Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent speech. He provided us with a greater understanding of the challenges people face with regard to mobility.
We always rely on support staff on these types of files. On that subject, I want to acknowledge the research and writing that went into my speech on Bill C-81. That work was done by Hugo Berthiaume, who recently joined my team as an assistant. I wish him lots of luck and especially lots of work. Opposition members often rise in the House to talk about good causes and the people who are important to them, the people in their ridings.
In this case, we are speaking on behalf of persons with reduced mobility, who have to overcome many barriers in their lives.
Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, is a step in the right direction. Every member in the House supports measures to reduce barriers for all Canadians in every aspect of their lives.
Canadians with disabilities deserve to have a government that always keeps mobility in mind to ensure that those with reduced mobility can live in a barrier-free society.
Unfortunately, even if it is a step in the right direction, Bill C-81 will not improve the lives of Canadians with disabilities in the short term. To this day, our society does not always bring forward measures that will make life easier for Canadians with disabilities.
We believe that we need to take action to help them, and we want to work with the government to find real solutions. However, this bill is proof that the Liberal government is somewhat out of touch and that it does not always understand the challenges that people with disabilities must face. With this bill, the government is going to use taxpayers' money to write reports or action plans.
I am going to talk a bit about my experience as mayor and, in particular, as the former president of an association that works to improve the quality of life of the disabled on a daily basis.
People with reduced mobility need us to deal with their infrastructure, both their homes and their workplaces. We must do everything we can to make it possible for them to get to work and contribute to Canadian society.
We need to help more Canadians with mobility issues enter the workforce. Our political party has always been committed to our country's economic development, and we believe that absolutely everyone can contribute.
There is no greater boost than feeling a sense of accomplishment and achieving one's full potential. Too many Canadians live and work in environments that, unfortunately, do not meet their needs. For example, they have poorly adapted apartments or houses, there are too few parking reserved spots at shop entrances, and public transit systems are inadequate.
It is our responsibility to do more and do better for those most vulnerable. We must work hard to ensure that every single Canadian has access to the same society, regardless of their physical abilities. On this side of the House, our goal is to help all Canadians.
The Liberal government wants to invest $290 million to develop accessibility plans and set objectives. I repeat, it wants to invest $290 million to develop accessibility plans and set objectives.
That seems like a lot of money to me. This money will be spent over a period of six years. Does that mean we will have to wait six years to see any changes? Will any other funding be announced in the meantime for putting these plans into action and achieving the objectives? Unfortunately, the bill before us has no answers to those questions, so it is hard for us to get a clear idea of what is actually going to come out of Bill C-81.
Canadians with disabilities cannot understand how a government can think it is totally normal to spend $290 million on plans and objectives. These people are living their lives right now, and now is when they want improved living conditions, accessible workplaces, and help to participate in this country's economic development.
People with mobility issues do not need a government that will invest in bureaucracy. They need a government that will actually tackle problems by adapting infrastructure.
I just want to point out that it was the Harper Conservative government that signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007. The purpose of this convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity. The previous government created the enabling accessibility fund, which had a real impact on Canadians' everyday lives by funding infrastructure upgrades for thousands of Canadians. That is the way to help Canadian families and people with reduced mobility. This fund is still being used today to build projects in my riding and in many of my colleagues' ridings. It does not take six years of study to figure out when a two-storey building needs a stair lift.
The Liberals are pros at running deficits and burdening future generations. The worst part is that the money is being spent on plans and committees instead of going directly to the people it is supposed to help. We have a lot of questions, as I said. We know the Liberal government wants to create a Canadian accessibility standards development organization. The bill seems pretty good at first blush. Will the government be working closely with people with reduced mobility? Why wait so long before taking action? How will that $290 million be spent? I sure hope the government will be consulting the people it is supposed to be helping and will invite them to play an active role in the organization.
As I was saying, there are far too many unknowns in this bill. Again, with this $290 million we can really make a difference in people's lives. I can only imagine what local advocacy groups in each of our ridings can do with $290 million over six years to help persons with disabilities. These organizations work miracles with very little money. Through their actions and awareness raising they manage to get municipal and private buildings adapted. They achieve that with little to no resources. Therefore, $290 million is good. If it is needed, it is good, but if it is going to be used only to draft plans that will be shelved then we have cause to reconsider and to be concerned. We sincerely hope this is not the case.
We have many concerns. I would remind hon. members that it was not so long ago that we were standing here heavily criticizing the criteria for tax credits for persons with disabilities that penalized countless people with diabetes. Fortunately, the opposition's repeated questions made the government take a step back and correct the situation. However, would the government really have changed its mind if advocates and the official opposition had not spoken out against this anomaly? I have my doubts.
For all of these reasons, we need more answers to our questions in order to ensure that taxpayers' money will actually be used to benefit people with disabilities, whether in federal buildings or elsewhere. The Liberals do not have a very impressive track record when it comes to accessibility. Canadians expect better. The Liberals have been in office for three years, and they are just now beginning to take an interest in this issue, even though this was one of their election promises.
Let us come back to Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. Mobility is one of society's major challenges, and it is even more of a problem for people with disabilities. I would say that this is an ongoing battle in these people's lives. Every day they have to deal with difficult situations that may seem trivial to others. People with reduced mobility do not have the same access everywhere. Think about the shelves at the supermarket and other stores, offices that are not adapted, and workplaces they cannot get to. There are far too many places and things that are inaccessible to them.
We must be ambitious. The proposed plan is questionable. It serves only to implement bureaucratic measures that will have no real impact on these people's lives. We need to be more aware of this reality and always be in a position to act. There is still a lot of work to be done before we have proper facilities for all Canadians. We must give all Canadians the same opportunity to be empowered. In order to get there, we must be more inclusive and include as many organizations as possible. We must address the issue of accessibility in close co-operation with the provinces and municipalities across the country.
We can do better. We hope that we will get some answers in committee and that we will be able make amendments to the bill so that it really meets the needs of the people it is targeting, and so achieves in , thus creating a more barrier-free Canada.