Pre Budget Consultation Brief Submission

From the Council of Canadians with Disabilities to the
Standing Committee on Finance

August 2009

Support The Vulnerable

In these challenging times, CCD urges the Government of Canada to remember those who already face significant disadvantage. Canadians with disabilities struggle when times are good to have their needs met. When times are bad, sadly we are often the first to feel the effects of cutbacks in services and supports or loss of employment.

Support the Non-Profit Sector

Equally true is the fact that the voluntary sector will be called upon during an economic downturn to support and create community services that assist those who have lost jobs or find themselves less able to cope. Canada’s voluntary sector provides everything from food banks and counseling to training, individual supports and shelter. A robust voluntary sector is critical in maintaining the social safety net of this country. During hard times volunteers and their associations play a critical role in addressing the difficulties encountered by many. The Government of Canada must enable volunteers and voluntary associations to continue to make the strong and effective contributions that only they can provide. The Government of Canada should develop a national strategy to support voluntary associations that provide service to Canadians and must need advice to government for the development of the most appropriate and effective programs.

Priorities of Canadians with Disabilities

The broad priorities of Canadians with disabilities include:
• new investments in disability-related supports
• initiatives to alleviate poverty
• initiatives to create employment including those most marginalized
• investments to remove barriers to full and equal participation in the community.

Specific Recommendations

CCD is well aware that federal jurisdiction has its limitations and that responsibility for many of our issues rests with the provinces and territories. CCD calls on the Government of Canada to work collaboratively with the provinces and territories on labour market strategies and broad social policy initiatives. Wherever possible, CCD asks the Government of Canada to use its legislative powers to ensure that persons with disabilities are included fully in Canadian programs and services. CCD asks that you consider the following recommendations as you develop a budget to help Canadians with and without disabilities deal with the economic downturn and the long-standing barriers to full participation in Canadian society of persons with disabilities.

We recommend that:

1. In all infrastructure investments a commitment to full accessibility be made and enforced. The Enabling Accessibility Fund created in Budget 2007 is making a modest difference in access for persons with disabilities across this country. The much larger new infrastructure initiatives across this country could make a significant long-term contribution by removing barriers to transportation systems, new communication/information technologies, and community spaces. Additionally a national initiative worthy of consideration would be the creation of a Universal Design Institute that could share best practices in removing barriers and creating access across the country. This Institute would be a significant resource for employers, governments and civil society.

2. Market forces have not responded to ensure access for persons with disabilities. In fact new barriers are being created. The Government of Canada must regulate access to transportation and to communication technologies. Canadians with disabilities can make significant contributions to our society but they cannot do so if new barriers to participation continue to be created. We call upon the Government of Canada to remind industry about the importance of full inclusion of people with disabilities. Governments should implement a procurement policy that insists that all goods and services purchased, particularly information technology, be fully accessible.

3. New initiatives to train people for new industries be created, including a targeted representation and allocation for persons with disabilities within Labour Market Agreements. Labour Market Agreements negotiated with provinces should include specific designated allocations and targets for persons with disabilities.

4. The lowest income tax rate be reduced.

5. The Disability Tax Credit (DTC) be made refundable for Canadians with disabilities who do not have a taxable income. At present many Canadians with disabilities who would be eligible for the DTC have no benefit from it because they do not have a taxable income. Many within the disability community live on incomes of less than $10,000 per year.

6. The Opportunities Fund and the Multi-Lateral Framework Agreement for the Employment of Persons with Disabilities be extended for three years. Minister Finley is extending the Social Development Partnerships Program for three years. CCD applauds this initiative and asks for similar treatment of the other two programs. These two programs are the only remaining mechanisms for the federal government to address directly the employment needs of persons with disabilities. They remain the best tools to reach out to the more marginalized and assist those who wish to be in the labour force.

7. The Government of Canada must find ways of addressing the disproportionate poverty experienced by Canadians with disabilities. Making the DTC refundable as stated in recommendation #5 is a first step but the Government should establish a Working Group to study and bring forward recommendations for addressing the poverty of Canadians with disabilities. The Registered Disability Savings Plan created in budget 2007 is a positive initiative but its impact will not be felt for a least 10 years.

8. The Government of Canada should increase the labour market participation of persons with disabilities in the federal civil service by 1% over the next two years.

9. The Government of Canada create a new Canada Pension Plan Disability initiative to encourage attachment to the labour force. Additionally CPPD and DTC definitions should be harmonized. Eligibility for CPPD should mean automatic eligibility for the DTC.

10. The allowance for the Child Disability Tax Benefit should be increased.

Together we can build a more Inclusive and Accessible Canada. CCD urges you to once again ensure that those who may be least able to weather an economic downturn are remembered. Canadians with disabilities have always looked to the federal government to provide leadership on disability issues and we continue to do so.

Marie White, National Chairperson
Council of Canadians with Disabilities