House of Commons Hansard #321 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was accessibility.

Topics

Firearms ActPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present e-petition 1608 in the House of Commons. This petition was started this spring by a member of my riding. His name is Ryan Slingerland and he is 15 years old. Ryan is an incredibly engaged young man. He is a Canadian who is informed with the proceedings of the House of Commons.

Ryan read Bill C-71, which has been put forward by the Liberals, and he deemed this legislation failed legislation as it would not actually protect Canadians and ensure their security.

Ryan put together a petition, calling on the government to scrap Bill C-71. He has collected more than 86,000 signatures from coast to coast. It is the second most signed e-petition in Canada's history, and it is my pleasure to present it to the House.

Firearms ActPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I remind members that they are not to comment about whether they are happy about presenting a petition, or it is a pleasure or they like it or not.

PharmacarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, seniors are having trouble paying for medications in my riding of Nanaimo--Ladysmith and one in five people is unable to fill prescriptions for financial reasons. We hear stories every day of seniors in particular splitting pills or skipping a dosage in order to make their medications last. I therefore bring to the House of Commons a petition, with signatories from Nanaimo, Ladysmith and Calgary.

The petitioners urge the government to implement universal affordable pharmacare. They note that the savings from universal drug coverage for Canadians by moving to a universal affordable system would be in billions of dollars. Not only would it be the right thing, the ethical thing, and the healthy thing to do, but it would also be a wise investment by the government.

Canada PostPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today. The first petition is in support of postal banking.

The petitioners acknowledge that nearly two million Canadians desperately need an alternative to payday lenders whose crippling lending rates affect the poor, marginalized, rural and indigenous communities the most.

We have 3,800 Canada Post outlets in existence in rural areas where there are few or no banks. Because of these postal outlets, the infrastructure is there to include postal banking.

The petitioners request that the Government of Canada enact my Motion No. 166 to create a committee to study and propose a plan for postal banking under the Canada Post Corporation.

Military Volunteer Service MedalPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, my second petition is from veterans and those who support veterans.

The petitioners want the government to remember that until March 1947, the Government of Canada issued a Canadian volunteer service medal for volunteers in the Canadian Armed Forces. They would like the Liberal government to recognize by means of the creation and issuance of a new Canadian military volunteer service medal, designated the Canadian military volunteer service medal, for volunteers who have served in the regular forces, reserve military forces, cadet corps and support staff and the folks who have completed this honourable service for at least one year.

Organ DonationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Len Webber Conservative Calgary Confederation, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition in support of my private member's bill, Bill C-316, which comes up for second reading next week. The petition is submitted by members of the National Capital Region Gift of Life Network.

The petitioners from around Ottawa-Gatineau call on the House to improve the organ donation system in Canada by making the process to register as an organ donor easier. This would be achieved by adding a simple question to our annual tax returns.

Every organ donor has a potential to save eight lives, but we need to make registering to be a donor easier. Hundreds of Canadians die every year waiting for a lifesaving transplant. We can do better.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Carla Qualtrough Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, Lib.

moved that Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, today is a historic day for disability rights in Canada. It is truly an honour to stand up in the House of Commons and open debate on the second reading of Bill C-81, the accessible Canada act, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

This bill enhances the legal framework for addressing the barriers to inclusion faced by millions of Canadians on a daily basis. From a substantive point of view, it requires the Government of Canada and entities within federal jurisdiction to address not only the barriers themselves but also the systems that perpetuate these barriers. In and of itself, this will promote a quality of opportunity. However, it does more than just this. This bill sends a clear message to Canadians with disabilities that no more will they be treated as an afterthought, no more will they be systematically denied opportunity for inclusion. Today we are sending a message that Canadians with disabilities are valued civic, social and economic contributors to Canadian society, with full rights of citizenship.

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

In my own experience, my parents were told that I should be sent to a school for the blind, that public school was not for me, and that I should be shipped provinces away, far away from my family and friends. I cannot imagine how different my life would have been if my parents had not insisted that I had a right to be publicly educated in my own community and if I had been separated from my loved ones and sent away at age five. It is important to acknowledge this history. It is important not to forget.

