Transcript of the 2nd and Final Day of Third Reading Debates on Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act in the House of Commons, on November 22, 2018

Transcript of the 2nd and Final Day of Third Reading Debates on Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act in the House of Commons, on November 22, 2018

Parliament of Canada House of Commons

Hansard November 22, 2018

Originally posted at https://openparliament.ca/debates/2018/11/22/procedural-2/

Debates of Nov. 22nd, 2018

House of Commons Hansard #356 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker   Geoff Regan

The hon. member for Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte has 11 minutes left in his remarks.

Conservative

Alex Nuttall   Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour to continue talking about a bill that has a lot of hope in it from Canadians across the country who are living with disabilities. I started yesterday into my speech regarding Bill C-81, which is essentially an accessibility act for all Canadians.

The minister said we would be co-operating and working together, and that her department would provide us with the information that was needed in order to ensure the bill actually delivers for Canadians living with disabilities. Stakeholders from across the country, from all sides of this debate, whether they have hearing or sight disabilities or physical or cognitive disabilities, are all saying the same thing, that the bill is not actually doing anything.

There are no teeth in the bill, and there are no dates to deliver teeth or policies or regulations so that we know what is going to be done to actually help people living with disabilities.

One of the things I said at the first debate we had on this subject and repeated at committee was that my hope for the bill was that at the end of it I would be able to call my mother and tell her how her life is going to change after it is passed.

Unfortunately, all I can do today is call her and tell her that within two years a single regulation will be adopted. That single regulation will trigger a five-year time period, and within that five-year time period the government will then have to report back and essentially do an audit of the regulations it has in place. However, we are not going to see any tangible benefits out of this bill on day one.

We have asked why, and the Liberals have said regulations do not need to be in the bill. The staff in the department and the minister have said we need to consult more. That is not good enough. We have had three years of consultation on this subject. Surely at least one regulation could have come into effect with this accessibility legislation.

The minister said yesterday the good news is there are benchmarks. She said that Ontario, Nova Scotia and British Columbia had put very forward-thinking legislation into place, and she commended their legislation. Their legislation had timelines.

She commends it, and she tells us there is a benchmark and we know what we need to do, but then does not include any of it in the bill, saying we might have one regulation within two years. It is just not good enough for Canadians living with disabilities. It is not good enough for Canadians who are living with either cognitive or physical disabilities.

It is incredible when we start thinking about all the things the most vulnerable in our society have to live and cope with. When we look at the issues of the day, such as Canada Post, we see another barrier put up. With Canada Post union employees going on strike, it creates a barrier for people living with disabilities, who perhaps cannot even get outside of their home to go and collect items they may need.

However, the minister does not put anything in place that will change things as of day one. It is not good enough, and stakeholders know it is not good enough.

Stakeholders were telling us they wanted change. That is why roughly 240 amendments were drafted and submitted. That is why so many amendments were adopted. Unfortunately, they were only from the Liberal side.

However, what the minister, the department and the Liberals on the committee could not understand is that stakeholders want to know when things are going to change. They want measurables in place.

Stakeholders do not just want to see a bunch of employees hired, a building gone, rented or bought, and perhaps a promise of “one day”. They are not looking for a promissory note. The stakeholders are looking for real defined benefits, defined regulations, defined policies that will help them in their day-to-day lives, and that is what the Conservative Party, the New Democrats and the Green Party all tried to do at committee to no avail, because, unfortunately, they were not part of the right party. It is disgusting when we think about the throne speech that we had in this House of Commons by the Prime Minister, which said that all members would be respected no matter where they are from, no matter what party they represent. Unfortunately, that is just not the case. The co-operation that the minister has consistently said would be in place was not.

The answers that the minister said she would be getting for members of the opposition never came. The costs related to these changes were never brought forward. However, if all of the benchmarks are in place in Ontario, Nova Scotia and British Columbia, surely we know what the costs are to make the changes necessary to make lives better for people in Canada who are living with disabilities.

We either have the information or we do not. Yesterday, we were told we had the information. A few weeks ago, we were told we did not. At committee, we were told that we did not. Even when the Liberals do have the information, they say that it is privileged between the cabinet minister and the staff. These are things as simple as whether any timelines were recommended. We could not even get that. The stakeholders are asking these questions one after another. They want to know and need to understand how and when these actions are going to be taken.

I brought something up at committee that the minister was not actually present for, which is normal, and I did not bring it up in a previous speech, but I would like to make sure that this is brought before the House. What happens if a different government is elected? What happens if there is no minister who is like-minded on this issue?

One of the things the Conservative Party was asking for was to put measurables in place to ensure that there would be follow-through from successive governments. The current government’s mandate ends in less than one year. Unfortunately, by not putting measurables in place, by not having a time by which all of these things need to be completed, by not putting a target in place for a barrier-free Canada, we do not know when or how this proposed legislation could fall off the road. This means there is a lack of accountability contained within legislation, because the government wants to avoid being accountable for real results. However, it would not just affect the current government but all governments going forward. If there is not a like-minded government going forward, that means there is a potential for it to completely collapse, and we do not want this to collapse.

We like the fact that there is an accessibility act coming forward. We supported the fact that there was an accessibility act coming forward. We championed an accessibility act coming forward. We requested that it be brought forward as soon as possible when it became very clear that the six-month timeline that the government put in order to provide the legislation to the House for persons in Canada with disabilities was not coming forward. We asked where it was. Why was it not here yet? We knew the work had been done. The Liberals told us they had been consulting for over a year. They told us they were consulting for over two years, and yet still we did not have legislation in front of us.

What happens if it is not the mindset that is provided by the government today, the mindset that is provided in the Conservative benches opposite? There is a real possibility that the intent of this legislation would fall off the road just so the government could avoid the accountability of providing real results for real Canadians living with real disabilities. It is just shameful that a government would walk away from its responsibility to be accountable to Canadians who are taking care of the most vulnerable and accountable to the most vulnerable themselves. It is absolutely shameful.

Going forward, we know that there need to be changes. Therefore, I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, be not now read a third time, but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities for the purpose of reconsidering:

  1. clauses 5, 11, 18, 23, 111 and 148 with the view to include dates and timelines to ensure that the Bill will advance accessibility in Canada;
  1. clauses 15, 75, 93 and 95 with the view to remove permissive language to ensure that accessibility requirements are made and enforced;
  1. clauses 46, 55, 59, 64, and 68 with the view to not allow organizations to be exempted from complying with accessibility requirements; and
  1. clause 207 with the view to require the government to act.

Liberal

The Speaker   Geoff Regan

Questions and comments, the hon. parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport.

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, I want to thank the hon. member for his comments on this very important bill. However, I have to take exception to what the hon. member was saying, because he is in fact misleading Canadians. He is saying that this bill has no teeth. It definitely has teeth. He is saying this bill has no timelines. It definitely has timelines. I think we need to underscore how important the amount of input from Canadians with disabilities has been, in order to get where we are today.

