Bill C-35 is an act to support the financial security of disabled Canadians by establishing a Canada disability benefit. The act would be an addendum to the Income Tax Act that would provide a livable income supplement for people with disabilities, resembling those currently provided for children and seniors. Mike Morrice, MP for Kitchener-Centre, presented a petition to the House of Commons on Feb. 10 that encouraged fast tracking this disability benefit.
“This is something that Canadians with disabilities across the country have been advocating for for years and years,” Morrice said.
“I spoke with so many people in our community living with disabilities who shared their stories with me, and what it’s like to be living on Ontario Disability Support [for example, having] $497 or so for a shelter allowance,” he said.
The petition was led in collaboration with Disability Without Poverty, an organization that aims to end disability poverty in Canada. Disability Without Poverty is advocating for a disability benefit but also wants to ensure that people with disabilities are involved in the entire process.
“Our leadership team is all people with disabilities. We’re constantly talking to people with disabilities. We used an e-democracy platform to even do our own conversations with people with disabilities and hear what they have to say, through Ethelo,” Rabia Khedr, National Director for Disability without Poverty, said.
“We’ve done general polling, reaching people with and without disabilities to determine what the level of support is for a Canada Disability Benefit and for ending disability poverty,” she said.
More than six million Canadians, 22 per cent of the population, identify as having a disability. At the same time, 40 per cent of Canadians living in poverty have a disability. While 80 per cent of Canadians are employed, that applies to only 59 per cent of disabled Canadians, and Canadians with severe disabilities make approximately 51 per cent less than the average Canadian.
Consultation with Canadians with disabilities would ensure that factors like the higher cost of living with a disability would be acknowledged in the benefit.
Re-introduction of the Canada Disability Act was a campaign promise of the Liberal party before re-election in 2021.
“We’re asking the question ‘where’s the bill?’ through our various strategies of engaging the general public and media and politicians and like-minded people. We have a social media soft-launch campaign starting up, on asking the question ‘where’s the bill?,’ and there will be more exciting activities coming forward, asking this very question in the weeks ahead until this bill is tabled,” Khedr said.
The petition was signed by almost 18,000 Canadians, making it one of the top five most popular petitions this legislative session. A 2021 survey also found that 89 per cent of Canadians support a disability tax benefit.
“Is there pretty much anything else that 89 per cent of Canadians can agree on? I think it’s a pretty powerful statement between both that survey and this petition that they need to move quickly to get this done,” Morrice said.
The governing party had 45 days from Feb. 10 to respond to the petition.
“[This benefit would] bring disability support up to a minimum level for a dignified life for every Canadian with a disability across the country. In so doing, it would lift up to 1.5 million Canadians out of poverty,” Morrice said.
“We are rising through a pandemic, and we’re looking forward to a better tomorrow. And that better tomorrow has to include people with disabilities living in poverty. They must have a livable income,” Khedr said.