Disabling Poverty/Enabling Citizenship: income security reforms to advance dignity and inclusion in Canada

Slide One

Disabling Poverty/Enabling Citizenship: income security reforms to advance dignity and inclusion in Canada

Session Presentation at the Congress of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities

United Nations

New York, July 19, 2013

Michael J. Prince  

Slide Two


Demographics of disability and poverty

Canadian disability income programs

Policy context: the national level

Policy context: the provinces

Income reform options

Some strategic issues for disability organizations and other civil society groups

Slide 3

Demographics of Disability

Canadians with disabilities

Are a high share of people on social assistance/safety net programs

Have a great risk of living in or near income poverty

Canada does not have an official measure of poverty at the national level, though some provinces are adopting such measures

Rely on income benefit payment levels that are comparatively low by OECD standards

Experience significant gaps between lived realities and  declared aims of Article 28

Slide Four

Canadian disability income benefit  programs

Separate federal programs for short term sickness and long term disability, with limited interaction between programs

Occupational-related injuries and diseases primarily responsibility of provincial workers’ compensation schemes

Both federal sickness and disability programs are contributory-based social insurance policies with federal administration

No partial benefits are available through Employment Insurance sickness benefit or the Canada Pension Plan-Disability benefit, and limited support for people with partially-reduced work capacity

Vocational rehabilitation services voluntary

Comparatively strict eligibility and access to disability benefits  and modest benefit levels for sickness and disability    

Slide 5

Policy context: national level

Budget 2013 of the Canadian Government announced several disability-related measures:

$2 million investment to support creation of a Canadian Employers Disability Forum

Enabling Accessibility Fund now an ongoing program of $15 million per year as of 2013-14 to improve physical accessibility

Opportunities Fund to be an ongoing program with $40 million per year as of 2015-16 and reformed “to provide more demand-driven training solutions ... and more responsive to labour market needs”

Negotiate a “new generation” of  Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities  of $222 million per year by April 2014 “to better meet the employment needs of businesses and improve the employment prospects for people with disabilities” along with “stronger accountability regimes in place”

Slide 6

Policy context: the provinces

Three general trends of relevance to the CRPD across one or more provincial jurisdictions:

Poverty Reduction Strategies introduced in several provincial jurisdictions over last 10 years, usually with a statutory foundation and a focus on people with disabilities along with several other marginalized groups

Social assistance policy reviews and reforms:

New separate income program for the disabled (SK)

Major increases in benefits (AB, SK)

Incremental changes in most welfare systems (PEI, BC)

Reconsideration of a separate program (ON)

Disability Strategy development exercises (BC, SK) over next few years with engagement processes of some kind

Slide 7

General reform theme

Improve public program coverage against risks of poverty

Specific policy ideas

Extend and make flexible the duration of Employment Insurance Sickness benefits

Introduce a medium-term sickness/disability benefit

General reform theme

Enhance adequacy of benefit payments

Specific policy idea

Introduce a Refundable Disability Tax Credit

Increase Child Disability Benefit

Raise and index Social Assistance

Create a national Basic Income for people with severe disabilities

General reform theme

Strengthen employment and work incentives

Specific policy ideas

Enhance Working Income Tax Benefit

Raise earnings exemptions in Social Assistance

Make partial CPP-Disability benefits

Provincial income supplements

Income reform options

Slide 8

Some strategic issues

Over the next few years, what should be the top priorities on social protection for disability advocates and organizations? Where and how to engage?

What are the next steps forward to tackle the disproportionate poverty and insecurity of people with disabilities?

In regard to Article 28 on the CRPD, what is possible in reform in the longer term to realize an adequate and continuous improvement in standard of living for people with disabilities?

What lessons can we share with other?

Slide 9

Thank you



More is available information at:

“Disabling Poverty and Enabling Citizenship”

Community-University Research Alliance (CURA)