Confirmation that Despite Trudeau Government Promises, Canada Disability Benefit Will Only Lift Very Few People with Disabilities Out of Poverty

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities Website: https://www.aodaalliance.org
Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Twitter: @aodaalliance
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/aodaalliance

June 28, 2024

SUMMARY

A June 8, 2024 Toronto Star report confirms that contrary to earlier promises by the Trudeau Government, the forthcoming new Canada Disability Benefit will only lift very few people with disabilities out of poverty. In that report, set out below, only about 25,000 impoverished people with disabilities will be lifted out of poverty. Notably, there are approximately 1.6 million people with disabilities who now live in poverty. Thus, 25,000 who will be lifted out of poverty is a tiny drop in the huge poverty bucket.

When Bill C-22 (the Canada Disability Benefit Act) was being debated in Parliament in 2022 and 2023, the AODA Alliance and many other disability advocates pressed for the bill to be strengthened. The Trudeau Government pledged that this bill would lift hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities out of poverty. Yet we and others warned that the bill was so weak that there was no assurance that it would live up to the Government’s hype about it.

We and other allies pressed for amendments to the bill to ensure that the Canada Disability Benefit would be large enough to lift people with disabilities out of poverty. The Trudeau Government was not agreeable to those amendments. The Minister then responsible for this bill, Carla Qualtrough, and the Government’s sponsor of this bill in the Senate, Senator Brent Cotter, said that people with disabilities should trust the Government.

Some disability charities actively opposed the bill being amended in the House of Commons and the Senate to strengthen it. They believed that the Government would “co-create” the regulations with the disability community that would set the specifics, such as the amount of the Canada Disability Benefit and who is eligible to receive it.

We and several other disability advocates believed it was far too risky to trust the Government any present or future government on issues like this. We argued that people with disabilities deserved rights, not charity. As written, Bill C-22 is a charity bill, not a rights bill.

Since then, the $200 per month for the Canada Disability Benefit that the Trudeau Government has announced is grossly inadequate to lift most impoverished people with disabilities above Canada’s official poverty line. Those who opposed the bill being strengthened are now leading the call for the Government to raise the Canada Disability Benefit above the paltry $200 per month maximum that the Trudeau Government has announced. It is important for one and all to draw from this experience the importance of supporting and not opposing efforts at strengthening important disability-related laws like the Canada Disability Benefit.

How You Can Help

The time is extremely ripe to pressure the Trudeau Government to increase the Canada Disability Benefit and to amend Bill C-22 to strengthen it so that it lives up to the Government’s promises and lofty rhetoric. After the Federal Liberals recently lost a Toronto by-election this week, they are scrambling to increase their popularity.

The time is also extremely ripe to press the opposition parties, the Tories, NDP and Bloc Quebecois to commit to raise the Canada Disability Benefit and to strengthen Bill C-22. It is not good enough for them to simply blast the Trudeau Government on this issue.

Moreover, the Federal Government has just launched an 86-day public online consultation on its proposed new regulations to implement the Canada Disability Benefit. Everyone can give their written feedback. At first blush, this looks like a garden variety normal public consultation process. It is not a process where the Government “co-creates” the regulations with disability community, as some had hoped.

We encourage you to:

* Give your feedback to the Federal Government’s online public consultation on the regulations it proposes to enact to implement the Canada Disability Benefit. Tell the Government that $200 per month is far too low.

* Write your Member of Parliament and the federal party leaders. Call on them to commit now to raise the Canada Disability Benefit so that it truly lifts impoverished people with disabilities out of poverty. Urge them to commit to amend Bill C-22 so that the Canada Disability Benefit is legally guaranteed in the future to lift impoverished people with disabilities out of poverty. Ask them to specify what dollar amount they’d approve for the Canada Disability Benefit if they are elected.

* Send letters to the editor to your local media on this issue.

* Raise this issue with friends and family.

To learn more about this issue, check out:

* AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s May 24, 2024 guest column on the Canada Disability Benefit in the Toronto Star’s Metroland online newspapers around Ontario.

* AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s April 27, 2023 testimony at Canada’s Senate Standing Committee calling for Bill C-22 to be strengthened through amendments.

* The AODA Alliance’s advocacy efforts on Bill C-22 over the past two years, which are all documented on the AODA Alliance website’s Bill C-22 page.

MORE DETAILS

Toronto Star June 8, 2024

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/politics/federal/trudeau-governments-new-benefit-for-canadians-with-disabilities-will-lift-just-a-fraction-out-of/article_b964a782-24d4-11ef-9b56-ab1cd5d6f3e3.html

Disabled benefit will lift very few out of poverty
Government data shows it will help 4% of 600,000 eligible to apply

Mark Ramzy Toronto Star
OTTAWA – It was supposed to drastically reduce poverty rates among Canadians with disabilities. But only a fraction will be lifted out of poverty.

Just 25,000 working-age people with disabilities will escape poverty as a result of the Canada Disability Benefit, about four per cent of those eligible at the height of its rollout at least three years from now, newly released government data shows. An additional 15,000 family members will also be lifted out of poverty.

Minister for Persons with Disabilities Kamal Khera shared the data in a letter to the House of Commons human resources committee this week, after repeatedly avoiding revealing the figure when asked by media and opposition MPs.

The findings come as frustrated advocates have railed against the federal government’s funding of the disability benefit, arguing it was too little, covers too few people, and has too many obstacles to qualify for it.

“The numbers confirm what we knew to be true,” said Green MP Mike Morrice, who had requested the information. “The proposed Canada Disability Benefit is going to lift almost no one out of poverty, and the proposal they’ve put forward includes nothing of what the disability community was actually calling for.”

According to StatCan, there are 911,000 Canadians between the ages 15 and 64 with disabilities living in poverty, though the disability benefit will cover ages 18 to 64, and the government expects around 600,000 people to be eligible after the first few years.

The government uses the market basket measure, which employs a “specified basket of goods and services representing a modest basic standard of living,” to define the official poverty line by region and population.

For a single person living in Ontario, the average is $27,097.

The Trudeau government has earmarked $6.1 billion over six years and $1.4 billion annually after that towards the $200 per month benefit, which will roll out in July 2025.

But the newly released information is once again raising questions about whether the government listened to the disability community after touting its collaborative approach.

Khera’s office revealed in the letter she had not yet met with four of 13 provincial and territorial ministers to discuss the benefit, including her Ontario counterpart, despite suggesting the threat of provincial clawbacks were the biggest barrier to increasing the benefit.

“I’m surprised it’s actually gonna lift anybody out. I’m outraged,” said Amanda Mackenzie, the national director for external affairs at March of Dimes. “If you’re a Liberal minister and you can get a meeting with Premier Danielle Smith’s minister, why can’t you get a meeting with (Ontario’s minister)?”

Asked about the letter at a news conference in Brampton on Friday, Khera defended the benefit as the “single largest line item” in the budget that will support “some of the most vulnerable, poorest individuals with disabilities in this country.”

“One of my biggest priorities right now is to make sure that we work alongside provinces and territories to ensure that there are no clawbacks to the benefits that we have put forward,” she said.

In 2022, prior to Khera being shifted to her current role, Employment and Social Development Canada acknowledged the disability community wanted a benefit that would reach $2,200 per month when combined with provincial supports, according to data obtained by the Star through an Access to Information request. While provincial supports vary, the benefit amount falls far short of what the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated was necessary to address that gap.

In an interview with the Star last month, Khera would only say the benefit would “close the gap” and the current funding for the benefit is just a first step intended to be built upon.