Federal budget abandons people with disabilities

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Four years after announcing the Canada Disability Benefit (CDB), the federal government continues to fail Canadians with disabilities by launching a benefit that will do next to nothing to alleviate poverty.

The CDB was first announced during the Speech from the Throne in September 2020. From the start, the government, including then-Minister Carla Qualtrough, repeatedly promised a program modelled after the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), which costs the treasury around $16 billion per year in support of vulnerable seniors.

“We know how much people get annually on the GIS. We know what people get for CPP disability and we know the provincial disability support amounts. We are trying to bridge that gap between the poverty line and what people get in their various provinces. That’s the ballpark that we’re working with” ~ Minister Carla Qualtrough March 22, 2023.

Instead, the budget proposes for the CDB an investment of no more than $1.4 billion per year, which is less than 10 per cent of the amount previously indicated. And using the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) as a gateway to the CDB creates significant barriers to access. Twenty-two per cent of Canadians identify as living with a disability, but only a small fraction are DTC holders. 

“This benefit is going to give me $200 more per month, which will still leave me living in deep poverty, having to go to meal programs and food banks just to make it through the month.” said Andrea Hatala, member of Defend Disability. “After such a long wait, this amount is the smallest pittance possible,” said Hatala.

People with disabilities are losing faith and patience, and in some cases, their lives. Canadians patiently waited for the framework legislation to pass last year, while the regulatory process for the benefit is still ongoing. Advocates across the country have been calling for the federal government to fully fund the benefit, and this budget falls woefully short in that regard.

Last week’s Angus Reid poll outlined that while 90 per cent of Canadians support the CDB, only 5 per cent were confident the federal government will follow through. Evidently, the majority read the federal government’s lack of commitment accurately. 

“The Canada Disability Benefit as laid out in today’s budget bears little resemblance to the one that was announced in 2020’s Throne Speech. It’s a classic bait and switch that will not ‘bridge that gap.’” said Trevor Manson on behalf of Defend Disability. “It feels like the feds asked themselves, ‘what’s the least we can get away with that will benefit the fewest number of disabled people possible.’” 

Giving the CDB short shrift in this budget means that people with disabilities living in poverty won’t receive any relief anytime soon.

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