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

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

Bill C-81 is meant to promote broad organizational and cultural change across the nation. It will benefit all Canadians, especially Canadians with disabilities, by taking the steps to realize a truly accessible and inclusive Canada. It will proactively identify, remove and prevent barriers in a number of areas. Accessibility standards will be established by regulation in the areas of employment, the built environment, information and communication technologies, procurement, program and service delivery, and transportation.

Bill C-81 applies to Parliament, the Government of Canada, Crown corporations, and other federally regulated sectors and entities, including organizations in the transportation, telecommunications, broadcasting and banking sectors.

These entities would be required to comply with the accessibility standards. In this way, Bill C-81 builds upon the existing rights of persons with disabilities under the charter and the Canadian Human Rights Act. It also represents a significant step in Canada's ongoing implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

At this point, I will pause to put on the record the incredible collaboration that led to the bill. In June of 2016, we launched an ambitious public consultation process in Canada that took us across the country, meeting with Canadians and stakeholders to talk about what accessible Canada means to them. We did it in the most accessible way possible, to ensure that everyone was able to participate and have their say on what accessibility legislation could look like. We held 18 public consultations and 8 thematic round tables. We had a significant online component. We held a national youth forum with the Prime Minister. We worked with indigenous groups. It truly signalled a new era of leadership and collaboration on disability issues.

We heard from 6,000 citizens from across the country. We heard about physical and architectural barriers that impede people's ability to move freely in built environments, use public transportation, access information, or use common technology. We heard about attitudes, beliefs and misconceptions that some people have about people with disabilities and what we can and cannot do. We heard about outdated policies and practices that simply do not take into account the barriers that are being faced on a daily basis.

Time and again, Canadians with disabilities told us the same thing: “We are not an afterthought. We are citizens deserving of the same rights and having the same responsibilities as other citizens. We are capable and valuable members of society. We do not want to be looked at as people who need accommodation, and we do not want to be treated like some sort of burden.” By bringing a unique knowledge and extensive network to he table, the Government of Canada was able to get an even better understanding of what the disability community wants its Canada to look like.

With its clear message as the backdrop, there are five principles recognized in Bill C-81. It is upon these principles that the bill is based, and it is these principles that would serve to guide future interpretations. First, all persons must be treated with dignity, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. Second, all persons must have the same opportunity to make for themselves the lives they are able and wish to have. Third, all persons must have barrier-free access to full and equal participation in society. Fourth, all persons must have meaningful options and be free to make their own choices, with support if they desire. Finally, laws, policies, programs, services and structures must take into account the abilities and disabilities of persons and the different ways that persons interact with the environment. Persons with disabilities must be involved in the development and the design.

Ultimately, Bill C-81 recognizes that barriers to accessibility are at the heart of the inequity between Canadians with and without disabilities. These principles will guide Parliament, the Government of Canada and the federally regulated private sector in offering accessible services to Canadians.

These principles are reflected in the definitions in the bill. It was important to be as inclusive as possible in the scope of Bill C-81, and an important step was to look at the language we used. We wanted to put the emphasis on the barriers, not on the specific cause of the impairment or diagnosis of disability. It is the barrier that gets in the way of the full and meaningful participation of our citizens, not our disabilities.

The definitions of “barrier” and ”disability” put forth in Bill C-81 draw upon the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. They are broad and inclusive, supporting the greatest number of Canadians. The bill is meant to inspire and drive a deep cultural transformation. Part of that transformation is changing the way we talk about accessibility and disability. It is also about changing existing government structures and systems and creating new ones. It is about putting these aspirations into actions.

The bill would create several new entities with significant compliance and enforcement functions. A new accessibility commissioner, a member of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, would be responsible for compliance and enforcement in the areas not covered by the Canadian Transportation Agency and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Individuals could file complaints with the accessibility commissioner if they have been harmed or suffered property damage or economic loss as a result of the contravention of regulation made under Bill C-81, in other words, if the accessibility standards have not been complied with.

