Canadians with disabilities and their families live with disproportionate levels of poverty and exclusion. To better understand the underlying factors, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) and the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) commissioned the Caledon Institute of Social Policy to study the situation and propose solutions. It concluded that:
Canadians with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty than other Canadians. Poverty is a result of both exclusion and lack of supports, and it contributes to further exclusion and vulnerability in a ‘vicious cycle’.
Children with disabilities are twice as likely as other children to live in households that rely on social assistance as a main source of income.
Poverty rates of Canadians with disabilities result in large part from the lack of needed disability supports, which enable access to education, training, employment, and community participation.
Canadians with disabilities are too often exiled to inadequate, stigmatizing, and ineffective systems of income support that were never designed to address the real income needs of Canadians with disabilities.
The federal government has a key role to play in addressing the poverty and income security needs of Canadians – they have done this through Employment Insurance, CPP/QPP, Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement, the National Child Benefit, and Child Disability Benefit, and various tax measures.
The Caledon Institute proposes that the federal government invest in a new initiative, which they have called the Basic Income Program, to best provide the support that Canadians with disabilities desperately need. This program is a floor for the access to resources for people with disabilities; it is not a ceiling. With additional programs to break down barriers, people with disabilities have every right to be full, equal partners in Canadian society.
The Green Party of Canada believes it is time to treat Canadians with disabilities with dignity. We endorse the Basic Income Program proposed by the Caledon Institute, which asserts that, when all factors are taken into account, the program will actually save the government money. We urge the adoption of this income security program for people with disabilities as soon as possible as an interim measure until a full poverty eradication federal-provincial program is established to provide for income security for all Canadians.
Green Party MPs will:
Work to create a Canada Disabilities Act (CDA) to express Canadians’ vision of a more equitable society rather than the current confusion resulting from the multiplicity of acts, standards, policies, and programs that prevail;
Support a national equipment fund to provide equipment such as wheelchairs and accessibility tools to assist persons with disabilities with the tools needed to fully participate in work and community life (This can be a joint program with provinces – the concern is equal access and common standards.);
Invest in social housing adapted as necessary to meet particular needs, with both rental and purchase options. This is simply an expansion of our housing program recognizing particular needs;
Provide federal health transfer payments to provinces and territories directed to rehabilitation for those who have become disabled, e.g. loss of limbs etc.;
Enforce the Employment Equity Act to ensure that persons with disabilities have equal opportunity to long-term employment and advancement. Disabled people are generally the last to find employment and the first to be laid off;
Institute a basic income for people living with disabilities so that none live in poverty by:
Converting the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) to a refundable credit as a first step in creating a national Basic Income program for working-age adults with disabilities;
Redesigning the Canada Pension Plan/Disability Benefit (CPP/D) test to incorporate the DTC definition of disability and permit employment, rather than the CPP/D definition that requires a ‘severe’ disability to be life-long and to be the cause of any incapacity to pursue ‘any gainful occupation.’ The revised definition allows individuals to work while retaining eligibility for basic income.