I want to say specifically that our government wants to hit the ground running when this bill passes. New regulations will be in place very quickly, within two years after the act comes into force. That means that we are going to start moving right away and that the regulations will be enacted. Once Bill C-81 receives royal assent, the Canadian accessibility standards organization would be up and running within one year.

Therefore, there are timelines and to say anything different is wrong. You cannot mislead Canadians to think that this does not have teeth. This is a step in the right direction. We know that people with disabilities are very happy with this bill, and we are very committed to making sure we follow through on this bill.

Conservative

Alex Nuttall   Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if it was you that the member was actually referring to, as I get called out on that all the time. I just wanted to be able to do that with somebody else for once.

In terms of misleading Canadians, I would question who it is who is misleading Canadians.

First, I take exception to that, because it is basically trying to imply that I was lying.

Second, when we look to Patrick Faulkner from Barrier Free Manitoba, Patrick said, “While representing a commendable effort with honourable intentions, we are concerned the bill is deeply flawed. Based on our decade of experience and our careful review, BFM strongly supports the recommendations for significant amendments”. What were those significant amendments? They were for timelines and more teeth in the bill.

We still do not know why the Liberal Party shot down every single attempt to listen to the Canadian stakeholders who asked for more teeth in this bill.

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

Kate Young

Mr. Speaker, following through on that, I want to talk about common themes. We heard a number of stakeholders at the committee. There were common themes and we did listen. Many of the amendments that came from the NDP and Conservatives were very similar to amendments we put forward. I hope the member will agree we came to an understanding in a number of areas and put forward amendments that had teeth and really moved this legislation forward.

Conservative

Alex Nuttall   Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what the question was, but certainly I can comment on the statement. No, we do not agree that there were teeth in this bill. That was the whole point of the last 20 minutes I spoke in the House of Commons. There are no teeth and stakeholders are saying there are no teeth. Stakeholders are concerned there are no timelines. The member can stand and say it over and over again, perhaps until blue in the face, but it does not change the fact the legislation does not have any teeth, except maybe a regulation within two years.

I have seen ministers and parliamentary secretaries walk through organizations many times during question period, so let me talk about some of them that are asking for more teeth. They include Ability New Brunswick, Ability Online, Active Aging Canada, Active Living Alliance for Canadians with a Disability, Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians Toronto Chapter and AODA Alliance. I have about another 250 of them to go through, when ready.

Conservative

Erin O’Toole   Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am concerned by the comments from the Liberal parliamentary secretary suggesting my colleague and friend is misleading people. I spoke to my friend just yesterday about the conversation I had last week with David Lepofsky, probably the most prominent Canadian in terms of disability advocacy. He has the Order of Ontario and Order of Canada, as a constitutional lawyer and disability advocate.

What my friend is saying to the House today is exactly what is being said by people like David Lepofsky. One of the things I heard from him was the fact that there is no end date for accessibility within Bill C-81, no timeline. Ontario has set a 20-year goal of making sure accessibility is paramount. The other thing I heard from him was that there is no clear commitment in Bill C-81 to ensure no infrastructure dollars would go to new projects unless accessibility is at the centre of the project. There are no timelines and no teeth.

The Liberal member is suggesting that my friend is misleading Canadians. This is what disability advocates are asking for. Will my friend comment on the fact that we have an opportunity with Bill C-81 to get it right, if only the Liberals will listen?

Conservative

Alex Nuttall   Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to commit to the member that we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians. It is interesting the member brought up Mr. Lepofsky, because he said the following:

…the bill that is now before you is very strong on good intentions but very weak on implementation and enforcement…When you come to vote on amendments before this committee and when you go back to your caucuses to decide what position you’re going to take, we urge you not simply to think of the immediate political expediency of today; we do urge you to think about the imminent election a year from now and the needs of the minority of everyone, for whom no party or politician can go soft.

Those are the words of Mr. Lepofsky. It is unfortunate that the Liberal Party did not listen to them.

Conservative

Rosemarie Falk   Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to sit on the HUMA committee and listen to testimony for Bill C-81. It was very disappointing to see how the government was rushing through testimony of witnesses and clause by clause. We heard alarming things in testimony. For example, we heard that 40% of indigenous people have or will have a disability within their lifetime. Indigenous people are not mentioned whatsoever in the bill. Consultations were done for three years and they failed to recognize indigenous people and failed to recognize timelines. I do not think making departments have one standard within two years is an acceptable “teethy” timeline. There is failed accountability, exemptions and the list goes on.

On this side of the House, we had brought forward an amendment for the government to have a barrier-free Canada. I know my colleague had mentioned a little about this, but how is this going to be measured? How are we going to measure the progress or lack of progress, and how are we going to keep future governments accountable?

Conservative

Alex Nuttall   Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank the member for her incredibly hard work on this subject and on the committee. She brought a lot of amendments to the table. Unfortunately there was not a co-operative attitude to put those amendments into place. The member’s question actually speaks directly to those amendments.

There are two questions that need to be answered there. I believe when the member says “we”, that she is referring to the government of today. The government of today is going to measure its success by how much money it spends and how many staff members it hires. Those are the only measurables we have seen in the bill.

We cannot measure the results for Canadians living with disabilities by the amount of money the government spends on hiring new staff or finding new offices. We have heard that story before and it does not work.

The second part to that is how are we, as a Conservative government in 2019, going to measure it? We will measure it by the number of lives changed and the number of people who have accessibility to hope and opportunity that they do not have today.

NDP

Charlie Angus   Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is extremely important that we move forward with a plan to ensure everyone has the right to access the services they need if they have disabilities.

In the communities I represent in the far north, children are continually being denied basic services, like special education and health services. Unless we start with a rights-based focus, and indigenous children have a right to this, they are always going to be nickel-and-dimed by government. The government is always going to say, “Well, this is what we have available.” No other kid puts up with it. Why should we have two standards in the country for indigenous children and other children?

Alex Nuttall Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, quite frankly, the subject matter is incredibly important.

I have the honour to serve in the capacity of the shadow minister for youth. Seeing the disparity between different geographical locations or demographics based on where or how individuals live is incredibly difficult.

Even more than that, we have seen it play out where we have young aboriginal youth denied basic dental surgery. How? Why? This should not be happening in our country. We pay a lot of taxes. We have an incredible country. We believe in taking care of our own, yet it just does not seem to happen. The worst part of it is that this bill does not get us any closer. Well, maybe in two years.

NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak of historic opportunities lost. An important component of our Canadian population is being sold short.

Canadians and other persons living with disabilities understandably were excited by the government’s plan to bring forward Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. After years of neglect by previous governments, they were cautiously optimistic. Alas, once the media has moved on to other issues and Canadians begun to look at the fine print in the bill, they will unfortunately find a lot less to celebrate than the government would have them believe.

As I have stated before on Bill C-81, the bill requires substantial amendments. While we commend the government for tabling it, the bill will need to be altered dramatically in order to become good legislation. I committed to working with the government to provide good faith amendments so the bill could become a historic accessibility legislation that Canada’s people living with disabilities deserved.

