Philosophical question of the week - Macleans.ca
 

Philosophical question of the week


 

Does it matter that the minister responsible for the disabled does not have an accessible constituency office?

Access to Finley’s office in Simcoe, Ont., located 150 km southwest of Toronto, is gained by going up a few sets of concrete steps and stepping through a door … “As the minister with lead responsibilities on accessibility issues, we encourage her to seek accessible space,” said Laurie Beachell, national co-ordinator for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. “She carries the disability file for much of the country.”

Beachell said he meets with federal officials frequently, including Finley, to explain the concerns of the country’s disabled. “We know she knows (our concerns about accessibility),” he said. “I think we need our elected leaders to set an example on accessibility. It’s important everyone have equal access to elected officials.”


 

Philosophical question of the week

  1. Yes.

  2. Does it matter that most of Harper's thugs ignore the majority of their duties in favour of partisan political vandalism?

  3. If any person in the booming town of Simcoe (pop <20,000) wishes to meet someone from her constituency office, I'm sure alternate arrangements can be found.

    Common sense, people.

  4. No. The screwed up way Canadian bureaucracy works, requires MPs to routinely engage with the system each time someone falls through the cracks. That makes the MP's office a public place. It should be legally mandated that all MPs offices be accessible.

    That said, if the Liberals want to make some hay with this they should check their own offices and bring forward the legislation.

  5. This is not a gov't building. It is a constituency office, rented, in a small town. What's the option if store front commercial property is not available? Build a new facility?

  6. If the government is honestly concerned about accessibility, it should matter a great deal that the minister responsible doesn't have an office that's accessible.

  7. It is not a ministerial office.

  8. In what way is it inaccessible, and how could it be made so?

  9. Indeed, why should an MP concern themselves with the disabled in the professional aspect of their public life?

  10. As someone who visits Simcoe semi-frequently, I'd be shocked to hear that there isn't accessible space available.

  11. How often have you stopped by your MP's constituency office? And who is it? Let's check wheelchair access, french translation, etc.

  12. You will note that is, in fact, not an answer.

  13. Doesn't matter. If I'm in a wheelchair sitting outside that office, I'm going to be thinking, "this government doesn't give a rat's ass about me."

    All MPs offices should be accessible, IMHO.

  14. The riding is Haldimand—Norfolk with a population of 104,575.

  15. Just down the road from Simcoe, hwy 24, there is Brantford, one time home of Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone.

    I personally have dealt with constituency offices on a few occasions – telephoned and/or sent e-mails. This is not a walk-in clinic , library, or cityhall. And you know what, I bet if I was to call the Simcoe constituency office of Diane Findley, I'd probably have their undivided attention. Without visiting in person.

  16. There seem to be three concrete steps leading to the front door. There might not be enough room to build a permanent ramp, but perhaps a temporary ramp could be made available in case someone in a wheelchair needs to enter the small, house-like building.

  17. Neither was yours.

  18. So, make it part of the national building code. For all commercial buildings.

  19. Plenty of room, easily done.

  20. I'm surprised there isn't a law requiring that their constituency offices be accessible….

  21. Perhaps she can't get it through the Senator ….

  22. Are you spying on all of us Kermy? :)

  23. Agreed. To the right of the door, there's tons of room for a ramp at a 1:12 slope, especially if it's done as an L-shaped ramp starting near the tree. Of all the things government officials waste money on, I can't see complaining about a few bucks spent to make this office accessible. Hell, slap a 'Your Stimulus Dollars At Work' billboard on it so the PMO will be happy, and everyone wins. :)

  24. Yes.

  25. Piece of cake. What do MP's get for running their constiuency offices?

  26. Ah, yes let them eat cake. You do a mean imitation of Minister Findley. She was the one who was against increased unemployment earnings because it would only encourage the lazy peasants to lie around and not look for work. And if anyone has to look after an ailing relative, that they should use their holiday time. So, let the disabled phone if they have a problem. Maybe they shouldn't be so needy.

