Questions for Inclusion

 

ABILITIES recently approached the leaders of the three major political parties involved in the upcoming federal election and offered them an opportunity to communicate their views on disability issues through an interview with Raymond Cohen.

In the interest of fairness, we decided not to print candidate interviews unless all three leaders were able to participate. While only Audrey McLaughlin, leader of the New Democratic Party, consented to an in-person interview, all three leaders agreed to address the Abilities readership in writing. Thus, on the following pages we bring you word from each of the candidates.

In preparing for the potential interviews, Abilities consulted with Canada’s major consumer groups. Each group offered questions for inclusion; Abilities would like to share with its readership these questions and we encourage you to satisfy yourselves with the answers to these crucial concerns prior to the federal election.

– Prior to the recent government restructuring, a minister, Canada’s Secretary of State, was designated as responsible for the status of persons with disabilities. This position was dropped with the government reorganization. How would your party ensure that issues related to people with disabilities are being addressed?

– During the last few years, the present government launched a five-year national strategy to integrate people with disabilities. This initiative will end in the spring of 1996. How would your party continue to provide leadership in this area after the initiative is concluded?

– The House of Commons does not presently have any members with disabilities to bring forward the views of people with disabilities — a group comprising up to 15.5% of the Canadian population. How would your party ensure that people with disabilities are full participants in the decision-making process?

– The disability community across the country, in large part, has expressed dissatisfaction with the omnibus legislation introduced in 1992. However, the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in the United States has been a major impetus for barrier removal for Americans with disabilities. Would your government pass similar legislation?

– Despite the protection afforded to people with disabilities in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, many barriers to participation still exist. What will your party do about existing legislation which does not conform to the charter, for example the Immigration Act, the Income Tax Act, the Criminal Code, the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Transportation Act?

– Would your party introduce Duty to accomodate legislation? Would you re-introduce the Court Challenges Program so that organizations of people with disabilities could once again bring charter cases to the courts?

– In these times of restraint, programs and services are being cut at all levels of government. The federal government has an important leadership role to play with the provinces in setting the tone for these cuts and the priorities for services. People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to these cuts and what sometimes looks like a cost savings in effect encourages a long-term dependency. People with disabilities want to be independent; in other words, they want to have choices. How will your party develop the priorities and the redistribution of resources without creating long-term dependency?
– 30,000 Canadians still live in institutions because they have been labelled “mentally handicapped.” A significant portion of the up-to-$100,000 annual cost per person is paid for through federal cost-sharing agreements. How will your party eliminate financial disincentives to provincial and territorial governments in order to allow them to support people with developmental disabilities to move out of institutions and live and participate in the community?

– Groups working towards raising awareness and who are struggling for access to the Canadian political system are under-resourced and are the target of funding cuts. Sometimes these groups get lumped into the category of special interest groups which are singled out for dramatic slashes to their funding. How would your government ensure that these groups, which are vital to full participation of people with disabilities, are supported?

– The gradual disappearance of universal healthcare programming jeopardizes the financial viability of many Canadians with disabilities and their families. What steps will your government take to recommit Canada to this cornerstone principle of social program delivery?

– The way in which Unemployment Insurance and Welfare are presently structured restricts the participation of people with disabilities in the work force. How will your party reform income support and income security programs so that they are not structured in a way which traps people who have a disability in the welfare system?

– Though fewer than 20% of employment-aged Canadians with disabilities are in the work force, only a fraction of current training resources are directed at that 15.5% of the population who have disabilities. What would your party do about reallocating training dollars in a fairer way and about reforming employment equity legislation so that it would include real goals and timetables?

– Currently, there is virtually no wheelchair accessible inter-city bus service in Canada. In March of this year, the National Transportation Agency released its report on the “Road to Accessibility” national inquiry into the motor coach industry in Canada. Among other things, the report recommended that there be a national standard for motor coach accessibility. The disability community welcomes the report and has urged the federal government to implement its recommendations. Would your party implement the recommendations of the “Road to Accessibility” report?

 

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