When the Minister of Accessibility was asked during committee if she would be open to amendment, this was her response:

I definitely want to see this law being the best it possibly can. I don’t want to prejudge the outcomes or recommendations of the committee, but I am certainly open to hearing what you all have to say and what stakeholders have to say.

Over the course of eight meetings, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities heard from leading experts and civil society groups on the things that needed to be changed if Bill C-81 were to become good legislation.

In one presentation after another, the committee heard that the bill needed implementation timelines. One such expert was none other than the former Ontario Liberal government minister responsible for shepherding Ontario’s Accessibility Act into law. We heard again and again that all of the exemptions for obligated organizations, and the bill was shot through with those, by the way, should be eliminated.

We heard repeatedly that enforcement should be solely in the hands of the accessibility commissioner and not splintered across various organizations, such as the CRTC and CTA, groups that, as was pointed out numerous times, had a storied record of implementing the few accessibility obligations they already had, never mind new ones. However, as the testimony concluded, it was as if no one had uttered a single world. Not one of these recommendations was taken up by the government.

Despite what the minister clearly said, the Liberals had already decided what they were going to do. Despite this, they nevertheless expended the treasury and witness efforts to bring experts to Ottawa to provide testimony that the government had already chosen to ignore. The Liberals ignored the excellent testimony from a former provincial Liberal minister, the highly respected Marie Bountrogianni, a person with actual experience implementing expansive accessibility legislation.

Let us hear some of this. Ms. Bountrogianni said:

During the consultation phase, we studied Great Britain’s Disability Discrimination Act and were taught three critical lessons. We would need a clear deadline for an accessible Ontario. There would need to be regulations established through which to enforce the law, and public education would be key for creating awareness about the bill.

When I was studying them, it was from their challenges. I don’t want to use the word “mistakes” because they were pioneers. They were Great Britain, Australia and the United States. They told me, “Have a timeline, definitely have timelines.”

How can this testimony be ignored? It is a shame. I get frustrated just thinking about it. All of the expertise and people so succinctly explaining to us what needed to be done to bolster the legislation was ignored.

I cannot stress enough that another critical issue is the way in which Bill C-81 splinters the power to enforce the legislation among four federal organizations: the accessibility commissioner, the Canadian Transportation Agency, also known as the CTA; the CRTC, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission; and the tribunal that regulates federal employment. This snarl of enforcement in administration would result in 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 predictable result is the real possibility that some sectors of the economy will have these regulations ready before other sectors. This bill should be looking to eliminate the interdepartmental patchwork system that is already in place, rather than making it more complex. After all, that is the purpose of national strategies, of national legislation, which this is supposed to be fulfilling.

Again, this splintered formula is a confusion. The government’s response was to say this, and it boggles the mind. This is from the testimony of a government representative:

“We’ll have a policy that there will be no wrong door. Whichever agency you go to, no matter how confusing it is to figure it out—and believe me, it is confusing—if you go in the wrong door, we’ll send [the complaint] to the right door. Problem solved.”

Once again, there is not really a clear understanding by the government of the lived reality of people living with disabilities having to advocate for themselves and access these so-called doors. The purpose of the accessibility commissioner is laid out for us. This should be perfect synergy, and the government has chosen to ignore that, unfortunately.

The esteemed David Lepofsky, who has been mentioned in the chamber already by my hon. colleagues, is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians Disabilities Act Alliance. He points out that the problem is not solved at all:

…because all that does is fix the problem of which door you go in. It does not solve the substantial problem that happens once you’re inside that door. It means we have to lobby four agencies to get them up to the necessary level of expertise. It means we have to learn four different sets of procedures…It means we have to go to agencies that [have little to no] expertise in disability and accessibility.

This would be the expertise we would envision an accessibility commissioner would be fulfilling. This is what all of these organizations, advocacy groups and experts, with lived experience in the community as a person living with a different ability, understood. They understood that an accessibility commissioner would achieve this very basic sentiment they had, because they were worn out from having to advocate. It would have been the one-stop shop. It would have been cleaner.

From a bureaucratic perspective, it would have been a lot cleaner to give one concise responsibility to the new accessibility commissioner, but rather, we are going to hold them back and it is going to be approached in four different ways. For example, it will be said that this is not someone’s territory, but someone else’s. It is just going to invite more chaos. I want to go back to the fact that it would make far more sense to simply mandate the new accessibility commissioner with all of the accessibility enforcement under this act.

The design of this legislation, which splinters responsibility among agencies, only serve two interests: first, protecting bureaucratic turf; and second, easing back on the expectations on obligated organizations so that they can have weaker standards, slower implementation and flimsy enforcement. That is not consistent with the federal government’s commendable motivations and intentions under this legislation. It does not make sense. It is not consistent.

Before I heard my hon. colleague across the way table his amendment, I anticipated tabling an amendment of my own at the end of my speech today. For the record, I will explain what it is in the time I have remaining, so that all Canadians who are listening and following this debate understand that a last ditch effort was made by both opposition parties to revisit Bill C-81 to give it some teeth.

Today, in a last ditch effort to try to help Bill C-81 become the kind of bill the government professes it to be, but which it clearly is not, I offered a good faith amendment about implementing timelines and having enforcement so that we could go back to committee and look at implementing those timelines. Eliminating exemptions would be another one that we would need to do. I expect the government to reject any such amendment, just as it rejected the nearly 120 other ones that were brought forward at committee in complete good faith by opposition parties. I want to take this last chance to do the right thing and be on the record as having done so.

The NDP has long been committed to the rights of persons with disabilities. It has been our long-standing position that all of government, every budget, every policy, every regulation and every grant should be viewed through a disability lens. Our ultimate goal has always been to help foster a society in which all of our citizens are able to participate fully and equally. This cannot even begin to happen until all of our institutions are open and completely accessible to everyone.

The NDP has supported the establishment of a Canadians with disabilities act for many years. The call for a CDA can be found in our 2015 platform. The language is important: it is the Canadians with disabilities act.

Any accessibility bill tabled by the government should essentially be enabling legislation for Canada’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Canada ratified this convention in 2010 and a Canadians with disabilities act would include language consistent with implementing this convention.

Until now, Canada has done nothing to bring our laws into conformity with the convention. I tabled Motion No. 56 in this very chamber, calling on the government to implement these obligations.

The convention sets out the legal obligations on states to promote and protect the rights of people with disabilities. It does not create new rights. There are a number of principles and articles within the CRPD that are extremely important to people with disabilities. These principles address rights such as the ability to live independently, freedom from exploitation and violence, the right to an adequate standard of living, social protections and more.

Rather than considering disability an issue of medicine, charity or dependency, the convention challenges people worldwide to understand disability as a human rights issue. It establishes that discrimination against any person on the basis of disability is a violation of the rights, inherent dignity and worth of the human person.

The convention covers many areas where obstacles can arise, such as physical access to buildings, roads and transportation and access to information through written and electronic communications. The convention also aims to reduce stigma and discrimination, which are often why people with disabilities are excluded from education, employment and health and other services.

