New legislation will provide a federal income supplement for working-age Canadians with disabilities
Disability advocates finally got their wish after federal government passed the Canadian Disability Benefit Act Bill C-22 just before the House of Commons prepared to adjourn for the summer.
Despite garnering support from all major political parties, the bill, aimed at reducing poverty and ensuring financial security for people with disabilities, had remained relatively unnoticed within Parliament for the past two years.
The bill was initially tabled in 2021 and introduced in June 2022, undergoing several amendments before reaching the Senate for consideration.
The Bill will establish the first federal income supplement specifically for working-age Canadians with disabilities. This supplement will complement existing provincial and territorial benefits and provide a tax-free monthly payment to low-income individuals with disabilities under the age of 65.
In an interview with the Edmonton Journal, Don Slater, an advocate for the Edmonton disability community who himself lives with a disability, emphasized the bill will lift many disabled individuals above the poverty line, a threshold that currently eludes them.
“This would allow a disabled person to achieve a state of wellbeing because they’re no longer trading off one commodity for another,” said Slater.
Currently, the bill is under review in the Senate, where a series of amendments are being examined. One rejected amendment sought to prevent controversial clawbacks of benefits from insurance providers, which were deemed unconstitutional. Slater and other community members asserted that eliminating clawbacks is crucial for ensuring that those in need receive the financial assistance they require.
Jason Nixon, Minister of Alberta Seniors, Community and Social Services, expressed the province's support. However, he emphasized the need for detailed discussions with the federal government to determine the potential impacts on Albertans and provincial programs and services.
“Alberta is calling for the federal government to come to the table with all provinces and territories on the details of this program,” Nixon told the Edmonton Journal.
With time running short before the House of Commons adjourns, concerns were mounting among advocates like Zachary Weeks, a board member of the Voice of Albertans with Disability in Edmonton. Weeks feared that without the bill's passage, individuals with disabilities will continue to fall through the cracks, sinking further below the poverty line.
“It’s very difficult (for members of the community),” Weeks told the Edmonton Journal.
“They’re living hand to mouth. Across the country, groceries and bills have gone up and yet the amount that they are given to live on is not going up. The gap is widening.”
After Friday, the House of Commons will adjourn and is not scheduled to reconvene until September 18.