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Canada Disability Benefit

April 18, 2024

I join with others in sharing that it is great news to hear that Nancy is doing well. Thank you very much.

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ + ]

Thank you. You are spoiling her.

Senator Gold, last year, the government asked persons with disabilities to trust that the Canada disability benefit would be adequate, accessible and available by 2024. Budget 2024 broke this promise. It’s a benefit of $200 per month reaching, at best, less than half of those with disabilities who live in poverty and starting in 2025. The Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities says this is a starting point. Last night, at the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, the Parliamentary Budget Officer said it amounts to less than half the minimum benefit that his office costed.

People with disabilities — including someone who called today at 7:00 a.m. — are calling our offices since the announcement and saying that it feels like a slap in the face. What is the timeline for increasing the benefit to an adequate amount?

Senator Gold [ + ]

Thank you for your question. Again, the government understands the disappointment that so many have with regard to the timing of the rollout of this program. Nonetheless, the budget commitment is a significant commitment in cementing the benefit so that it is available for generations to come. It’s now a crucial time when the government needs to balance very carefully the need to strengthen our social security net while making sure that government spending is also available and able to help Canadians with the everyday cost of living.

Like all of the progressive measures this government has delivered, this is built to be enhanced and expanded, and the government has, indeed, indicated this in its budget. I understand and am advised that the government hopes this benefit will grow to the level of Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement. However, the focus right now is to get this in people’s pockets. The government does not have a timeline for this increase but is committed to seeing it happen.

As more Canadians struggle to keep a roof over their heads and food on their plates, we cannot leave people behind. Pre-budget, 9 in 10 people supported the Canada disability benefit, but only 1 in 20 trusted the government to implement it. Many are also calling for a guaranteed liveable income.

What concrete steps is the government taking to rebuild trust and deliver on its promises of a guaranteed liveable income for persons with disabilities and to explore a working group with P.E.I. on guaranteed liveable income?

Senator Gold [ + ]

Thank you for your question and for your continued advocacy on this. I understand that the government is reviewing various studies on this matter as well as other research on basic income. This government, I’m advised, is committed to supporting Canadians, and has already lifted close to 2.3 million Canadians out of poverty between 2015 and 2021. This includes 653,000 children.

Hon. Mary Coyle [ + ]

My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate. Senator Gold, those dark clouds, cold rains and biting winds we experienced on our way to the Senate today remind me of the gloom that must be felt by people living with disabilities in Canada who are living in poverty today. Tuesday’s budget announcement of the $200-per-month Canada disability benefit scheduled to flow in June 2025 to 600,000 Canadians is shocking and disappointing, and it is not what was promised. It is, quite frankly, too little, too late and for too few.

Senator Gold, will the government commit to reviewing this benefit as announced and come back with an improved plan that will actually help bring Canadians living with disabilities — those needing that support — out of poverty and into the life of dignity that they were promised and, frankly, deserve?

Senator Gold [ + ]

Thank you for your question. The government will always monitor its programs and will continue to work with those in the disability community to build and enhance this program. However, it is important, colleagues, to understand that the government is already doing a considerable amount to assist in this area. The government’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan already includes about $1.7 billion per year to support persons with severe and prolonged mental and physical impairments through the Disability Tax Credit, and there is ongoing support for the Registered Disability Savings Plan.

The government is not shirking its responsibilities in this area, but it is also calling upon the provinces and territories to do their part within their jurisdictions to assist persons with disabilities. Together, the government is committed to moving forward.

Senator Coyle [ + ]

As I said, it is too little, too late, for too few, Senator Gold. Yes, monitoring is a nice thing to do, but will we see the appropriate adjustment in the fall economic statement of this disability benefit amount — or before that?

Senator Gold [ + ]

I’m not in a position to answer that, but I’ll certainly raise your concerns and questions with the minister.

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