It is important here to note that the convention is our ideal. It is up to governments to bridge the distance between these ideals and the lived reality of people with disabilities. One such bridge is supposed to be Bill C-81. That is the bridge we are debating here today.

A major lapse on the part of the government is that it did not include language in Bill C-81 requiring all federal government laws, policies and programs to be studied through a disability lens. In other words, the language of the bill is not in keeping with our obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, so we would still need more legislation to bridge that gap, which we anticipated we were closing. Now, we are taking a step that is basically a false gesture toward doing that.

One of the things I wanted to really get into is that this disability law lens is a strange omission. I say this because we find it is hard to create a lived reality on the ground if all of us who are developing policy and legislation are not using that disability lens.

One way the disability lens can be used is to analyze public policy. One way to make sure of that is to ask the following. Does the policy view disabled people as members of a minority group with special needs, or does it view disability as one of many variables in the population, and thus aim to structure society to ensure universal access and coverage? This is such a profound aspect of what our accessibility legislation needs to be able to do.

In seeing my time left, I am improvising a bit here. My understanding of our procedure is that once an amendment has been tabled, I cannot table another one. However, I would just like people to have a general idea of the text of what my amendment would have been if tabled, even though it is very similar to my hon. colleague’s. This amendment is my last plea on behalf of people with disabilities and those of us who care about them, for us to go back and get Bill C-81 right.

I would have moved that the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, be not now read the third time but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities for the purpose of eliminating exemptions for obligated organizations and including implementation timelines.”

Conservative

John Barlow Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, I look at Bill C-81 as a missed opportunity. It was a chance for us to all work together at committee, which I think was what the minister wanted to see. She wanted to see good amendments brought forward by all parties.

I think it is no surprise that the bulk of the more than 200 amendments to Bill C-81 that were brought forward were almost word for word from the NDP, the Green Party, and the Conservative Party. That highlights some of the issues with this bill.

There is one area that I would like my colleague to talk about, and we heard this from a lot of stakeholders. It was really disappointing that she did not have a chance to talk about this in her presentation. Here I refer to the concerns we heard from stakeholders that Bill C-81 is a two-tiered system with the number of exemptions that are in it.

What it does is to ask federally regulated private sector businesses to adhere to the very minimal standards and accountability in Bill C-81, but every federal department can ask for an exemption. That means that some areas will have to abide by Bill C-81 and that the federal government will not have to.

Every stakeholder we heard from wanted consistency and wanted to eliminate those exemptions. I would like to hear the member’s comments and thoughts on the exemptions included in Bill C-81.

NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his diligence in chairing those meetings.

As a product of circumstance, we were all there in the best interests of a vulnerable community that has long anticipated that the experts on this would be heard. Maybe indulgently, maybe naively, I thought that the very candid witness testimony by a former minister in a provincial Liberal government, who said that we have to have timelines, would work.

It is true that some of our amendments were very similar to ones put forward by the government. Let me give an example. We changed “Canadians with disabilities” to “all persons with disabilities”. Some of it these were just wording changes.

The substantive amendments that we as legislators recognized needed to be made would have given these powers to the accessibility commissioner, to the chief officer, and to the new standards regulator. That was not done. There is no accountability to Parliament. It is done by government. It is actually very indulgent, and will create and manifest this two-tiered system that my hon. colleague does indeed describe.

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, I thank my hon. colleague for her intervention today and for speaking about this very important bill.

I wanted to ask her about the fact that as far as the Canadian accessibility standards development organization, CASDO, is concerned, it will establish Canada as a national and global accessibility leader by putting Canadians with disabilities in control of setting the accessibility standards that affect their lives. Does the member agree with that?

I know that our minister has always felt that people with disabilities have not had a say, but that now this bill gives them a say. They have a majority stand on this committee. Does the member not agree that this bill gives people with disabilities a stake in this bill and will have them at the table making decisions about them?

NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I reject the premise framing that question.

First of all, when is this organization going to be established? There is nothing in the legislation that says it has to happen. When this bill is passed, nothing has to happen. There is no timeline.

There is no legacy or resiliency language. Let us just say that the minister decided, of her own good will and gumption, that this would be established in 12 weeks. Where is the legacy that would guarantee that governments down the road have to achieve certain benchmarks? There is nothing. There is no language that requires anybody to do anything. As a matter of fact, organizations under federal jurisdiction must have an accessibility plan. It does not have to be a good plan, and it does not have to be implemented.

There we go. That is the language we are dealing with in Bill C-81. This is why people like me get worked up.

NDP

Tracey Ramsey Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I really want to commend my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh for her passionate work on this. I can say that throughout this process, she really did have hope that the government would take seriously its obligation to people in our country who are living with disabilities. She was crestfallen to find that after many amendments, which she described in her great speech here today, to try to improve this legislation, what the minister had been stating in committee and outside committee was completely false. The Liberals had no intention of improving the lives of Canadians with this bill.

The NDP and the member for Windsor—Tecumseh stand strongly in having the ultimate goal of fostering a society in which all citizens are able to participate fully and equally.

This bill would give several public agencies and officials sweeping power to grant partial or blanket exemptions from important parts of this bill to specific organizations. This is one of the more questionable things in this legislation. I would ask for the member’s thoughts on why that is in the bill.

NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, why is it in there? It is gesture politics once again, because this legislation is not really trying to achieve our obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. There may be bona fide reasons for exemptions, but here is the kicker. There is no appeal process and there is no requirement that a rationale be given for it. If a reason is given, it can go to a minister. Nobody is accountable to Parliament in the federal jurisdictions that can get exemptions.

I hate to be cynical, but if any of us have done our homework for people living with disabilities, we already know the track record of these organizations. Why not use the new accessibility commissioner? It is so confounding.

Conservative

John Barlow Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague and I worked very well and very hard together on this bill, and I share her frustration. As I said, I think the minister wanted to do the right thing with this bill, but for whatever reason, got cold feet in the end and was not able to follow through.

I have a list of dozens of stakeholders who have written me since the committee finished its work. They are extremely upset with the inability to pass any of the amendments. One really stuck out for me, and I would like the member’s comments on it. It was from representatives of a first nation community. They said that over the last three years, the Liberal government had consulted them on Bill C-81 and talked to them about some of their needs and the issues they face with accessibility in first nations communities, but they were extremely shocked when Bill C-81 was tabled and first nations were not mentioned even once in the legislation, not once. It was a false hope for first nation communities that participated in good faith in the negotiations, but then the bill was tabled, and they were not mentioned once.

I would like the member’s comments on the frustration she is hearing from her constituents in first nation communities.

NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I could not agree more. The bill is missing certain language. That was our fair warning when it was left out in the first place, then we had to go back to revisit it and put all these amendments in. It was problematic to bring together from stakeholders so many of what we thought were comprehensive amendments. We were confounded that they had to be there in the first place. For a government that is trying to establish a new and healthy relationship with indigenous communities, and that makes that declaration on a regular basis, I was really let down to see that omission.

