In the September 2020 Throne Speech, the federal government in Ottawa promised to establish a monthly Canada Disability Benefit. They reinforced their promise in Minister Carla Qualtrough’s mandate letter and in the May 2021 federal Budget.

The government’s promise did not have many details. They said it would be modelled after the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) for seniors, which is stacked on top of Old Age Security (OAS).

That means that the Canada Disability Benefit would be stacked on top of the existing benefits people with disabilities currently receive. For example, it would be in addition to provincial and territorial income assistance, CPP – Disability, Veteran’s Disability Benefits, Worker’s Compensation, EI-Sickness, private insurance and other disability support programs.

A couple at a march in Toronto. | DwP

There are many questions to be answered before the Canada Disability Benefit becomes a reality.

Three important ones are:

  1. What will be the amount of the monthly benefit?
  2. Who will be eligible?
  3. How can we prevent clawback of existing benefits that disabled people currently receive?

In order to answer these questions and to get a better understanding of how the Canada Disability Benefit might work,we consulted with economists and inclusive design experts.

We worked out some basic principles to guide our work:

  1. Include people with disabilities in the design of the Canada Disability Benefit.
  2. Create a disability income support system based on the principles of equity and autonomy.
  3. Acknowledge the extra costs associated with disability.
  4. Raise the income of Canadians with disabilities above the poverty line.
  5. Make sure everyone currently receiving disability benefits (at the federal, provincial and territorial level and from private insurers) is automatically eligible for the Canada Disability Benefit.
  6. Create a separate application for those not currently receiving any type of disability benefit.
  7. Make eligibility simpler and consistent across the country.
  8. Include a generous earnings exemption.
  9. Index the Canada Disability Benefit to the disability cost of living.
  10. The Canada Disability Benefit administration and application process must not be managed by CRA.
  11. No clawback. Maintaining existing health benefits, transportation allowances, adaptive equipment, employment supports and other in-kind benefits available from provincial and territorial governments.
  12. Establish CDB as an individual income-based benefit – not family based benefit. This would prevent people from being disqualified from the CDB or having their benefits clawed back if they are in a relationship.

readings on
poverty & disability

2021 | Canada Disability Benefit Design Recommendations

Our friends at Inclusion Canada have developed an overview of the Canada Disability Benefit along with Design Recommendations. We appreciate their advocacy to secure a Canada Disability Benefit and the important points they raise.

2020 | Second Annual Report of the Disability Advisory Committee

In November 2017, the Minister of National Revenue, the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, announced the creation of the Disability Advisory Committee to provide advice to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on interpreting and administering tax measures for persons with disabilities in a fair, transparent and accessible manner. This is their second annual report.

Covering All the Basics: Reforms for a More Just Society

In July 2018, the government appointed an expert panel to study basic income in British Columbia. After two years of research, the expert panel has produced a comprehensive report making 65 recommendations to improve B.C.’s social safety net and recommended against implementing a basic income or conducting a basic income pilot. Beginning on page 399, this report describes a set of proposed policy reforms to improve the current system’s support to people with disabilities.

Breaking Down Barriers: A Critical Analysis of the DTC and the RDSP

On 14 December 2017, the Senate adopted an order of reference authorizing the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (the committee) to examine and report on issues relating to social affairs, science and technology generally. Under this order the committee embarked upon a study of the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) and the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP). This is their summary report.

Building understanding: The first report of the National Advisory Council on Poverty

In August 2018, the Government of Canada announced Opportunity for All – Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy. The Strategy included a commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goal’s target of reducing poverty by 20% by 2020 and 50% by 2030. Opportunity for All included the adoption of the Market Basket Measure (MBM) as Canada’s Official Poverty Line and the creation of the National Advisory Council on Poverty (Council) to report on progress made toward the poverty reduction targets. This is the first report of the National Advisory Council on Poverty.

Primer on a New Disability Income Benefit

The 2020 Throne Speech announced the federal government’s plan to introduce a new disability income benefit modelled on the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) for seniors. The primer scans the income support landscape in Canada, and explores where and how the disability benefit might fit. It asks a series of questions about eligibility, benefit levels, administration and relationship to other income benefits. It provides a vocabulary for policy discussions with family, friends, neighbours, policy makers, elected representatives, and the media about this landmark commitment.

New Decade, New Deal: Alternative Federal Budget 2020

The Alternative Federal Budget, now in its 25th year, is a unique Canadian collaboration rooted in social justice values (like human dignity, freedom, fairness, equality, solidarity, environmental sustainability and the public good); and a strong belief in the power of participatory democracy.
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