A chief accessibility officer will report to the minister and advise on accessibility issues. A particular focus will be on systemic and emerging issues. The Canadian accessibility standards development organization, CASDO, will be responsible for overseeing the development of accessibility standards. CASDO would also provide technical expertise in relation to standards, and support research and best practices with respect to the identification, removal and prevention of accessibility barriers. The CASDO board will be comprised of a majority of members with lived disability experience.

Among other initiatives, this last element enshrines into law the long-standing demand of the disability community that people with disabilities need to be involved in the creation and implementation of the policies and programs that affect their lives: In short, “nothing about us without us”.

The bill would also require that regulated entities create and publish accessibility plans and report on their progress, and that persons with disabilities be consulted as these plans and reports are developed. The bill also provides real teeth to ensure meaningful and lasting change in our institutions. This includes measures such as proactive inspections, monetary penalties, and individual complaints.

A number of bodies will be responsible for dealing with these cases and administering compliance and enforcement measures. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission will be responsible for compliance and enforcement with respect to broadcasting and telecommunications using their existing powers. The Canadian Transportation Agency will be responsible for compliance and enforcement within the transportation sector with enhanced powers. The Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board will address complaints by eligible federal public servants and parliamentary employees. All of their complaints will proceed through the accessibility commissioner.

There are two final points on the substance of Bill C-81. First, the bill will designate the week commencing on the last Sunday in May as national accessibility week. This will be a time to recognize the efforts of individuals, communities and workplaces that are actively removing barriers to give Canadians of all abilities a better chance to succeed. It will also contribute to the awareness raising and culture shift that we are all trying to achieve.

Second, the bill gives the Canadian Human Rights Commission responsibility for monitoring the Government of Canada's implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Both Canadian stakeholders and the international community have been calling for such a designation for some time.

When our Prime Minister and government speak of inclusion and diversity, we speak of the importance of having many voices at the table, and this includes persons with disabilities. This has steered my work on this file. The accessible Canada act is foundational and builds upon our government's ongoing commitment to accessibility and disability issues. We have achieved a lot over the past three years for Canadians with disabilities. I think of our ascension to the Marrakesh Treaty and our work on the UN optional protocol. I think of the disability supplement within the Canada child benefit and the increase to CPP disability. I think of our work on the excessive demand provision in our immigration law. I think of our government's recent appointment of a deputy minister responsible for an accessible public service, and our commitment to hiring 5,000 persons with disabilities into the federal public service over the next five years.

We have also made significant investments in accessibility, such as the recent announcement of approximately $290 million to advance the accessible Canada agenda, as well as our government's addition of $77 million, for a total fund of $227 million over 10 years dedicated to the removal of barriers in the built environment through the enabling accessibility fund. These are all important steps.

With the accessible Canada act, the Government of Canada is transforming how we as a country think about accessibility and the value we place on the increased inclusion of Canadians with disabilities. It also demonstrates our government's commitment to the advancement of disability rights in a concrete way.

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

It is important to remember that although Bill C-81 will be one of the tools that the government can use to address accessibility on a systemic basis, the work does not stop there. There is a need for the Government of Canada, both as an employer and as a provider of service to Canadians, to show leadership and model accessibility. There is a need to support businesses and institutions. There is a need to promote the culture change required such that accessibility is seen as a universal priority.

I hope that our government's actions will inspire other governments and industries to get on board with forward-looking policies and practices.

Today, as we lay the groundwork for an accessible future, I urge the provinces and territories, businesses, and all other partners to consider the role they have to play. After all, this goes to the very heart of our Canadian values.

I truly believe that we are making lives better for Canadians with disabilities. This is just the beginning. There is still a lot of work to do to create a Canada without barriers. I look forward to continuing the discussion with Canadians and parliamentarians throughout our review of Bill C-81. I look forward to building an accessible Canada together.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Alex Nuttall Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Madam Speaker, there are many things in the minister's speech that I believe in and respect and certainly support. In her speech she said that change has been slow. That is absolutely correct. It has been slow. In fact, it has been three years since we were promised the accessibility act, the act for those Canadians with disabilities.

