N.S. election could delay proposed accessibility regulation for MLA offices

MLA Michelle Raymond's office scored one out of six in an accessibility survey released in July 2013. Julia Wong/Global News

HALIFAX – An impending provincial election could delay a regulation that would make it mandatory for MLA constituency offices in Nova Scotia to be fully accessible.

The James McGregor Stewart Society has been working for several years to get the regulation passed.

It would give new MLAs one year to find a barrier-free constituency office while existing MLAs would be given three years to make their offices compliant.

However, the House of Assembly Management Commission still needs to meet to pass the regulation, which currently has all-party approval.

If an election is called though, the proposed regulation would be put on hold, something the society does not want to see happen.

“We are so close to getting this passed. It seems such a shame for it to all go to waste at this point,” said Kelly McKenna, who conducted the survey for the James McGregor Stewart Society.

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The survey, which was released last month, found that many MLA constituency offices in Nova Scotia are not up to par in having accessible entrances, washrooms and doors.

For example, Leonard Preyra’s office in the south end of Halifax scored two out of six. It does have a ramp but the office does not have wheelchair-accessible parking, an automatic door button or an accessible washroom. The office of Halifax Atlantic’s Michelle Raymond scored one out of six because it does not have wheelchair accessible parking, an automatic door button, an accessible washroom or a ramp.

Read more: Some MLAs failing constituents with disabilities: group

A spokesperson for Speaker Gordie Gosse says that if an election were called, there would not be a speaker and therefore no commission. Once an election is over, a new speaker and commission would be announced and all issues would have to be put back on the agenda again. But that could take longer than the Society would like.

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“It’s so frustrating and hopeful at the same time to know that we are at a point where there is all-party agreement,” McKenna said.

“We’re just trying so hard. We are so close to fixing this and our time is really now to make a change.”

Kevin Murphy, co-founder of the James McGregor Stewart Society, says the issue is coming down to the wire with the possibility of an election being called any day now.

Gosse told Global News last month that he was very passionate about the issue and was working to get the regulation implemented. He declined an interview with Global News to provide an update.

However, a spokesperson says a meeting is in the works and stresses it will happen soon.

A meeting is anticipated before the end of the month.

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