Our Windsor, Apr. 11, 2017
The MP for Windsor-Tecumseh’s first private members bill seeks to provide a “one-stop shop” for federal programs available to persons with disabilities.
NDP member Cheryl Hardcastle introduced Bill C-348An Act to Amend the Department of Employment and Social Development Act in the House of Commons Monday.
She said the issue is the federal government has several programs for which persons with disabilities can apply, but they have to prove their condition separately for every application.
“They have to respond to questions about diagnosis and their limitations and are required to provide the supporting documentation for each one of these,” she said “National groups have said this is not only burdensome, but it also can seem very punitive.”
If the bill passes, a person who applies for multiple programs only goes through the process once. Hardcastle said this makes common sense and would also be a better use of federal resources.
Further to the issue, there are different federal departments which offer assistance but there are different eligibility criteria for each program. The bill looks to introduce a single application process without changing the unique qualifications needed to access the programs.
The Canada Pension Plan Disability, Disability Tax Credit, Registered Disability Savings Program, Veterans Disability Pensions and the Opportunities Fund are standalone programs currently with separate application processes.
According to Hardcastle’s staff, these programs have an estimated $6.2 billion in federal expenses in 2016-17.
As the NDP’s critic for persons living with disabilities, Hardcastle said she has been paying attention to an upcoming review the federal government is conducting regarding accessibility legislation.
She said the review is not covering the issue, so she chose to try to address it with her only private members bill of her first term.
“I wanted to bring this kind of one-stop shop that allows individuals to do everything at once at the private level anyway,” she said.
“Because the scope of private members’ bills is fairly constrained, they can’t cost any money, they have to be something practical and I wanted it to have an immediate effect.”
Hardcastle said she has heard about the issue from local constituents as well as activist groups while she is in Ottawa. She said during periods when she is in meetings every day the issue comes up at least three times a week.
The House of Commons has a lottery system to choose the order members will introduce their private bill. Hardcastle had number 74.
Windsor West MP Brian Masse was ahead of Hardcastle in the draw. His bill to allow single-event sports betting was voted down in September.
Essex MP Tracey Ramsey picked 167 in the draw.
Hardcastle’s bill will need to go through two more readings before it becomes law.