Members may never have thought they would hear someone from the NDP caucus say this, but we should write letters to the Senate. This is our only chance to use the Senate. Let us think about what that is worth. Send cards and letters, people, because the Senate is our last chance now.

Conservative

John Barlow Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-81. Those of us who are members of the HUMA committee worked extremely hard to come up with a bill that we thought would address the needs of disabled Canadians across the country.

As I said at the outset, I look at this bill as a missed opportunity. I think the minister had the best intentions. This is something she was passionate about and something she wanted to achieve. I assume that the minister is also extremely disappointed with what is missing from Bill C-81.

Earlier in the debate, she talked about all the consultations the government had with stakeholders over the last couple of years. What was the point of having consultations if the Liberals did not follow through on what the stakeholders were telling them? That is extremely clear from the amendments that were put forward by members of the committee. As has been said several times today, there were more than 250 amendments put forward, almost an equal number from every party, which I think highlights some of the glaring holes in this legislation. The government can do all the consultation in the world, but if it is not going to follow through in good faith with its stakeholders, then really, what is the point?

I have letters from dozens of stakeholders who participated at committee as witnesses or who provided submissions to the study. If the government is going to consult, why would it not accept a single one of the amendments that were so important to those stakeholders? When we have what is very rare, and my colleague joked about it, the Conservatives, the NDP and the Green Party all in agreement on where a piece of legislation should go, I think the government should embrace that moment. Absolutely, this piece of legislation is historic, because we had this entire side of the House all on the same page. However, where it is not historic is in what it would achieve, because it simply would not achieve anything. That is the frustrating part.

When we go back to our constituents and tell them that we appreciate the Liberal government bringing forward Bill C-81, they will ask what it will do for them as disabled Canadians. Unfortunately, my answer is going to be that it will get royal assent and the changes will be actually nothing. There is no accountability in this legislation whatsoever that would hold the government to do anything.

Today some of my Liberal colleagues, and the minister herself, said that all of the federally regulated businesses and federal departments would have to come up with one standard in the first two years. A building could put in an accessibility ramp, and it would have met its obligation under Bill C-81. As the minister said, one bank branch could put in a new ATM that was accessible for people with vision disabilities or hearing problems, and it would have done its part under Bill C-81. That is not what our stakeholders and disabled Canadians were expecting from this legislation. It falls well short of the promises that were made by the current government.

I want to talk about four or five glaring problems that came up with respect to Bill C-81 through our committee study. I am going to talk about the two-tiered system and the exemptions found throughout this legislation. We heard almost unanimously from our stakeholders that this is not something they want to see in this legislation.

What I mean by a two-tiered system is that government departments could apply for an exemption. Therefore, government departments would not be obliged to meet the standards in Bill C-81. Of course, there are none. There are no standards. There are no regulations. There are no benchmarks. Private sector businesses that are regulated by the federal government would have to abide by whatever standards were developed, whenever they were developed, but federal government departments could ask for an exemption. They would not have to meet those standards.

If we are supposed to have this historic legislation that would change the lives of disabled Canadians, then everyone should have to live by those standards. If anyone should, it should be the Government of Canada and the departments of the federal government. If anyone should not be given an exemption, it is the federal Government of Canada. If anything, this legislation goes in the wrong direction.

The second thing I am going to touch on today is standards, or the lack thereof. Again, it was unanimous from those who appeared at committee that the lack of any kind of standards in this legislation was disheartening. The minister said that they did not want to put standards in there because things change, and they wanted this to be fluid. Absolutely, technology changes. Accessibility innovations change, and that is outstanding. However, how are we supposed to measure the success of any legislation if we do not have a baseline, somewhere to start? If the starting point is to meet just one standard, any standard, a standard we make up ourselves in the first two years, how is that supposed to give any credibility to this legislation? Why did the stakeholders who came to Ottawa to appear at committee or who sent in their submissions bother? That is not what this is about.

Obviously, we are going to have different points of view and we are going to have disagreements, but coming up with standards that are going to improve the lives of disabled Canadians is something we all should be able to agree on. It was frustrating to see at committee, when our amendments were brought up one after another, the Liberal members vote against them each and every time. During several moments at the committee meetings, when they turned down or voted against amendments, I could not understand why. I did not see any political gain. I did not see any reason they would not want to include some of the amendments or even the vocabulary in the legislation.

Another issue that came up time and again was timelines to implement any standards or even any of the organizations that would be overseeing this legislation. The one thing the legislation would do is start four new levels of bureaucracy: CASDO, an officer of accountability, a commissioner and people in all these different levels of government who really would not have any jobs or anything they were supposed to do.

The bill would not even put in a timeline, which is another amendment we asked for, to at least ensure that the CASDO board was in place within six months of this legislation receiving royal assent. The Liberals could not even agree to that. They did not even want to have a timeline for when the organization that would be overseeing this legislation would be in place. I do not understand the lack of wanting to have some accountability as part of this legislation.

What concerns me is the coming into force clause in the bill. After 10 years, if nothing was done, the bill would become moot. We would announce that this legislation had royal assent. We would have an amazing photo op with Canadians with disabilities and members of the Liberal government, and then that would be the end of it. I truly hope that this will not be the case, that the Liberal members of the committee and the minister genuinely want to make change.

I want to give the minister the benefit of the doubt. She is someone I have a great deal of respect for, but I feel that, unfortunately, knowing the integrity and character she possesses, that her hands were severely tied when it came to implementing some of the thing she wanted from the bill. Unfortunately, she was unable to get them.

We have heard from Liberals that the bill would have teeth and that they listened to stakeholders. I want to take a few minutes to talk about some of the stakeholders we heard from at committee who communicated with us afterward. They talked about their concerns about the inability to pass any of the amendments to add structure or accountability to the bill. We heard from countless witnesses. Almost every single witness we heard from raised issues with the bill.

I have to admit I was actually quite surprised with the comments from some of the witnesses. They were not holding back. They were quite clear and quite aggressive in their criticism of Bill C-81. They put a lot of work into providing feedback to the Liberal government and to the minister on what they wanted to see and what would work for disabled Canadians, and to see very little, if anything, of their feedback in the bill obviously frustrated them as much as it did members of the committee.

For example, Patrick Falconer from Barrier Free Manitoba, who has done a lot of this work in Manitoba previously, commented:

While representing a commendable effort with honourable intentions, we are concerned the bill is deeply flawed. Based on our decade of experience and our careful review, BFM strongly supports the recommendations for significant amendments…[to this bill].

Mr. Falconer was talking about the fact the bill fails to outline any timelines for the implementation of new accessibility measures. There is use of permissive language, which does not require the government to actually act on any of the regulations put in place, and it does not hold the government to account to do anything that improves the lives of Canadians with disabilities. That is not right. It is not what this was intended to be, and it is certainly not the impression the Liberal government was giving to Canadians who participated in this process.

