(Ottawa, ON, December 14, 2022) – After more than a year of advocating for the federal government to fast-track the Canada Disability Benefit, Kitchener Centre MP Mike Morrice secured support for five of his amendments to a bill that will provide a guaranteed income for Canadians with disabilities.
“Every amendment I proposed came directly from disability advocates in Kitchener and across the country,” said MP Morrice. “I’m thrilled so many of them were supported and will now be included as part of much stronger legislation.”
Among the amendments Morrice proposed, the committee accepted:
- To include a definition for the term ‘disability’ to ensure consistent and equitable access and eligibility, with unanimous support
- A requirement for the federal government to make public the agreements they sign with the provinces and territories (opposed by the Liberals but narrowly passed 6-5)
- Direction for those who write the regulations to require the benefit to be indexed to inflation, which passed with unanimous support
- For the benefit to be barrier-free, meaning recipients shouldn't have to complete a cumbersome application to be eligible and could include a potential recipient being automatically enrolled when completing their taxes.
- For people with disabilities to have meaningful and barrier-free opportunities to give input into regulations as they’re developed
These five amendments from Morrice made up more than half the nine that passed, part of a collaborative process of strengthening the bill.
Not all amendments Morrice proposed were supported by committee members. He had also hoped to see the adoption of an amendment that would have removed the working age caveat so that seniors with disabilities would be able to access the benefit.
“Almost 10% of seniors with severe disabilities are living in poverty. Poverty doesn’t magically end for Canadians with disabilities when they turn 65, and neither should the Canada Disability Benefit,” said Morrice.
The Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills, and Social Development went through individual amendments starting on December 7th after Bill C-22 passed second reading in the House of Commons last month. They finished going through amendments on December 13, a date moved up after Morrice and others advocated for a speedier timeline.
“The Liberals first promised the Canada Disability Benefit in 2020. We can’t ask people to wait any longer for this lifechanging support that could end legislated poverty for hundreds of thousands of people,” said Morrice. “There was no reason to stretch the amendment process out and leave it dangling over the holidays. Poverty doesn’t take a break.”
Morrice has been working alongside organizations like Disability Without Poverty for the past year, sponsoring a petition that attracted almost 18,000 signatures and hosting a Parliamentary reception in Ottawa to answer questions from other MPs and Senators about the impact this bill could have.
“Although we wanted to see this bill passed into law in 2022, we are pleased that our parliamentary process is resulting in a strengthened bill and that we have strong voices pushing for an expeditious process like that of MP Mike Morrice,” said Rabia Khedr, National Director of Disability Without Poverty. “We appreciate his allyship with the disability community."
Al Mills, who runs an organization serving hundreds of children in Morrice’s riding and thousands in Waterloo Region, submitted a formal written brief advocating for several of the improvements Morrice was able to secure.
“This game-changing legislation will say to Canadians with disabilities that their lives matter to our government and to our country. The Canada Disability Benefit will raise people out of poverty, giving them an opportunity to contribute economically to their family and their community,” said Mills, Executive Director of Extend-a-Family Waterloo Region. “We desperately need this legislation to pass and to be implemented as soon as possible, giving hope of a brighter future to people with disabilities in communities across our country. Thank you, MP Mike Morrice, for your contributions to improvements to C-22 and to moving this forward."
From here, the Canada Disability Benefit Act will go back to the House for debate and votes at report stage and third reading, and then on to the Senate.
“While I’m thrilled to see the Canada Disability Benefit improved at committee, nothing changes today for Canadians with disabilities disproportionally living in poverty across the country,” said Morrice. “While we advocate for this critical legislation, we must also advocate for the Liberals to fund this benefit.”
Morrice is calling for the governing party to include funds for the Canada Disability Benefit in budget 2023.