The New Democrats’ motion calling on the federal government to re-offer its proposed disability benefit — which died when the Liberals called the last election — passed unanimously in the House of Commons today.
NDP MP Bonita Zarrillo, the party’s critic for disability inclusion, introduced the motion.
While the motion is not binding, New Democrats said they introduced the motion to put pressure on the governing Liberals to make good on their election promise to reintroduce Bill C-35.
“A Canada Disability Benefit would finally give relief to millions of Canadians who have been struggling and calling on the government to fulfil the promise they made on this additional income support,” Zarrillo said in a media statement.
“The Liberals had seven years to bring measures forward, they promised to do it in the last election, but Canadians living with a disability have been left waiting. There can be no more delay.”
Bill C-35 was introduced in June 2021 and received first reading, but died on the order paper.
During the 2021 federal election that followed, the Liberals said that there were more than one million Canadians with disabilities living in poverty, and promised to address the issue. Zarrillo said inflation is making the situation worse.
“Now, as the cost of food, housing and other essentials are getting more expensive, Canadians are struggling to make ends meet,” she said.
“For Canadians living with disabilities, the situation is even more challenging, since they often have added costs, like medical expenses, specialized equipment and limited accessible, affordable housing.”
Consultations, study ongoing, says minister
The Liberal’s 2021 platform pledged to reintroduce the benefit to help ease the cost of transport, medical procedures and other expenses that add to the financial burden of people living with disabilities.
In the 2021 budget, the Liberals announced $11.9 million over three years to fund consultations on how to reform the eligibility process for federal disability programs and benefits and prepare for the introduction of the legislation.
“This important work is underway, and will directly inform the Canada Disability Benefit,” Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough told in a media statement.
Qualtrough said her government is working with Indigenous organizations, benefit experts and the disability community to craft the benefit.
“The reintroduction of CDB legislation was a platform commitment and is in my mandate letter. It remains a priority for our government,” she said, without providing a specific date for the introduction of the legislation.
Avoiding negative effects
The platform says that once implemented, the disability benefit will deliver “a direct monthly payment … for low-income Canadians with disabilities ages 18-64.”
The bill introduced in the last Parliament did not lay out how much funding individuals would get, or how, but gave the Governor in Council scope to set most of the benefit’s design elements, including: the conditions that must be met to receive it; the monetary value of the benefit; and how it will be indexed to inflation.
It is unclear if these conditions will remain in place when the Liberals reintroduce the legislation.
A legislative summary from the Library of Parliament explains that Bill C-35 was not designed to replace existing federal, provincial or territorial supports for persons with disabilities, but to supplement these programs where they exist.
Qualtrough told in a statement that ensuring the benefit actually works that way when rolled out is part of the consultation process currently underway.
“We are … working with the provinces and territories to ensure that the Canada Disability Benefit will increase the monthly income of Canadians with disabilities living below the poverty line and not negatively impact entitlement to other programs and services,” the minister said.