I would also like to speak about Professor Michael Prince, who is a professor of social policy in the Faculty of Human and Social Development at the University of Victoria, who said:

There are also areas of concern with this bill…these include the absence of [any] measurable targets with specific deadlines; the permissive language in the bill in many sections; the extent of exemptions; the lack of a disability lens; the absence of duties on the Government of Canada for promoting accessibility on the 600-plus first nation communities across the country; the status of ASL and LSQ and rights to communication; the complex model of federal bodies involved in enforcement and adjudication; and, the status of the proposed chief accessibility officer as a Governor in Council appointee rather than an officer of Parliament.

He goes on to say:

This bill, to me, with respect, reflects that it was written in the bubble of Ottawa. This is written from the point of view of traditional management focus, organizational focus. This is not people-centred. This is about departments making sure that in the negotiations and drafting of this bill, exemptions and deals were cut.

This is basically a machinery-of-government bill. There’s not much social policy or public policy in this bill. This should be about people front and centre. I get that we have to have administrative enforcement and compliance, and on that note I’d like to see a lot more about incentives and education.

That is a very harsh assessment of Bill C-81, and it comes from a professor at the University of Victoria who is an expert on this issue and has participated in the stakeholder communications and alleged consultation that happened as part of developing Bill C-81.

Mr. Speaker, you may be wondering what some of these egregious amendments were that we asked for, that the Liberal Party rejected. I want to go through a couple, just to give Canadians who are listening today perspective. We were not asking for the moon, we were asking for very common-sense amendments brought forward specifically by our stakeholders.

One of those amendments was to ensure the head office of the new Canadian accessibility standards development organization, CASDO, was accessible and without barriers. That would make sense. If anywhere in Canada should be accessible and barrier free, it would be the head office of CASDO, the organization that would be overseeing this legislation, that would develop and enforce the standards of accessible buildings and offices of the federal government and private sector businesses regulated by the federal government. Shockingly, the Liberals voted against it, so we cannot even have standards on the office of CASDO.

We also tried to remove permissive language from the bill that would require the power granted to the government and other bodies to make and enforce accessible requirements to be used. The Liberals also voted against those amendments.

Jewelles Smith from the Council of Canadians with Disabilities commented that:

What we would like to see is that CASDO be responsible for developing the regulations and that the reporting of any complaints go through one organization.

Frank Folino and James Roots from the Canadian Association of the Deaf added that:

Bill C-81 is currently a bit confusing in terms of where these complaints go. Some complaints may go directly to CRTC, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, CTA or then, fourth, to the accessibility commissioner officer.

Nearly every witness echoed those comments.

We put forward amendments to try and fix this, because we heard from some of the bureaucrats that the complaint or concern may come to one of these various other departments. They said that it may come in this door or that door, but not to worry, they knew it was confusing, and would make sure that concern or complaint got to the right person. Problem solved.

However, to a person with disabilities, whatever that disability may be, we need to make that as easy as possible. I would argue that it should be as easy as possible for every single Canadian to access a federal government department but certainly one that is specifically developed for one’s needs, but that was also voted against. When we are trying to make navigating the proposed accessibility act and Bill C-81 as easy as possible, the Liberal members on the committee could not even find their way to accept that.

We mentioned David Lepofsky today who is with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. I really want to put in his comment here today. He said:

The bill that is now before you is very strong on good intentions but very weak on implementation and enforcement…When you come to vote on amendments before this committee and when you go back to your caucuses to decide what position you’re going to take, we urge you not simply to think of the immediate political expediency of today; we do urge you to think about the imminent election a year from now and the needs of the minority of everyone, for whom no party or politician can go soft.

Mr. Lepofsky was speaking for Canadians across the country asking us as parliamentarians to not get cold feet. This is an opportunity to make some substantial, historic change for Canadians with disabilities, and we failed.

I have to share a little of the frustration on this, as we will be voting in support of Bill C-81. For those organizations, those stakeholders listening today, the reason we are voting in support of Bill C-81 is certainly not because we agree with it. In fact, I have outlined today in my speech the many reasons why we are not. We heard from the stakeholders time and time again of their disappointment. But their comments were always that, although it fell well short of what they wanted, it was a start, and I will grant them that, it is a start.

I know they were expecting much more from the minister, the Liberal government and from us as members of that committee. Therefore, my promise to those Canadians in the disabilities community across the country is that when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81. I know how much work they have put into this proposed legislation. I know how much time and effort they put in working with us on the committee. I know what their vision was for Bill C-81. Unfortunately, this falls short. We will not make that same mistake in 2019.

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, I want to thank my hon. member for his speech on this very important issue. I also want to thank him for chairing the last meeting of the committee on Bill C-81. It really showed that we were working together as a team. However, I disagree with him when he said that we have failed.

We have not failed. We have done exactly what we needed to do. I think it is rather unfortunate that when the former government was in place, for 10 years the Conservatives did nothing. Now we are finally doing something, and the people with disabilities can finally say that their government has their back.

I also want to mention something that Jane Arkell from the Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance said. She said, “Canada is taking a bold step forward with this proposed legislation. We’ve waited for legislation like this for a very long time. Truthfully, this gives our community hope. We are finally able to say, my Canada includes me.”

Can the hon. member not agree that this is a move in the right direction?

Conservative

John Barlow Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has always been very good to work with. I do agree that we work well on the committee. However, unfortunately, she does have to take some responsibility for what this bill is. To go back to what the Conservative government did in the past, the minister herself said that the disability tax credit that was brought forward by the previous Conservative government, as well as a disability savings plan, were game-changers. Those were the minister’s words, exactly. She said they were game-changers.

Bill C-81 could have been that type of legislation that would have had an impact on Canadians’ lives, but unfortunately it falls well short. That is not just coming from me. That is coming from dozens of letters I have had from stakeholders who are echoing that same sentiment.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague, particularly about the issues of accountability and the failure of the Ottawa bubble to help people with special needs.

I was in Grassy Narrows in September and I saw the horrifying effects of Minamata disease, mercury poisoning, on children. We can see it in the motor damage to their bodies. We can see it in eye problems, hearing problems, and major issues of cognitive impairments of perhaps 80%. The most heartbreaking was being told that a child might learn “2+2=4” one day and not be able to remember it the next day.

When we were in Grassy Narrows, we were told that the government had not approved the high-needs special education funding because the community was not able to fill out all the forms. The minister said she would look into it. I approached her in late October and she said all the money had flown. In late November, it took us taking this issue to the media to get this funding flowing.

As long as indigenous children with horrific needs like we see in Grassy Narrows have to meet the needs of bureaucrats rather than bureaucrats serving children, this country will continue to fail. Until we start establishing the basic right of children to have the rights of education and special needs dealt with without having to go through processes that are protecting the minister and protecting the department, children will fail. What does my hon. colleague feel on this issue?

Conservative

John Barlow Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, I did not have an opportunity to address that in my speech and I appreciate my hon. colleague’s bringing that up.

One of the biggest frustrations with Bill C-81 is that we had representatives from first nations communities come to committee and it is almost like they did not want to provide feedback and input. Their comments were that they consulted with the government on the needs of first nations communities, especially when it came to people with disabilities. There is no question they have unique needs. Many of them are in remote areas of the country. It is very difficult to access the communities, let alone for some of their buildings to be accessible.