  27. Shurely someone should ask a PQ. This is extremely serious and such a PQ would give many MP's the chance to showcase their fascination with and ability to discuss intelligently weighty affairs of state.

  28. If you ever get a chance to visit a city, you will notice that all new sidewalks that terminate at intersections have wheelchair accessible curbs. Not just the ones approaching politician's offices. As I wrote elsewhere, if it is a noble endeavour (as I'm sure it could be), then make it law for all commercial buildings through the national building code. Don't single out politicians (of any stripe) for cheap political points – which you and others seem to enjoy doing.

  29. Nothing new here…What is the message she is sending "Disabled not welcome at this office?" Come on Canada boot these insensitive Republican Transplants out.

  30. A couple of points.

    1.Constituency offices are government offices. They are listed as such by the government http://webinfo.parl.gc.ca/MembersOfParliament/Mai
    They are budgeted for out of federal government funds ($284,700 per constituency).
    Whether the government owns or rents the office is completely irrelevant.

    2. A disabled person is many times more likely to require access to an MP's office than someone without any issues. Indeed within our system, a disabled person who was unable to access some government program is very likely going to need their MP to help them. In that context, the two steps are cold, cruel irony for Finley's constituents.

  31. 1. What about provincial MPP offices, or local municipal alderman's offices? What's the diff?

    2. A disabled person is many times more likely to require access to an MP's office than someone without any issues

    Proof please.

  32. And in terms of point #2, kindly acknowledge all of the social support /advocates available to disadvantaged individuals at many levels.

  33. Accessibility does not come from photoshopping a ramp at the front door on a Google Streetview image.. It is width of doorways. It is navigable space throughout the floorspace. It is washrooms.

    One might question the initial choice of inaccessible location. But let us not start retrofitting now just because this MP has a certain portfolio.

  34. I guess you don't understand the principle of accessibility. No, it's not OK to have an alternate arrangement. This is an issue of social justice and equality. There's no reason why a disabled person should have to go through the inconvenience of making alternate arrangements because he or she can't access the building, whereas regular folk can walk in and out on a regular basis.

  35. It's true – you guess.

  36. It already is.

  37. The minister has the ability to choose the office she is going to set up as her constituency office. I think it's very telling that at no point did does it appear that accessibility to her office for all her constituents, especially those with physical disabilities, entered her mind. Or if it did enter her mind, the rationale would appear to be, 'Oh well. I'd rather not meet them anyways.' Not to put words in her mouth and thoughts into her bobblehead, that's dot's job…

  38. Sorry, Tony needed a couple of gazebos and Harper just had to have a fake lake. Suck it up, gimps!

  39. If phones didn't exist and the Minister was physically tied to the office, then yes.

    As neither of those conditions are true.. no. I mean, it'd be great if all Canadians had equal access. But I live in Alberta, why should I have to pay to visit the office while a person in Simcoe doesn't have to? The answer is simply, "The world doesn't give a crap about fair, so take some steps yourself to get what you want."

  40. "Take some steps yourself"! HAR! Go get 'em, Thwim!

  41. Harper's Large Bump Party. Real Canadians are tired of waiting in line for restaurants on a slant.

  42. In which Thwim puts his foot down…

  43. You mean,

    "Gotcha!" cheap shot of the weak, dressed up as a "philisophical question".

  44. How many people have wished to access this office in person and have been turned away due to lack of access. Numbers please – not just hypotheticals. Let's put some facts on the table.

  45. Ahh yes the cynical dismissal. The world needs more of you people!

  46. I believe the principle is that all citizens are equal and should be afforded equal access. Advocates for the physically challenged, or whatever combination of words is considered correct these days, argue that designing and constructing any building, public or rpivate, can easily take into account the need to accommodate different modes of human body delivery systems.

    The real point, Dot, that you have studiously steared clear of, is that we are talking about the minister who is, on paper at least, dedicated to advancing the rights of the disabled. So, in addition to the actual pragmatic implications of her apparently inaccessible office, there are the very real symbolic considerations as well.