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

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, Lib.

Carla Qualtrough

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

It is a time when, as much as this is a matter of being the right thing to do and it is a matter of being an issue of human rights, quite frankly, we have 14% of the population that is an untapped economic potential for our country. We know that if businesses were to accommodate Canadians with disabilities, the GDP of our country would increase by 1.3% to 1.9% a year. That is a $38 billion a year increase to the economy of our country, and that is just by including Canadians with disabilities. There is a strong business case. Businesses recognize that they do not have access potentially to 14% of consumers. Businesses with labour shortages realize that there is an untapped labour pool out there of willing, educated, loyal, smart, helpful and innovative Canadians who are desperate for jobs and desperate to contribute to this country.

By starting—

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Sorry, but I do have to allow for other questions.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Alex Nuttall Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Madam Speaker, in the minister's response she mentioned she would be able to tell them right away what the new standards would be in relation to persons with disabilities and accessibility issues across this country. Last night when I attended the briefing, I asked those exact questions. What are the new standards? What will they be? How will they affect public spaces and federal spaces, as well as the private sector regulated by the federal government? The answer was, “Well, we do not know what the standards and regulations will be.”

How could those standards and regulations not be communicated to members of this House but somehow, day one, upon assent, we are going to be able to put them into being right away and we are going to be able to encourage the private sector right away to hold up to them?

A follow-up question would be how it is that we are supposed to prepare the private sector for this change. As parliamentarians we do not even know what they are.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, Lib.

Carla Qualtrough

Madam Speaker, what I said was we were going to start down the path of creating these standards. We have deliberately created an independent organization through Bill C-81 that will be comprised of industry leaders and disability experts to create standards that will work for both industry and the disability community. We can use existing standards. We can build upon these standards. We can create new ones. We are leaving the flexibility in the regulation stage in order to make sure that we do not create a situation where people are not ready. However, we know and industry has known for some time that this was coming. We have these standards provincially in Ontario.

What we know is this is good for business and business knows that this is good for business.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague, the minister, for tabling this historic legislation today. I look forward to working in a collegial fashion so that all of us here can strengthen the bill, because it is something that all Canadians deserve.

I was intrigued and inspired when the minister suggested in her presentation on Bill C-81 that she was inspired by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. As we know, that was ratified in 2010, and we have had no movement since for its implementation.

Especially because we do not get a lot of media coverage for the issues affecting this vulnerable population and the people who care about them, I want to reiterate that there are aspects of the proposed accessibility act that would allow for partial or blanket exemptions for some important agencies. Also, there are no timelines and there are no requirements.

Do we see the accessibility act here as implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, Lib.

Carla Qualtrough

Madam Speaker, for some time the disability community has been calling on Canada to more actively implement the UN convention. We have taken some steps, but I absolutely agree with the member that we have not moved far enough ahead.

I see this particular bill as a big step forward toward the full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We are working on the UN optional protocol. A particularly exciting part of Bill C-81 for me is designating the Canadian Human Rights Commission as the organization responsible for monitoring our implementation of the UN convention.

I think these steps go a long way. I look forward to working with the member in committee and at other opportunities to make this bill the best we can for Canadians with disabilities.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

September 19th, 2018 / 3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the minister for telling her personal story about this at the beginning of her speech. It is incredibly important to connect with these stories to understand why this piece of legislation is so important.

When I was on municipal council in Kingston, by accident I was appointed to sit as the chair of the municipal accessibility advisory committee. I did not know much about accessibility or the requirements and needs. If I had been asked about accessibility before that, I would have said that it is a ramp to get into a store. I think that many Canadians do not quite understand it. However, I learned through that committee and was educated on the vast array of accessibility requirements out there.

Perhaps the minister could comment on how important that education is to Canadians. Why is it so important to expose Canadians to what the requirements are? Also, could she comment briefly on why Canada needs the accessible Canada act?

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, Lib.

