PC MLA ordered to comply with accessibility rules by June 20
Alana Paon is the only MLA who has not complied with requirement to make constituency office accessible
When it comes to accessibility, a committee of Nova Scotia's House of Assembly is taking a hard line on the need for a hard surface at the constituency office of PC MLA Alana Paon.
The House of Assembly management commission, which includes representatives from all three parties in the legislature, unanimously agreed Wednesday that Speaker Kevin Murphy write an order to the MLA for Cape Breton Richmond. The document will state that the gravel driveway at Paon's constituency office needs to be at least partially paved or have a concrete pad installed to make it compliant with the House's rules.
"I'm of the opinion, at this point, if you want me to be decisive, that a notice goes out with a stern reminder that the deadline is June 20 and we deal with the consequences on June 21 if it's not done," said Murphy.
Paon has until next Thursday to get the work done and has informed the committee there are plans in the works to pour a concrete slab.
Paon told reporters Wednesday afternoon she spoke with the owner of the building to try to speed the process up.
She said she had the blessing of Murphy, who uses a wheelchair to get around, to use the gravel lot, but the legislature committee reversed that decision a year ago and ordered the change within a year.
'I want to get this done,' says Paon
Paon said no one has ever told her or her staff they could not get into the building because of the gravel space.
"We've received absolutely no complaints," said Paon. "We have a high percentage of seniors in my constituency and my brother is a paraplegic, so I'm very cognizant of accessibility issues."
"[They're] really important to me, so obviously I want to get this done, want to get this done on time."
If she's not able to modify the driveway within eight days, the provincial politician will no longer be reimbursed for her office rent. According to Paon's expense claims, that amounts to $1,500 a month for her constituency office in St. Peters.
She said she'll dig into her own pockets to pay the rent if it comes to that.
The requirement for barrier-free offices for MLAs was adopted in the fall of 2013 and took effect after that year's election. Newly elected MLAs then had a year to comply with the barrier-free guidelines set out in law.
Paon, who was elected in the 2017 election, is the only MLA whose office is not barrier-free.
Although commission members, including its chair, Murphy, briefly toyed with giving Paon another month's extension on the June 20 deadline they previously set, Liberal cabinet minister Labi Kousoulis brought a quick end to that suggestion.
"My own personal view is one year to pour essentially what's a driveway in a home," said Kousoulis. "We're not saying it's a year to build a building, we're saying it's a year to pour a driveway in the home.
"I'm not comfortable with an extension. When we were all elected we were given the message loud and clear from the Speaker's office that you need to be in compliance."