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Promising steps forward don't translate into timely progress on AMA implementation

Nov 28, 2018

Statue with head in hands

Hope springs eternal. Timely action less so.

We've been very pleased with three promising developments over the last several months related to the implementation of the landmark Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA). The problem is that these developments do not seem to have translated into timely action. Indeed, the Province is now falling further behind its own implementation timelines.

Here's a brief review.

Three Recent Promising Developments

1. An Action Plan with Target Dates

In follow up to BFM's Broken Promise campaign, we received a letter dated September 13, 2018 sent on behalf of Minister Stephason. The letter committed to take important steps forward to provide for the full and timely implementation of the AMA, including deliverables and timelines (click here to see our coverage of the letter). We commended government for the letter as it seems to represent a key turning point - from weak and partial to robust and full implementation, from missing deadlines and expectations to meeting and exceeding them.

2. Including the AMA in the Minister's Mandate Letter

The Province took a second promising step forward when Premier Pallister included the implementation of the AMA as one of seven priority deliverables in the revised mandate letter for the Honourable Heather Stefanson, the recently appointed Minister of Families:

"Completing the review and implementation of The Accessibility for Manitobans Act to ensure its effectiveness in removing barriers to Manitobans with disabilities".

The purpose of the mandate letters, widely used in other Canadian jurisdictions, is to establish the deliverables for which Ministers will be held accountable. (Click here for more coverage.)

3. Mentioning the AMA in the November 2018 Speech from the Throne

The third and most recent of the promising developments was Premier Pallister's decision to include reference to the AMA in the November 2018 Throne Speech:

“The four-year review of The Accessibility for Manitobans Act is also nearing completion. Guided by the goals of that review, my government will continue to remove barriers to Manitobans with disabilities.”

Much less clear than one might have hoped but better this mention than none - as had been the case in the government’s first three Throne Speeches. (click here for more coverage)

More Missed Timelines

We had hoped, indeed, we had expected, that these promising developments would translate into clear and decisive progress, particularly the timely actions needed to meet the timelines set out in the September 2018 letter sent on behalf of the Minister. Sadly, we continue to be disappointed as deadlines have come, have gone and have not been met for key deliverables.

1. Finalization of the Accessible Employment Standard

The letter sent on behalf of the Minister stated that the plan was to have this critically important standard come into force as a regulation by the end of September 2018, then later qualified the timeline to be in force by the end of October 2018. No standard so far.

2. Release of the Terms of Reference for the Transportation and Built Environment Accessible Standard Development Committees

BFM has asked for both these documents to be released by the end of October 2018. The letter sent on behalf of the Minister reported that the Terms of Reference had already been drafted. Neither of the documents has been released to date.

3. Development and Release of a Compliance Framework for the AMA

The letter sent on behalf of the Minister indicated that she expected to have the framework in place by September 2018. The government's original timeline had been September 2017. Notably, BFM has been asking that the government consult with our disability communities during the development of the framework. No framework has been released to date and, as far as we know, no consultations have been conducted with our disability communities.

4. Completion and Release of a Comprehensive Implementation Plan to at least April 2020

Given weak and slow implementation efforts to date, BFM had asked the government to develop a comprehensive implementation and resource plan by the end of October 2018 to support the government's commitment to have all five of the initial accessibility standards in place by the next election (October 2020). No such plan has been shared with us to date.  

5. Release of a Plan to Support More Meaningful Opportunities for Participation of Disability Communities in the AMA's Implementation 

Finally, BFM had asked the government to develop and implement a plan to significantly enhance the limited oppportunities for disability communities to participate in the AMA's implementation. We had asked that this include provisions to ensure independent community capacity for consultation and research. We asked for this plan to be developed by the end of October 2018. No plan has been shared with us so far.

Where To From Here?

These most recent missed deadlines extend the lengthy record of the AMA's slow implementation. We had hoped that having the AMA establshed as a priority by those at the very highest levels of government, and having a clear game plan, would have made an appreciable difference. While the jury is still out, we remain very concerned that the resources needed to make full and timely progress simply are not yet in place. 


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