Carla Qualtrough

Madam Speaker, it is very apparent why we need this act. We need it because right now and for so long Canadians with disabilities on their own have had the burden of advancing their rights and insisting that they be treated as equal participants in our country. With this bill, we are saying, “no more”. We are proactively creating a system of standards whereby it will be incumbent upon governments and institutions to take that burden and make sure that accessibility is ensured for all.

The thing about accessibility is that it will inspire a culture shift. It will inspire a different way of looking at fellow citizens, because if I can get into a business, I can spend my money there. I can work there and my friends can meet with me there. If a restaurant is not accessible and I cannot get to the bathroom, then I will not be eating there and the 10 people I am dining with will not be eating there. For a 3,000-person convention these days, the location of that convention may be dictated by accessible rooms because eight participants have disabilities. There is a massively important business case here for accessibility.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Alex Nuttall Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Madam Speaker, it is certainly an honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-81.

I want to begin by telling a personal story in relation to this bill, and the effect that I think all parties are trying to have with regard to persons with disabilities and accessibility as a whole across this country.

When I was a young man, I was exposed to a person who was living with a disability, someone who was very close to me. My grandfather was blinded as a Royal Canadian engineer in World War II. He was an incredibly diligent and incredibly powerful person. He was able to cut his own lawn, chop wood and make wood fires. These are just memories I have from when I was a kid.

When I was 10 years old, the issue came even closer. My mother was hit by a car while crossing the road. She sustained a permanent head injury, as well as permanent injuries to her body which affected her ability to walk and to manoeuvre. She faced a couple of years on the couch.

Having grown up in those circumstances, I can say that I understand what the effects of disability are on those around the person, but I will never really understand the impact on the person himself or herself.

I clearly understand the cycle of poverty that exists in this country, which should not exist, in relation to persons who have disabilities and in many cases children who have parents with disabilities. It is a very important subject. It is incredibly important. It is one that, far too often, we leave to the side.

No matter what is being brought in relation to accessibility, in relation to persons with disabilities, everyone in this House is happy, content and joyous to see a move forward in the right direction. There is no question that all of us would want to see more movement on this subject, but I do have questions.

I was left with questions after speaking with ministerial staff, as well as the minister who was kind enough to reach out to me for a phone call this week. I have questions after the minister's speech, after the introduction of the bill, and after the tabling of the bill in June.

When will these new regulations actually come into effect? There is a six-year time frame on the funding, which would suggest that this entire process could take another six years, after the bill becomes law.

How much will this bill cost the federal coffers, as well as private businesses across this country?

What are the new standards? What will they actually look like? Will they reflect what is in Ontario, Nova Scotia, or British Columbia? Those three provinces, quite frankly, are leading the country. Why are we voting on this legislation without understanding what those new regulations and standards will be? How do we as parliamentarians effectively communicate what this bill actually means to Canadians if we do not know what those standards and regulations will be?

What is the $290 million for? Is there a breakdown of how that money will be spent? That is a question I asked last night at the briefing.

Do we have estimates or examples of the potential costs to the private sector? When asked last night, ministerial staff said that they do not. However, there are three provinces that have put incredible legislation in place, groundbreaking legislation, sometimes too quickly, sometimes too slowly, but there are examples we can learn from and that data has not been provided to members of this House.

What tangible effect will this have on day one? What does this change mean on day one, upon assent?

These are serious questions that we need answers to as we go through this process, as we go through the committee stage, and as we come back to the House, so that we, as members of this House, can provide correct, legitimate information, not just to the private sector companies that will be affected, not just to the government agencies that will be affected, but to Canadians who are living with disabilities, Canadians who worry about accessibility, and the family members of those individuals.

We need to be able to provide very current, structured information to ensure that this is not just another piece of legislation that may go somewhere some day.

I firmly believe, as a parliamentarian, that the opportunity to vote on this bill and to understand the standards would significantly improve my ability to do my job, but also improve the speed at which we affect Canadians with disabilities, we effect change in such a significant area.

