL’Érable, CPC):

Opposition members often rise in the House to talk about good causes and the people who are important to them, the people in their ridings.

In this case, we are speaking on behalf of persons with reduced mobility, who have to overcome many barriers in their lives.

Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, is a step in the right direction. Every member in the House supports measures to reduce barriers for all Canadians in every aspect of their lives.

Canadians with disabilities deserve to have a government that always keeps mobility in mind to ensure that those with reduced mobility can live in a barrier-free society.

Unfortunately, even if it is a step in the right direction, Bill C-81 will not improve the lives of Canadians with disabilities in the short term. To this day, our society does not always bring forward measures that will make life easier for Canadians with disabilities.

We believe that we need to take action to help them, and we want to work with the government to find real solutions. However, this bill is proof that the Liberal government is somewhat out of touch and that it does not always understand the challenges that people with disabilities must face. With this bill, the government is going to use taxpayers’ money to write reports or action plans.

I am going to talk a bit about my experience as mayor and, in particular, as the former president of an association that works to improve the quality of life of the disabled on a daily basis.

People with reduced mobility need us to deal with their infrastructure, both their homes and their workplaces. We must do everything we can to make it possible for them to get to work and contribute to Canadian society.

We need to help more Canadians with mobility issues enter the workforce

We must work hard to ensure that every single Canadian has access to the same society, regardless of their physical abilities

The Liberal government wants to invest $290 million to develop accessibility plans and set objectives. I repeat, it wants to invest $290 million to develop accessibility plans and set objectives.

That seems like a lot of money to me. This money will be spent over a period of six years. Does that mean we will have to wait six years to see any changes? Will any other funding be announced in the meantime for putting these plans into action and achieving the objectives? Unfortunately, the bill before us has no answers to those questions, so it is hard for us to get a clear idea of what is actually going to come out of Bill C-81.

Canadians with disabilities cannot understand how a government can think it is totally normal to spend $290 million on plans and objectives. These people are living their lives right now, and now is when they want improved living conditions, accessible workplaces, and help to participate in this country’s economic development.

People with mobility issues do not need a government that will invest in bureaucracy. They need a government that will actually tackle problems by adapting infrastructure

The bill seems pretty good at first blush. Will the government be working closely with people with reduced mobility? Why wait so long before taking action? How will that $290 million be spent? I sure hope the government will be consulting the people it is supposed to be helping and will invite them to play an active role in the organization.

As I was saying, there are far too many unknowns in this bill.

AODA Alliance Comment:

Here again, it is important that this bill aims at accessibility for people with all kinds of disabilities, not just physical or mobility disabilities.

* Mr. David Tilson (DufferinCaledon, CPC):

I do not really have a question for my colleague, but I would like to congratulate the government for bringing this bill forward.