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Disabling Poverty, Enabling Citizenship - Canada's Federal Parties Have Their Say
September 30, 2015
September 29, 2015
September 15, 2015
For Immediate Release | 13 October 2015
The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), a national organization working for an inclusive and accessible Canada, sought commitments from Canada's major political parties on initiatives focused on disabling poverty and enabling citizenship:
- Poverty alleviation (CCD identified a refundable Disability Tax Credit as a first step.) and increased employment opportunities,
- Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and ratification of its Optional Protocol, and
- Accessibility measures (such as a Canadians with Disabilities Act, enforceable access regulations for transportation and other areas in Federal jurisdiction, improved palliative care and other services, support for capacity building for the disability community).
CCD emphasized the need for measures to particularly address the lived experience of girls and women with disabilities and people with disabilities facing additional barriers, such as First Nations and Aboriginal people with disabilities and racialized people with disabilities. Parties were asked to respond by 1 October 2015.
"Every Federal Election since 1979, CCD has shared the Parties' commitments on our priority issues, so that people with disabilities and their families will be informed voters," states Tony Dolan, CCD Chairperson.
"What CCD heard from the Federal Parties indicates that while all have disability on their radar screen, some more than others view disability through a human rights lens and the human rights approach is what holds the most promise for achieving a Canada that is inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities," states John Rae, CCD Second Vice Chair. The Green, Liberal and NDP Parties' responses to CCD were based upon a human rights analysis while the Conservative and Bloc Quebecois favoured an economic and jurisdictional approach, respectively.
This election CCD prioritized obtaining support for a refundable Disability Tax Credit to provide extra money to off-set the extra costs of disability for people with disabilities on low incomes. Elizabeth May wrote, "Greens will also convert the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) to a refundable credit as a first step in creating a GLI [Guaranteed Livable Income]." The Bloc indicated that it would study making the DTC refundable.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair promised "a national anti-poverty strategy with targets and timelines to reduce and eliminate poverty" and a review of existing income support programs for persons with disabilities "in order to coordinate benefits and increase accessibility." The NDP also made a commitment to accessible childcare, which helps parents meet their family and job responsibilities. Mr. Mulcair promised, "…my plan for affordable childcare, costing parents no more than $15 a day, will be based on principles of accessibility and inclusiveness. All children, including those with disabilities, should have the right to high quality early learning and care." Accessible childcare also benefits parents with disabilities, particularly women with disabilities as women continue to have significant responsibilities for children.
The NDP pledged to reform the appeal process for Canada Pension Plan Disability benefits, promising to make it fairer, more transparent and faster. Mr. Mulcair also indicated that his Party would "expand EI Sickness Benefits from 15 weeks to 45 weeks, while also making them more flexible."
The Green Party made a commitment to enforcing the Employment Equity Act and to discussing a work-sharing program for employees with disabilities and to collaborate with small and medium-sized businesses on the establishment of employer tax credits to support the full employment of persons with disabilities. Ms. May stated, "In 2015, no Canadian should be faced with discrimination or lack of access to employment opportunities or needed support because of their disability. Canada can and must do better for people with disabilities. I look forward to working with CCD to advance the human rights of Canadians with disabilities, and create a more equal society for all."
The Liberal Party Platform promised to "more than double the almost 11,000 Canadians who access Skills Link each year. This program helps young Canadians – including Aboriginal and disabled youth – make a more successful transition to the workplace."
The Hon. Candice Bergen, Minister of State for Social Development, shared with CCD Prime Minister Harper's media release, which announced "an increase in the maximum annual Canada Disability Savings Grant for low and middle-class families from $3,500 to $4,000."
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
For CCD, a Canadians with Disabilities Act (CDA) could be a mechanism for implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which Canada ratified in 2010. In their letters to CCD, the NDP and the Green Party took a stand in support of a CDA. Moreover, the Green, Liberal and NDP committed to implement the CRPD, with the Green and the NDP vowing to ratify the CRPD's Optional Protocol. Elizabeth May elaborated the Green Party's plan for ensuring that people with disabilities enjoy human rights, "A Council of Canadian Governments – representing the provinces, territories, municipalities and indigenous governments – would meet and work closely with advocacy groups and stakeholders to develop a coordinated approach to advance the human rights of Canadians with disabilities."
Another priority for CCD has been the restoration of the Court Challenges Program, a vehicle for promoting equality, inclusion and citizenship. The Bloc, Green, Liberal and NDP support the program's renewal.
Gilles Duceppe reported to CCD that the Bloc would transfer funds to the provinces for infrastructure projects, making the provinces and municipalities responsible for accessibility. The Green, Liberal and NDP parties shared information about how they would improve inclusion and participation for people with disabilities by increasing access to disability-related supports.
The Green Party advanced a national equipment fund to provide disability-related supports to enable participation in work and community life. The Greens promised to expand tax rebates for family caregivers and expand the criteria for the Compassionate Care Benefit, make the Caregivers Amount and the Family Caregiver Amount refundable and the Party supported the recommendations of the Employer Panel for Caregivers to create caregiver-friendly workplaces.
The Liberal Party made a commitment to make caregiving benefits available to any Canadian providing care to a seriously ill family member. Moreover, the Liberal Party Platform has committed to investing $3 billion to improve home care services.
The NDP will invest more than $2.7 billion over 4 years in affordable housing and homelessness programs and "invest up to $1.5 billion annually in funding for accessible public transit."
Mr. Mulcair reported to CCD that the NDP would improve access to palliative care, while also implementing the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in the Carter case (Assisted Suicide). The NDP promised to "consult widely with Canadians with disabilities to ensure that the law contains sufficient safeguards."
CCD asked the Federal Parties to share with Canadians where, if elected, they would expand the Federal Government's leadership role with respect to poverty alleviation, the CRPD and access for persons with disabilities, so that we could make this information known to Canadian voters.
"I encourage everyone to think about these responses before they cast their ballot and to vote for the Party that they believe has the best plans for improving access and inclusion for persons with disabilities, urges Dolan. "Accessibility and inclusion benefit all Canadians."
For more information contact:
Tony Dolan, CCD Chairperson, Tel: 902-626-1752 (cell).
John Rae, CCD Second Vice Chair, Tel: 416-941-1547.
James Hicks, National Coordinator, Tel: 343-291-1118.
About CCD - CCD is a national organization of people with disabilities that works for an accessible and inclusive Canada.
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