Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Why Haven’t Any of the Federal Parties Except the NDP Answered the AODA Alliance’s July 18, 2019 Letter, Seeking Election Commitments on Promoting Accessibility for Over Six Million People with Disabilities in Canada?
September 25, 2019
The federal election is less than four weeks away. Why haven’t the federal Liberals, Tories, and Green Party answered our request, sent to them over two months ago, for specific election commitments on accessibility for over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada? Last fall and again this past June, these parties each voted unanimously for Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act and all spoke passionately about its importance to Canada.
On July 18, 2019, over two months ago, we wrote a letter to their leaders, asking for a series of election commitments. These commitments would be a roadmap for the strong and effective implementation of this new legislation.
The only federal political party that has answered us so far is the New Democratic Party. You can see the NDP response to us at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/what-pledges-will-the-federal-party-leaders-make-in-this-election-to-make-canada-accessible-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-federal-ndp-leader-jagmeet-singh-is-first-national-leader-to-wr/
Why have the Liberals not answered our July 18, 2019 letter? The Accessible Canada Act is legislation that they said they were so proud to introduce. They said the Accessible Canada Act is historic legislation. They promised it would do so much to tear down the many barriers that face people with disabilities in Canada. Their provincial counterparts, the Ontario Liberal Party, made election commitments on the implementation of Ontario’s accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, in each of the four provincial elections since it was passed in 2005.
Why have the Conservatives not answered our July 18, 2019 letter? When the Accessible Canada Act was debated in the House of Commons and the Senate, they vigourously pointed to the weaknesses in this bill that we and others from the disability community had raised. On behalf of people with disabilities in Canada, they pressed for amendments to the bill to address those weaknesses – amendments that the Government mostly voted down.
Less than a year ago, on November 22, 2019 during third reading debates in the House of Commons on this legislation, two Tory MPs with leadership roles on this bill explicitly committed that if the Tories are elected in 2019, they will strengthen this legislation. Those commitments came from MP John Barlow, who was vice chair of the Standing Committee that held hearings on the bill, and Alex Nuttall, who was then the Tory critic on this bill. We set out their statements, below.
Why has the Green Party not answered our July 18, 2019 letter? Green Party Leader Elizabeth May did a good job of raising our concerns with Bill C-81 when it was being debated in the House of Commons, even though her party had the least resources to mount such an effort.
We are continuing our non-partisan campaign to get strong commitments from all the parties and candidates in this election on the implementation and enforcement of the Accessible Canada Act. Please press your local candidates to get us an answer from their parties! Here are resources to help you help us all!
* Go on Twitter and follow us @aodaalliance. We are sending tweets each day to different federal candidates. We are asking them to give the commitments we seek on the implementation of the Accessible Canada Act. Please take a few moments each day to retweet our tweets. When you retweet them, you are adding your voice to ours.
* Use suggestions for helping our blitz that are set out in our new Federal Election Action Kit. You can find it at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/federal-election-action-kit-raise-disability-accessibility-issues-in-canadas-2019-federal-election/
Would you like to watch the all-candidates’ debate in Toronto on issues surrounding the implementation of the Accessible Canada Act, being hosted by the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab Centre and the Reena Foundation tonight at the Bloorview facility , 150 Kilgour Road, Toronto? Our friends and colleagues at the Ontario Autism Coalition have volunteered to live stream the event on Wednesday, September 25, 2019 from 7 to 9 pm eastern time. The precise link for viewing it won’t be available until right before the event. However, you can go to the OAC’s Facebook page where the link will appear near the top of the page when the stream is ready to start. The OAC can make no promises about the quality of the live stream and no doubt will do their best. To go to the Ontario Autism Coalition’s Facebook page, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/4179793644/
Learn all about the campaign for a strong and effective Accessible Canada Act by visiting our website’s Canada page.
House of Commons of Canada Hansard
November 22, 2018
Excerpts from Third Reading Debates on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act
Posted at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/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/
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?
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.
House of Commons Hansard November 22, 2018
Third Reading Debates over Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act
John Barlow Foothills, AB
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.