What was shocking to them when Bill C-81 was tabled was that the accessibility requirements for first nations were not mentioned in Bill C-81, even once. In fact, first nations were not mentioned in Bill C-81, even once. When we asked for amendments to include first nations and the special requirements to address first nations’ accessibility needs, they were also voted down. It was very disappointing.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr, Speaker, I am encouraged that we have the legislation here to debate. We have waited for decades. Many stakeholders would recognize that at least we have a good starting point. No doubt, into the future there will be some potential for changes.

I would ask my colleague across the way to recognize that, for many of the stakeholders, just having legislation of this nature is somewhat historic. Is it perfect? I will be one of the first to admit that it is not perfect. I suspect even our minister, who has done a phenomenal job in bringing it before us, would recognize that. However, it does move the issue forward. Would he not agree at least on that point?

Conservative

John Barlow Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary brings up a good point. On his direction, he is right. This could have been a great starting point. However, if it was a great starting point, why do we have letters from dozens of stakeholders who are upset with the bill and questioning why the Liberal government would not approve any of those amendments? If we had been able to add some of those amendments, I agree that this could have been an excellent starting point. However, to have a starting point we need a point to start at, and the problem with Bill C-81 is there are no benchmarks. There is nothing to measure any success or failure by. There are no standards, no timelines, no regulations. That is what our stakeholders were asking for.

Absolutely, Bill C-81 could have been a fantastic piece of legislation, but it falls short of what our stakeholders wanted. We could have done better, and I am disappointed that we were not able to achieve what our stakeholders were looking for.

Conservative

Martin Shields Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the presentation by my neighbour and colleague from Alberta. The amount of information he provided and the way he presented it went right to the issues.

The member started out by talking about consultation. One of the things I learned throughout my career both professionally and as a politician was to always be careful. If we are going to ask people for their opinion, we need to be prepared to deal with what they will say. If they do not see any positive thing coming out of that exercise, they become jaded and cynical about what we really want to do.

My colleague has described this process and I would like him to revisit the importance of consultation and that people to see the results of it and what they were willing to come forward to give to him.

Conservative

John Barlow Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is something we all have to take to heart. When we ask Canadians to come to Ottawa or to participate in a study because we want to consult with them and get their opinion and their input to help build legislation, and they come up with something that we then ignore, we lose their confidence. We start to lose the confidence of Canadians if we do not listen to what they tell us.

As I said in my presentation, this was not something that was divided along party lines. Conservatives, New Democrats and members of the Green Party put forward recommendations that were almost identical. Most of us agreed on the direction this bill had to take.

It was just extremely disappointing to us and our stakeholders to see the government’s inability to take those extra couple of steps to really take Bill C-81, the accessibility act, to where it could have really made a definitive difference in the lives of Canadians with disabilities.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak today to Bill C-81.

Before I do so, I have to share with the House that my wife and I last Friday became grandparents for the third time since I was elected to the House of Commons. I know that my kids are working hard in Nova Scotia to populate the country. That is very important.

I want to thank my daughter, Janelle, and her husband, Trevor, for having their first baby girl, named Emma Ruth. It was a quick delivery, only two hours and 15 minutes, which is not necessarily normal for a first child but a great experience. I am proud to again be made a grandparent.

This bill is extremely important to Canadians, as an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. It is important to know that this is the first piece of legislation aimed at improving access for people with disabilities. When I hear the Conservatives speak about how it could have been better, I ask a simple question. Why did they not do anything about it during the 10 years they were in government? They had 10 years to do something. We are bringing something extremely important to support all Canadians and those, of course, with disabilities. Our government has their backs.

This is an inclusive bill that brings fairness, which is extremely important for all Canadians. All Canadians will be in a much better position to contribute and succeed as a result. That is what our job is as a government. Many Canadians, at times in their lives, will have disabilities. Even today if someone breaks a leg or arm it can be challenging. Sometimes one has to experience that to really understand.

In my speech today I will talk about some individuals and organizations in my riding of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook in a personal but concrete way.

People probably do not know this, but one in seven Canadians has some type of disability. That is almost 15% of Canadians. Thus, we are not talking about a few people; we are talking about many Canadians. We also have to recognize that in Canada, especially in Atlantic Canada with our demographic there, we have more seniors every day. I say that because by 2031, one-quarter of all Canadians will be over 65 years old. That is a large number. Of course, they will have challenges as well. We need to be there for them.

Individuals with disabilities have a lot to offer to all Canadians. They have a lot to offer to the economy. Only 50% of people with disabilities are working today and many of the rest would like to work. Indeed, the large majority of them would like to work, pay taxes, and contribute directly to our economy and our great country. That is extremely important. With some disabilities, such as with people on the autism spectrum, the margin is even worse, as 80% of those individuals are not working.

We need to do something and this legislation will help to ensure that more individuals will be able to contribute. The business community needs more people working in this country and we can tap into this market, which is extremely important.

I want to share a story about a friend of mine. He happens to be the Speaker of the Nova Scotia Legislature. His name, of course, is Kevin Murphy. He is in a wheelchair, because at a young age, in high school, he had a hockey accident. He is now in a wheelchair for life. When that happened, the school had to make some preparations. It was extremely difficult, as members can understand. This was about 30 years ago. There was no elevator, and that was problem. Everything had to be brought down to him because we could not get him upstairs. That is not having equal rights. Going to the washroom was very difficult, as well. Having a desk. Those were situations we were faced with.

We will need to make sure that the federal institutions have those in place. He was lucky that when he became Speaker of the Nova Scotia House, there had been a Speaker before him who had a wheelchair, so all the preparations had been made. He said to me that it was unbelievable. He thought he was going to have many challenges, but he was able to roll his wheelchair up.

Mr. Murphy is also a Canadian lead on the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association that has a mandate to encourage people with disabilities to offer to become public servants or politicians. Of course, they also encourage people to be engaged in democracy. That is extremely important.

I also want to touch on the program set up by the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance and the Canadian Association for Community Living. They have a program, Ready, Willing and Able. They have been working with the private sector to look at ways they can hire and support more people with disabilities, ensuring that they get some skills programming. Since 2014, over 2,000 people with disabilities who were previously not working are now working, and about 265 of them are from Nova Scotia. That is about 12%. I want to thank them for their good work in their phase one project. I know they have applied for a phase two.

I want to talk about the Building Futures Employment Society, right in my riding of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook. This organization is four social enterprises that work with people with cognitive challenges. I had an opportunity last month to visit them. Impressed is not the word; I was mesmerized by the work these individuals are doing and the support they have through this society.

There are four social enterprises. One, Assembly Plus, has been in place for over 30 years. It has been pretty impressive that for more than 30 years, these individuals have built and assembled equipment and materials for companies. They are contributing directly. They get all kinds of contracts and do excellent work.

