Delta MP Carla Qualtrough introduced legislation Tuesday (June 22) to create a new benefit aimed at reducing poverty among low-income working-age Canadians with disabilities by providing them with direct financial support.
The new Canada Disability Benefit would supplement, not replace, existing federal and provincial/territorial supports, with the goal of lifting hundreds of thousands of persons with disabilities out of poverty.
According to the 2017 Canadian Survey of Disabilities, 21 per cent of working-age Canadians with disabilities — nearly 850,000 people — live in poverty, with women, members of the LGBTQ2 community, racialized Canadians and Indigenous people with disabilities more likely to be financially insecure.
Further, persons with severe and very severe disabilities experience a high rate of poverty nearly three times that of persons without disabilities (26 and 31 per cent, respectively, compared to 11 per cent).
It’s a situation Qualtrough says has been made even worse by the impacts of COVID-19.
“When the pandemic struck, Canadians with disabilities were hit hard. Many experienced job loss and financial pressures, which increased existing financial insecurity and hardship. By proposing to create the new Canada Disability Benefit, the Government of Canada is responding to the unique and vital needs of persons with disabilities,” Qualtrough, who serves as minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion, said in a press release.
“This supplementary income benefit would help people to rebound and to fully participate in all aspects of our society and economy. It would address the long-standing financial hardships experienced by persons with disabilities predating the pandemic, and would be an investment in the realization of a fully inclusive society. Canadians with disabilities continue to be at the centre of our country’s inclusive recovery.”
The new Canada Disability Benefit is to be the cornerstone of the federal government’s first-ever Disability Inclusion Action Plan, a commitment made as part of last year’s Speech from the Throne. In additional to the benefit, the plan will include a “robust” employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities, as well as a “better process to determine eligibility for federal disability programs and benefits,” according to Tuesday’s press release.
The government plans to build on the proposed legislation by engaging with stakeholders and persons with disabilities on the design of the benefit leading up to the development of regulations.
On June 4, the government launched a public engagement survey on the Disability Inclusion Action Plan . The survey closes on Aug. 31, however engagement activities are slated to continue through the summer and fall.
Noting the legislation recognizes the leading role that provinces and territories play in providing supports and services to Canadians with disabilities and the importance of engaging with them in developing income and other supports, Qualtrough will meet with her provincial and territorial counterparts this summer for an initial discussion on the proposed new benefit.
The federal government currently supports Canadians with disabilities — largely seniors and children — through direct targeted, statutory income programs and tax measures. It also awards grants and contributions through third-party disability organizations.