Accessibility bill once hailed as 'historic' sent back to drawing board

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'I continue to be an advocate,' says activist tapped to implement Accessibility Act

'I continue to be an advocate,' says activist tapped to implement Accessibility Act

A bill the McNeil government hailed as "historic" when it was introduced last fall is heading back to government lawyers to be reworked following two more days of passionate critique of the province's attempt to adopt its first Accessibility Act.

The governing Liberals put a halt to passage of Bill 59 in November when critics panned the proposed law designed to ensure Nova Scotia is more accessible to those who are physically or intellectually disabled.

The bill could effect everything from building design to how disabled people are treated in the workplace. Disability advocates have said it is too weak, while some business groups worry about costs.

'Bill 59 is a live item'

On Friday, the vice-chair of the legislature's law amendments committee, Liberal MLA Terry Farrell, tried to reassure those presenting before the committee that the government is committed to the law, despite the need to rework it.

"Bill 59 is a live item on the order paper of the House," he said, following two days of presentations from the public to the committee.

But the backbencher could not say when the reworked bill might return for debate on the floor of the legislature.

"I know that it will be dealt with," he said. "I can't say when."

Gerry Post, who uses a wheelchair and is a member of a group lobbying for a major overhaul of Bill 59, is convinced the job is not so onerous.

"With all due respect, I don't think it's going to take that long to get it right," he said. "You put a couple of bright lawyers on it. With all the information that's been provided I'd say within a couple of weeks they could have a really good redraft ready for reconsultation."

Business groups say go slow

Earlier Friday, three business groups urged the province to go slow on imposing changes that could have an affect on the bottom line of their members.

The Retail Council of Canada and Restaurants Canada both soft-peddled their concerns. Representatives said their organizations, which represent thousands of bars, restaurants and shops across Canada, supported the move to remove barriers for those with disabilities.

Jordi Morgan, vice-president Atlantic of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business was more openly critical of what may come. He urged the province not to impose the law in a way that would be "punitive or overly burdensome."