A53. I have written posts on the Law Amendments Committee, how it really works, and some tips on how to make an effective presentation.
The LAC hearings scheduled for March 2 and 3, 2017, on Bill 59 (Accessibility Act) have some unique features that will make them better than most.
Many presenters at the Law Amendments Committee were critical of the bill itself, and critical of the lack of facilities for persons with disabilities at the LAC hearings. It appears the government was taken aback by the criticism. As a result, the government decided not to move the bill any further in the five-step law-making process, at least in the Fall 2016 sitting of the House.
For the LAC hearings scheduled for March 2 and 3, 2017, arrangements have been made for American Sign Language interpreters, sighted guides, and Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), as well as a teleconferencing option. These arrangements are, at least in my experience, a first for the LAC.
It is extremely rare for the LAC to hold hearings outside of a legislative session. There is a distinct benefit for citizens wishing to appear at the Bill 59 hearings: the time pressure on government MLAs, which is one of the reasons the LAC process is normally so unsatisfactory for citizens, will be entirely absent. I expect all MLAs will be polite and attentive and will give presenters every consideration.
At the conclusion of the LAC hearings, I expect the government will take time to consider what amendments, if any, to make to Bill 59. The next step in the law-making process is Committee of the Whole House, and that cannot begin until the legislature is back in session. The most likely time for the House to resume is late March or early April of 2017. The government therefore has plenty of time to consider carefully what amendments it wishes to make to Bill 59.
My advice for advocates for persons with disabilities is to seek to be part of the decision-making about amendments before, during and after the LAC hearings. The real decision-makers on Bill 59 will not be the members of the LAC, but rather the minister, the minister’s staff, and the premier’s office staff. Meetings and other communications with those decision-makers can take place at any time. As I’ve explained in another post, a presentation at the LAC should not be the first or only step that advocates take.