Over 40 organizations call for fully funded Canada Disability Benefit

Ottawa pressured to follow through with promises for new benefit in federal budget

Over 40 organizations call for fully funded Canada Disability Benefit

A coalition of over 40 organizations is calling for a fully funded Canada Disability Benefit (CDB) that addresses the needs of Canadians.

This comes after more than 60 Liberal MPs co-signed a letter calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Minister Christia Freeland to fully fund Bill C-22, The Canada Disability Benefit Act in the upcoming federal budget.

And over nine in 10 (91%) of Canadians say they support the proposed CDB, according to a report from the Angus Reid Institute (ARI) and Daily Bread Food Bank.

This is true for a majority of past Conservative voters (83%), and nearly all past Liberal (98%), NDP (99%) and Bloc Québécois (98%) voters.

In November 2023, Ottawa launched the Canada Disability Benefit Regulations Online Engagement Tool, through which Canadians can provide insight and feedback about the regulations for the new benefit.

Are people struggling financially in Canada?

Most Canadians (61%) believe current financial support available to Canadians living with disabilities is inadequate (38%) or far too little (23%), according to the ARI and Daily Bread Food Bank survey of 1,610 Canadian adults, conducted March 26 to 28, 2024.

Currently, three-in-five (60%) Canadians living with a health issue that severely limits their day-to-day activities say they are often (35%) or all the time (25%) stressed about money.

Six in 10 (60%) Canadians say people living paycheque to paycheque is today’s norm, according to a previous report from H&R Block Canada.

"Our country is in a pivotal moment," said Neil Hetherington, CEO, Daily Bread Food Bank. "They can choose to let this bleak reality continue, or they can pivot towards a better future. Canadians have clearly articulated the answer to that question. The Canada Disability Benefit has the potential to be one of Canada's most important programs and could lift nearly one million Canadians out of poverty if fully funded."

What is the Canada Disability Benefit?

Ottawa first introduced the CDB legislation in 2021. Re-introduced in 2022, the legislation for working-age Canadians with disabilities received royal assent on June 22, 2023. 

The benefit would become an important part of Canada’s social safety net, alongside old age security, guaranteed income supplement, and Canada child benefit, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) previously said.

According to the summary of the legislation, within 12 months of the legislation coming into force, the Governor in Council may make regulations across a range of matters relating to the Canada Disability Benefit and the minister must provide persons with disabilities from a range of backgrounds with meaningful and barrier-free opportunities to collaborate in the development and design of these regulations. The possible regulations include:

  • establishing eligibility criteria
  • establishing the benefit amount, including requiring that it be indexed to inflation
  • related to applications, including providing for an application process that is without barriers, as defined in Accessible Canada Act
  • concerning retroactive payments to persons who do not apply in the time specified but meet the eligibility criteria
  • applications, payments and appeals made on behalf of persons who are incapable of managing their own affairs
  • recovery of overpayments and debts
  • establishing offences (for knowingly using false information or making misleading representations, for example, in applying for a benefit) and administrative penalties, such as a fine

However, only 5% of Canadians say they are confident the federal government will follow through, according to the ARI-Daily Bread Food Bank report. About half (45%) doubt it will and 13% say they are certain the benefit will never be distributed.

"The results of this poll are a testament of Canadian values," said Rabia Khedr, national director of Disability Without Poverty. "We are the 27%, and we matter to all Canadians regardless of political affiliations. People with disabilities have so much to offer and an adequate Canada Disability Benefit will go a long way toward unleashing disability with possibility as we learned in our Shape the CDB consultations from over 5,000 people with disabilities and carers."

Essential elements of Canada Disability Benefit

The coalition of over 40 organizations, are calling for a fully funded Canada Disability Benefit that addresses three essential elements:

  1. Bringing eligible recipients to a minimum of the Market Basket Measure (MBM), Canada's Official Poverty Line. As there are increased costs of living with a disability, such as special transportation, dietary needs, and uninsured medical expenses, the benefit should ideally bring recipients to up to 30 per cent above the poverty line. Payments should be monthly, indexed to inflation, and portable throughout Canada.
  2. The benefit must be efficient and seamless for those living with a disability. Canadians with disabilities who receive provincial disability supports should automatically qualify for the benefit, and their existing benefits should not be clawed back.
  3. The benefit must be equitable and barrier-free. It should operate from a broad and inclusive definition of disability – one that encompasses all disabilities, including those that are invisible and episodic. If the benefit limits eligibility through a restrictive definition of disability, this program will fail to achieve its core objective.

Workers with disabilities are struggling to rise in Canadian organizations, according to a prevois report from George Brown College.

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