In 2016-17, Global Affairs Canada spent $4.2 billion on foreign aid. I could run through all of it, and it ranges from Afghanistan at $232 million right down to Colombia at $66 million. However, when I asked the question to the Library of Parliament about how much money we spend each and every year on accessibility and Canadians with disabilities, across departments because there is the department but there is also money spent in other areas on this specific item, I could not be given an exact answer.

Bill C-81 proposes we spend $290 million. There would also be a bump-up in funding for the enabling accessibility fund, but the $290 million would not go directly to helping Canadians with disabilities. It would go to things like audits to figure out perhaps what changes need to be made in government buildings. Perhaps it would go to consultants to say which buildings we are going to look at on a go-forward basis versus those that we are going to retrofit. We still do not have a breakdown of where these dollars would actually end up. We know they would end up hiring more public servants, and specifically those who are living with disabilities. I do not think anybody in this House would ever say anything negative about hiring somebody with a disability and being able to bring that culture within the arms of government.

However, the $290 million does not even scratch the surface of what it will cost the government and the taxpayers and the federally regulated private sector to catch up to these new standards. I am not saying it is too expensive to do; I do not want to be misinterpreted here. I am saying that in order to effectively fulfill what we are trying to achieve, which is bettering life for persons with disabilities, we need to be able to eloquently, clearly and with clarity explain what these changes would mean to individuals, to businesses and to government. We know how much we spend on foreign aid, and I hope we can find out how much we are spending on Canadians with disabilities. We know how much we are willing to spend abroad on non-Canadian citizens. I hope we can find out how much we spend on some of Canada's most at risk.

As many of us know, this legislation was introduced in June 2018, two and a half years after the government took power. It is only after three cabinet shuffles that we finally get to the place where we are now. I do not blame the minister for that. Certainly some of those circumstances were challenging for the government. Why has it taken so long for legislation to finally be introduced? The first mandate letter called for this work to begin in November 2015. In fact, the Liberal platform called for this work to happen. Each mandate letter since has called on the minister to be responsible to continue the consultation process and to produce legislation. Now we have this bill in front of us, and we can know and see that all it does is actually call for more consultation and for the regulatory process changes to begin being looked at. It would not actually bring those changes to Canadians.

Therefore, after three years, after a price tag of $290 million, after saying we are going to hire 5,000 new public servants, we still do not know what the tangible effect on Canadians living with disabilities would be, what effect it would have when they are in a Service Canada building, what effect it would have when they are dealing with perhaps transportation at a local airport. It is still not here three years on. How could this be considered sufficient? When the minister said it has been slow, she is correct. It has actually been non-existent. There is $290 million more, and we still do not have those tangible results.

I will give an example of how quickly things get done when the will exists within the government. This is not a challenge to the minister but rather to the government as a whole.

During the 2008 election, the Conservative Party, under then Prime Minister Stephen Harper, promised it would introduce the registered disability savings plan, RDSP. That election was in October. By December of that exact same year, the RDSP was introduced and available for Canadians to take advantage of, so 60 days or two months later. Here we are three years later without a single, standard or regulatory change to actually be able to point to. That monumental change under then Prime Minister Stephen Harper took under three months. By the time this bill passes, it will have taken three years. An important thing to remember is that this legislation will not change anything once it becomes law in terms of regulation and standards; rather, it asks that the government find out what regulations and standards it would like to produce. On top of the three years it took to get to this point, Canadians might have to wait another six years before these new regulations take effect, this with a $290-million consultation taking place.

When you take a wider look over the past three years at what the government has done on this file, so far it is more harm than good: the clawback of the DTC and RDSP; the ability for Canadians to access those tax savings vehicles; the challenges that lay ahead for Canadians living with disabilities to be able to save, to be able to have a secure financial future; and, for those who no longer qualified for the disability tax credit, to have their RDSP perhaps clawed back. This is the legacy that we have seen from the government since 2015, yet in every single mandate letter the Prime Minister has called for continued consultation toward crafting this legislation. What we did not realize is the crafting of the legislation would be more consultation. We now have this legislation and $290 million and it is more consultation. How does evermore consultation help Canadians with disabilities today? I do not think we should ever stop consulting. However, at some point there needs to be a tangible standard change, there needs to be a tangible regulatory change that we can hang our hat on, that we can say, “This is what we are doing to improve the lives of Canadians who are living with disabilities to improve accessibility across this country.”