There is also the Futures Copy Shop. They have been doing printing and copying for individuals and for companies for over 30 years. That is impressive, again.

The two other companies, one that was started in 2013, Future Birds, is where individuals with disabilities create custom artwork. These are being sold, and again that is contributing directly to society. The final, the Futures Cafe, has all kinds of different baking and cooked options, as well as coffee, tea and whatnot being served.

These four enterprises make major contributions to the Sackville region and to the riding of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook. Last week they had an auction. Over 200 people attended in support of these organizations. These are the types of organizations the bill would help in ensuring support for Canadians with disabilities and other challenges.

The bill was also structured to ensure that people with disabilities were involved. They were consulted and involved with it from day one. They will continue to contribute in various ways, for example, in the Canadian accessibility standards development organizations. This bill answers “Nothing About Us Without Us”, which is extremely important.

Our government is putting money forward, over $290 million over the next six years, to ensure we move forward with the plan in the bill, which is extremely important to all Canadians. Also, every five years there will be a review to ensure we can fine tune it and make the adjustments that are necessary and important. Also, to support the minister, an independent chief accessibility officer will be appointed who would help review and do the assessment.

The creation of a Canadian accessibility standards development organization is crucial. These individuals have the majority and will be ensuring these standards are set and that we continue to meet them, which is extremely important.

Also important are the duties of the bodies regulated under the act, the federal authorities. They would have the responsibility to create their own plans, which would ensure greater success. They would be engaged from day one in the consultations and in giving feedback, which is crucial. Also, they would be engaged in ensuring they share the successes, what is working, what is not working and how we can make it better.

I want to share a quote from Raymond Chang, the dean of the School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University. He said:

Without a doubt, I believe that the Accessible Canada Act presents excellent potential for economic growth. All Canadians will benefit when the accessibility legislation is properly implemented and enforced. Furthermore, it is a great opportunity for us to emphasize the best attributes of this great country.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Mr. Speaker, when everybody is consulted and everyone works together to ensure success, then the chance of success is much greater.

The government will quickly build standards, those standards will set the bar and all involved will work toward that. As I said, people with disabilities will play a great role in the development of the Canadian accessibility standards and in supporting this process.

I am confident, but I have to ask this question. Why did the Conservatives do nothing for 10 years in this area?

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to ensure that members of the House have a full appreciation for what is at stake and how much Canadians were counting on the Liberal government to get this accessibility bill right. It is long overdue. It is true that the Conservatives should have done it in the 10 years they were in power, but Bill C-81 is so far from what our constituents and fellow Canadians need.

Terry Wiens, a man in my riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith, was a victim of polio. He wrote to me, saying, “Remember that Paul Martin Sr. made a promise to polio victims in 1955 that they would never have to pay for the cost of health care that resulted from the federal government’s failure for two years to introduce the polio vaccine.” That was a solemn commitment. He says, “Now that polio has been so successfully eradicated, the federal government has forgotten that polio should be part of health care.” This man who has worked all of his life. Now he finds that from the effects of polio, he has increasing disabilities. He has not been able to get the support he needs to get a specialized mattress and wheelchair. He pulled $10,000 out of his RRIF, his registered retirement income fund, to pay for these things.

He further described the cascade of impacts that happened from that. He said, “I didn’t realize the ripple effects of that decision. It raised my annual income enough to eliminate me from the guaranteed income security, all $18 a month worth. I have no doubt that next year I’ll qualify again, but in the meantime, we are penalized for our independence. To add insult to injury, losing that GIS also cost me my premium medical services subsidy, another $420 a year cost. My opportunity for subsidized assisted living, the GIS qualification is required for the payment and on it goes.”

Therefore, what in this legislation will fix things for Terry and the many other Canadians who were counting on the government to take their advice and get this bill right?

Liberal

Darrell Samson Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Mr. Speaker, as I said throughout my speech, we have committed $290 million over the next six years to achieve many of these objectives. Also, as we move forward, there will be more initiatives in the budget to support seniors and people with disabilities. I am confident we will be able to achieve some success in those areas.

I want to quote Rick Hansen. He has a standard program and Nova Scotia uses it. It has been successful. About this bill, he said that it was wonderful news announced by the minister on the accessibility Canada act that would provide funding for accessibility initiatives so all Canadians could benefit. I believe that answers the question.

Conservative

Rosemarie Falk Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, could the member tell us what will come into effect the day the bill receives royal assent and how soon the CASDO board will be established?

Libeeral

Darrell Samson Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Mr. Speaker, we are confident that the standards will be in place within one years, so things will get moving as soon as the bill passes. We expect regulations to be in place no later than two years.

I think back to the discussions with the Conservatives in committee. They seem to have shifted. When they first started to talk about the bill, they were concerned about how much it would cost to implement it. Now, all of a sudden, they have joined the NDP and the Green Party. Therefore, I am not sure where they stand today.

People with disabilities are extremely proud of the bill. It will improve as we move forward. There are reviews set up every five years. This is what is needed to move forward as quickly as possible.

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, I want to congratulate my hon. colleague on becoming a grandparent, I believe, for the third time. That is wonderful and it is always a happy day when that happens.

I also want to thank him for the personal stories. He mentioned his friend who had been disabled for over 30 years. It reminded me of my mother who was also disabled. She had a massive stroke in her late sixties and was in a wheelchair for over 10 years. She struggled and my dad struggled with that. It would be 20 years ago and not much has changed. We are really happy, and I know my mother would be very proud and very happy, with this legislation.

I wanted my hon. colleague to talk about his friend, Mr. Murphy, and how he would feel, knowing this legislation is forthcoming.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her personal comments. I spoke with Mr. Murphy a month ago about this legislation and again yesterday. I wanted to get his feedback. He said that this was a major step forward to ensure we would support people with challenges. He was anxious. He said that he would either listen to the debate today or at least watch it over the weekend with his family, because this was a strong step forward.

Conservative

Alex Nuttall Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, a couple of things stood out to me in what my colleague said in his responses. The first one was that the Conservative government apparently did nothing over the last 10 years, but that is just not the case. In fact, members of the governing party were actually hailing the changes that were put in place by the late Hon. Jim Flaherty in regard to the disability savings plan and the disability tax credit. These things were literally life changing for persons living with disabilities. We look to the Abilities Centre as well.

The member talked about working together. The NDP, the Conservatives and the Green Party all worked together. It was the Liberals who failed to show up and work with the opposition in a non-partisan manner to make the bill better and to finally put measurements in place.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Mr. Speaker, there is a difference between small initiatives and a bill. This bill now would cement the process. It would put in place standards. My colleague said that he was supporting the bill because it was a strong step forward. I appreciate his comments and I know the Conservatives will support the bill. It is a very good bill for people with disabilities. I thank him for that.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is with deep regret that I inform the House that an agreement could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Order 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the third reading stage of Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the Crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours to the consideration and disposal of proceedings at the said stage.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Bruce Stanton

Is the House ready for the question?

Some hon. members

Question.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Bruce Stanton

The question is on the amendment. Shall I dispense?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.