Ironically Federal Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Diane Finley has inaccessible constituency office

Federal Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Diane Finley (photo Government of Canada)

Bob Speller, Liberal candidate in the Haldimand-Norfolk riding, blasted Federal Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Diane Finley for having an office that is not wheelchair accessible.

“She keeps making announcements saying the government is doing so much for the disabled, but she doesn’t seem to care in her own riding that they don’t have access,” said Speller. “It goes to show she’s not serious about the issue. She should be setting an example. This is embarrassing.” (Cnews.canoe.ca)

The access to Finley’s office is by way of a set of stairs and a barrier at the door. People in wheelchairs cannot navigate stairs or door sills.

“Bob Speller is simply trying to distract from the dismal Liberal record on helping person with disabilities,” said a statement from Finley’s office. “In fact, Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals are constantly voting against support for persons with disabilities such as when they voted against the creation of the historic Registered Disabilities Saving Plan and the Enabling Accessibility Fund.”

That’s cold comfort to her constituents who must make an appointment with Finley and meet her off-site, perhaps at Tim Horton’s.

The lack of accessible office space is the tip of the iceberg for Finley, who despite her own vision impairment has little sympathy for Canadians living with disabilities.

Yes she piloted the Registered Disabilities Saving Plan through Parliament. That helps the children of upper-middle class Canadians save for the time when the parents have passed on. Those lucky few children with disabilities, then adults, face the bleak future of struggling to exist in Canada’s disability wasteland. The program is useless for most Canadians with disabilities who are struggling to survive.  Where are they going to find disposable income to save for their childrens’ income?  

Canadians with disabilities who can no longer work are subject to the worst conditions of poverty of any group. They form the largest number of people in Canada on social assistance.

The only Federal income program that helps them is the Canada Pension Disability which maxes out at $13,000 annually. Most Canadians on disabilities and CPP are receiving less than $10,000 a year. It doesn’t take an economist to understand survival on $10,000 is punishing poverty.

There are 4 million Canadians living with disabilities. Not all of them are living in poverty thankfully.

Canadians with disabilities face discrimination in housing, employment, education and access to public places. Neither the previous Liberal government nor the current Conservative government have done anything more than pay lip-service to the real problems of Canadians with disabilities.

The problems have been studied in detail since the Scott report in the mid-1990s.

Every 4 years we get an update from Statistics Canada in the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS 2001, PALS 2006) with only tokenism in program improvements. We can thank Minister Finley for killing the PALS survey in its rush to get rid of the Long Form Census. In future we will have a dim picture of the problems Canadians with disabilities face.

Minister of the fluff press release and glossy annual report. When she announces another $300,000 for some employment program in rural Saskatchewan or Nova Scotia with full court press, we can only shake our heads at the insufficiency of these tiny improvements.

Here is how Minister Finley worded her lack of concrete support on November 1, 2010 “For Canadians with disabilities, and for their families, day-to-day living can provide unique challenges. That is why the Government of Canada makes strategic investments that address the needs of people with disabilities, in order to ensure that they are able to participate fully in society.” (Minister Finley speaking at End Exclusion 2010.

Council of Canadians with Disabilities

“As the minister with lead responsibilities on accessibility issues, we encourage her to seek accessible space,” said Laurie Beachell, national coordinator for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. She carries the disability file for much of the country. We know she knows (our concerns about accessibility).”

“I think we need our elected leaders to set an example on accessibility. It’s important everyone have equal access to elected officials,” added Beachell.

Beachell praised the RDSP in the Canoe article. We give the program a D- grade. We hear mostly stories of how difficult a plan is to set up and how few Canadians can afford it.

With story from Cnews.