    Will the world stop revolving on this issue? No. It is all part of the fascinating political mosaic that is our government, though.

  47. From her website:
    "The Office for Disability Issues (ODI) is a focal point within the Government of Canada for key partners working to promote the full inclusion and participation of Canadians with disabilities in all aspects of society and community life. ODI strives to provide leadership and foster excellence for the Government of Canada in this area of shared responsibilities."

  48. Let me rephrase the real question.

    1) There are 308 MPs some of whom represent large urban ridings – so they have more than one constituency office. So, for argument's sake, let's put the number of Fed offices at 400.
    2) At the provincial level, probably an equal number. Now remember, it is at the prov level where health, social services are delivered. So, let's say 800 total
    3) Of the 800, no doubt Diane Finley's office does not meet the accessibility standard for wheelchair access. How many others fit that criteria?
    4) What services at a constituency office require the person to attend in person?
    5) How many complaints have been received by MPs/MPPs about access problems?
    6) Of the numbers in 5) how many have not received alternate services?
    7) Constituency offices are typically rented. So, if modifications to the building are deemed to be required, who pays for them? Who contracts the designer/engineer, who gets the building permit, who contracts out the work, who arranges inspection?
    8) If after careful study, it is deemed a req'nt for all constituency offices to have wheelchair access, what laws/reg's etc are required to be changed?
    9) Should the same offices be modified to allow wheelchair accessible washrooms? If not, why not?
    10) Should the same offices be outfitted so that handicapped persons could work in that environment – furniture, aisles, doorways? If not, why not?
    11) Whose dept is actually responsible for setting standards?

  49. You've been taking media training. First lesson is to redefine the question. In actual fact, the question as posed for this blog is actually quite explicit: "Does it matter that the minister responsible for the disabled does not have an accessible constituency office?"

    In the USA, any building receiving federal dollars in rent or otherwise must meet certain accessibility criteria.

    And to answer the main question with a reply to your #11 – hers.

  50. You've been taking media training

    No actually, my undergrad was in engineering – you know – working to standards, regulations, local bylaws, etc etc etc. What's yours?

    So, she is now responsible for building standards, and constituency offices for all prov and fed politicians? Wow.

  51. I've had two children who've used wheelchair, one now deceased. I commute daily with my son who uses a wheelchair and who works for a bank in Toronto.

    My question to you: on what do you base your knowledge of the realities of persons who live with physical disabilities?

  52. I don't base my knowledge of the realities of persons who live with physical disabilities based upon my own personal opinions. On this particular item (a constituency office in a fed riding in a rural community) I rely upon actual facts – ie is access a problem? How often? Are there alternate means of delivering the services? Is this the best allocation of resources at this time? In terms of access in general, where can one get the biggest bang for the buck? The comment board at Macleans is not the place to pass judgment on this issue.

  53. C'mon Dot, you're talking like a spin doctor who gets paid by the word.

    All your questions are just bluffs, justifications and misdirections. The first question asked – does it matter? – is a solid YES. The other questions that I would ask (along with my answers) are as follows;

    Q. Does Ms. Finlay have the ability to have the situation corrected? A. Certainly she does.

    Q. Why has she not done so already or, at least, committed to do so as quickly as practical? A. It's a mystery to me.

  54. If symbolism is important, I agree with you.

    Turn it around. Suppose the advocate for persons with disabilities approaches Min Finley and claims she is not doing enough to promote access. So Finley replies "Yes I do. Look. I built a wheelchair ramp in Simcoe despite the fact that it's rarely/never been used. End of discussion"

    Feel better?.

  55. If symbolism is important, I agree with you.

    Symbolism is important but it's more than just a symbol for those who can't negotiate the steps, isn't it? You can claim that there are only a handful of them, and that other arrangements can be made, and there might be some validity to that argument if you were talking about some small businessman struggling to make ends meet. Someone for whom the expense of constructing a ramp presented a genuine cost needing to be weighed against other costs. But since that's not the case with Ms. Finley, and since she's been in her role – intermittently – since 2006, we can only conclude that it's her choice to keep her local office inaccesible to those in wheelchairs.

