Canadian Disability Programs

I have been watching how the disability benefit programs are developing for both the province of Ontario and the federal government. Patience remains the watch word for Ontario residents with disabilities as the federal senate debates a new Disability Benefit that would add federal dollars on top of provincial support allowances and other income sources (CPP, veteran’s pensions, private insurance, etc.).

The Liberals’ 2020 Throne Speech promised fast action on the benefit and – in terms of parliamentary speed – they delivered. The bill unanimously passed third reading in early February and went immediately to the Senate. But senators have slowed the pace as they ponder how many of the bill’s original cracks need filling.

Disability Without Poverty (DWP) is urging the senators to “move to Royal Assent with all haste” to prove that the government values the lives of Canadians with disabilities. The group points to the fact that 28% of working-aged Canadians with severe disabilities live in poverty (compared to 10% of people with no disability.) It wants the benefit paid without any claw backs but is willing to let the federal government work out those details once the framework of the benefit has been safely established. (An earlier bill died when the Liberals called an election in 2021.)

According to the Globe & Mail, some senators want to fully study the implications of Bill C-22 in relation to existing programs. Senator Kim Pate worries that without more clarity, recipients may lose their benefit income to private insurance companies and the provinces.

Meanwhile last fall, Ontario reduced its claw backs on income earned by residents receiving monthly disability support program assistance. After raising monthly rates by 5% to $1,328, the province announced it would allow recipients to keep up to $1,000 of earned income before cutting benefits. (A year ago, a wage earner would have only kept $600 of their $1,000 pay cheque.)

Community Living Ontario produced a chart to show the new policy’s effect on support payments, pointing out that recipients earning less than an additional $500 a month remain below the poverty line. The organization noted that the government was pegging ODSP and Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities (ACSD) payments to the rate of inflation early this summer. 

ABLE2 supports both government’s effort to put this framework in place and to bring measures forward that give a basic income to people with disabilities. We will continue to watch the progress of Bill C-22 and encourage the Senate to act quickly in completing their review. People with disabilities are struggling everyday to make ends meet — asking them to wait a little longer does not recognize their true value to our community and society as a whole.

Published by

Heather Lacey

Experienced Non-Profit Executive DirectorPublished

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