The proposed Canada Disability Benefit is a big deal.
It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to significantly reduce the poverty experienced by 1.4 million Canadians with disabilities.
89 per cent of Canadians are in favour of a Canada Disability Benefit. In a recent poll, they said it is “the right thing to do” and “It’s time for the country to come together to end disability poverty.”
That is why we are asking every federal party to commit to implementing a Canada Disability Benefit as soon as the election is over.
Disabled activist and former Vancouver politician, Tim Louis agrees. So does March of Dimes Canada and the Ontario Association for Community Living. As does Globe and Mail columnist, André Picard.
All parties should commit to lifting people with disabilities out of poverty.
The Disability Benefit would be added on top of the existing disability supports and assistance currently provided by federal, provincial and territorial governments. It would not claw back or reduce the existing benefits that people with disabilities currently receive.
If implemented, the Canada Disability Benefit will do for disabled people what the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) did for seniors – significantly reduce their poverty.
The Disability Benefit will act much like a guaranteed basic income and bring equity and fairness to the income disabled Canadians receive wherever they live. It will also stimulate the local economy because every dollar received will be spent on necessary goods and services.
Poverty and disability on the national agenda
The good news is that poverty and disability are part of the election conversation. It was a major area of discussion during the all-party debate hosted by the Pan Canadian Disability Coalition.
The Liberals have promised to re-introduce a Disability Benefit Act which will create a direct monthly payment, the Canada Disability Benefit, for low-income Canadians with disabilities ages 18-64.
The Conservatives have indicated they would consider a Disability Benefit after a “review of all federal and provincial disability supports to ensure that work is always rewarded,” as well as a “comprehensive review of the tax system.”
The NDP promises to “expand income security programs to ensure Canadians living with a disability have aguaranteed livable income.” And to work to immediately deliver a new federal disability benefit.
The Green Party of Canada promises a Guaranteed Liveable Income for people with disabilities.
The Bloc Québécois has no specific reference to disability supports in their election platform.
Vote to end disability poverty
The Canada Disability Benefit is an historic promise.
No Canadian government has ever made such a promise. Indeed, no other government in the world has ever declared their commitment to end disability poverty.
It took advocates years to get the issue of disability poverty on the national agenda. If it slips off, who knows how long it will take to get it back on again.
This is an incredible accomplishment – but the work continues.
You can help. Between now and the election:
Review each party’s platform commitment to issues affecting the disability community. Here is a handy summary prepared by Inclusion Canada.
Read Disability Without Poverty’s Five Election Asks.
Let your local candidate know the importance of all-party support for a Canada Disability Benefit.
Reach out to family and friends and tell them about the importance of a Canada Disability Benefit.
Get Out the Vote:Assist people who face accessibility barriers to vote on September 20th.
Vote for the party that you feel will best end disability poverty for all Canadians with disability.
A brief snapshot of poverty and disability in Canada
- 40 per cent of people who are poor in Canada have a disability (1.4 million people).
- They include those who can’t find work or can’t work, as well as people who are under employed, working part-time and earning minimum wage or less.
- Poverty rates are highest for disabled people with mental, psychological, cognitive and developmental disabilities.
- Poverty rates are highest for persons with disabilities who are Indigenous, those who live alone, are single parents or recent immigrants.
For more information, read this interview with Roxanne Ulanicki of Edmonton on the financial crisis people with disabilities continue to experience.
After the Election
The next Canadian government must fulfill the promise of the Canada Disability Benefit, make it a top priority for action and fast track the design so that funds can be available quickly and without years of study.
That means involving disabled people in the design of the benefit. Read our list of 12 critical design principles for the Canada Disability Benefit.
Also read Spencer van Vloten on one of those principles: disabled people should not be prevented from receiving the Disability Benefit if they are married or living with a partner.
Disability Without Poverty is a grassroots initiative led by disabled people. We came into existence to hold governments’ feet to the fire and to make sure the Canada Disability Benefit lives up to its potential.