  56. we can only conclude that it's her choice to keep her local office inaccesible to those in wheelchairs.

    I guess I'm pointing out that "we" are not all able to come to a conclusion based upon one advocate's pr claim.

    Symbolism, in some cases, can also be construed as tokenism.

  57. Dot, I often agree with you, but this time your in the wrong. I live with a family member who is completely dependent on her wheelchair. I hesitate to suggest you shouldn't talk about things you know nothing about, because then there would be no discussions from any one on this board ;) But in this case you are wrong, and it is insulting.

  58. A person who arrives at the door with a problem, and is unable to find their way inside due to those stairs might not call later to complain. They may just be fed up and move on. The question isn't what can the disabled do to accommodate this minister….. the question should be, what can this minister do to accommodate the disabled.

    Period.

  59. OK. So, since you are in the know, how often has your family member needed to visit a Fed MP constituency office, and for what reason? If you're going to make the effort to criticize me, then at least make the effort to "educate" me.

  60. Accessibility is also getting in the door. Lets start there. Either add a ramp, or move offices to accommodate. Seems pretty straight forward.

  61. You know what? Rationing resources occurs all the time. Go to a hospital. Your situation is not unique.

  62. As many times as she wants. I think the point here is equal accessibility. IF the Minister responsible for the disabled was in her riding, she would be a regular visitor. As for the reasons, that would be between her and the Minister, don't you think? Or are we now deciding in advance who has important enough reason to go visit their MP?

    Now if your talking about my MP constituency office, well there is a whole other tale. Completely accessible, but not even located in our riding…. One would have to ask James Moore why that is.

    A question for you is why do you think these people shouldn't have access to their elected representatives?

  63. We should not be rationing our rights.

  64. A question for you is why do you think these people shouldn't have access to their elected representatives?

    I don't have any value decisions. You know what? As a late baby boomer, my parents have passed on – one from cancer, one from heart disease/diabetes/old age. Does that qualify me as an advocate for any group? Do I feel offended when someone suggests diabetes is a diet /lack of exercise problem? Nope. Sh*t happens. That's life.

  65. Way to continue to keep your eye on matters of great national importance Wherry.

  66. I'm convinced you do PR. Media training is not the same as asking what your undergrad was in. Turning the question back on me is another classic move.

    Before you try and sayit, recognizing a smoothe move is not the same as being able to execute one. In other words, recognizing a slick move by a hockey player doesn't mean I can repeat it. I'm no Gretzky, but you may be a (fill in blank with name of really clever media spinmeister)

  67. Thanks for your vote of confidence. My application to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is subsequently in the works.

  68. A very stylish firm.

    You sure can polka, Dot.

  69. Dashing. Ask Morse.

  70. Does it matter that the minister responsible for the disabled's husband is a CPC hack who was appointed to the Senate on that basis?

  71. Does it matter Wherry? Only in the most superficial sense one could possibly conceive of. How many disable people attempt to visit the ministers constituency office each year, only to be turned away because there is no accessibility for wheelchairs? No seriously Aaron, I'm asking. You're the "journalist".

    Alright, does everyone mind if I pose a philosophical question? Does it matter that the reporter responsible for covering the house of commons is the worst reporter in the whole entire world? Now that's deep!

  72. Yes of course it matters. How stupid and disheartening!

  73. I am from Diane's riding. To date there has not been (that I know of and it's a small town) complaint from a person in a wheelchair that they could not get service from Diane's office. Diane in our media has said that when a disabled person calls, if they need to meet they do it in other buildings. That being said, Bob Speller Lib. MP was our MP for over 12 years and his office was not accessible either. It would cost 1000's of dollars to build these ramps and any MP does not know from one month to the next even if they'll be in these buildings going into the future. It would be a silly waste of money for government to build ramps on all MP's offices.