This legislation was touted by the government as the most historic piece of legislation for Canadians with disabilities since Confederation. However, I have not been told one single tangible change that this bill brings into effect. We all around this House, from every party, want to help Canadians living with disabilities. There is support from every corner of this institution for legislation that helps Canadians with disabilities. However, all this legislation represents is going away and creating a plan. What has the government been doing on this file for the last three years if it has to spend $290 million to create a plan?

The previous government introduced the RDSP, which quickly gave Canadians with disabilities better financial security. It was established in 2008, and 105,000 of these accounts were set up. Over $1 billion has been added to the savings of Canadians with disabilities.

In the last year alone, we have had two Conservative members of Parliament and a New Democrat introduce private members' bills aimed at easing the lives of Canadians living with disabilities, and accessibility to government programs.

We have seen the member for Carleton introduce legislation, trying to secure the financial future. Not just the financial future in terms of savings through government programs, but also the financial future of Canadians living with disabilities to be able to grow into the private sector without being hurt or pushed aside by the existing boxes in government programming. We have seen a member from Calgary bring forward a bill with regard to Canadians living with rare diseases. We have seen a bill come forward in terms of accessibility to Canadian websites for those living with disabilities.

We have seen these pieces come forward from all around the House, and this goes to show that we all want to see movement. The problem is that this bill is not movement. This bill is a plan to one day, potentially, maybe, hopefully get to movement.

The government could not build an ice rink on time and on budget. How can we expect it to properly manage this file? Why is it that we as parliamentarians, after we pass this bill, and the regulations and standards have then gone out, sought after, drafted, taking three, five or six years, do not have the ability to see them again?

The request through this bill is that we give a blank cheque in terms of the standards and regulations. I know that all around this House we want to do everything that we can to make lives easier, to break some of the cycles that affect persons with disabilities in regard to poverty and accessibility.

However, we must do this responsibly. We must do this working with private sector. We must do this working with government institutions. We must do this working with persons with disabilities, setting a timeline, setting measurables in place so they understand what effect this is going to have on their lives. We must ensure, going forward, that each and every interaction, especially with a federal government institution or at a federal government building, is one that is with respect and dignity.

That is what everybody expects in the House of Commons of our government. It is what everybody in the House of Commons expects of our private sector. We must be responsible with our conduct and how we move forward at this point.

I still have major concerns with how we end up in a process where we say “Yes” as a Parliament but have no idea what the effects of the bill will be. It is incredible.

As we look forward to the next election, I would like nothing more than to go to Canadians and say, “This is what we are spending your money on, and these are the tangible effects it is going to have on persons with disabilities.” I would like nothing more than to call my own mother and say, “These are the things we are doing to make life easier for people like you.” I would like nothing more than that. However, I do not know what we are doing, because it is not in the bill.

I want to end today, perhaps being a bit negative at times in this speech. However, at the same time, it is important that we hold our government to account, and it is important to this process that we actually get the best piece of legislation we can, moving forward.

To the minister, I want to say, “Thank you. I look forward to working with you. I certainly appreciate you reaching out to me earlier this week.”

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The member knows he needs to address comments and questions to the Chair, and not to the individual members.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

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

Madam Speaker, I was a little dismayed by my honourable colleague's comments. Maybe I should say I was dismayed a lot, because if we get this legislation through, which we need everyone in the House to co-operate on, it would be so impactful for people with disabilities across Canada. It is the most important legislation for people with disabilities in over 30 years. It cannot be understated that other governments have not been able to get this far. We are moving quickly, and I know you do not think it is quick enough.

As the mother of someone who has learning disabilities, I know I want things to move faster. However, this is a progressive bill, and we need you to understand that everything good takes time. We need to get it right.

Does the hon. member not agree with that?