Tony Dolan's Speaking Notes for an October 2012 Presentation to Finance Committee

CCD’s goal is to build a more Inclusive and Accessible Canada and to ensure that Canadians with disabilities have the same access to the goods and services of our great country as do non-disabled people.

Over the years much progress has been made. Together, we have removed barriers to transportation systems, created more accessible elections, developed inclusive education programs and removed barriers to the employment of persons with disabilities.  We have created new service delivery models that empower people with disabilities and we have continually sought incremental ways of improving the lives of Canadians with disabilities.  To be blunt, these improvements came about because people with disabilities, their families and their organizations spoke out about the barriers they face and we spoke out about our rights and responsibilities as citizens of Canada.  The catalyst for change has been and will remain the voice of Canadians with disabilities.  That voice must continue to be supported for it has been and is the catalyst for making our communities more inclusive and accessible.

Sadly, 18 National Disability Organizations have been informed by Minister Finley that the grants provided to them through the Social Development Partnership Program – Disability Component will be reduced by 35% in 2013/14 and by 65% in 2014/15.  In April of 2015 these organizations including CCD will no long receive grant funding.  The Learning Disabilities Association of Canada has already announced that they will close their doors at the end of March 2013.  The SDPP-D program will remain with $11 million for project funding, however, the project application process will be an open competitive process.  Any non-profit charitable organization, local, provincial or national, including universities, who wish to undertake a disability project will be eligible to apply.  CCD believes that this approach will significantly undermine the capacity of national disability organizations and silence the voice of people with disabilities.  CCD has asked Minister Finley to reconsider her decision and protect some funds for national disability organizations in an open competitive process.  CCD believes that the voice of persons with disabilities must be supported and that it makes good business sense to engage people with disabilities, their families and their organizations in public policy dialogues that are of concern to them.  CCD will be meeting with Minister Finley in the near future to discuss our concern. 

The Government of Canada has a substantive role in supporting Canadians with disabilities to identify barriers and assist in identifying ways of removing those barriers.  Much has been done but much remains to be done.

Canadians with disabilities for the most part are poor, excluded from the labour force and face new barriers every day.

What is needed are:

  • New initiatives to address poverty, including improving the Registered Disability Savings Plan and Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit.  –Issues to be addressed in this area include removing barriers for those with intellectual disability wishing to open RSDP Plans, expanding the Disability Tax Credit Definition and making the CPPD benefit non-taxable.
  • New initiatives to improve employment access, including specific targets for the employment of persons with disabilities  in Labour Market Agreements with the provinces and expanding EI Sick Benefit.
  • New initiatives to improve access, including the regulation of new information technologies to ensure access, and the creation of a Centre of Excellence that would provide best practice information to employers, businesses, etc. on innovative universal design options.

CCD had hoped that the Government of Canada’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in March 2010 would trigger creation of a new national strategy to improve the lives of Canadians with disabilities.  Sadly that has not been the case.  While some new initiatives have come about such as the RDSP and the recent expansion of the Opportunities Fund these on their own are not sufficient to ensure the full and equal participation of Canadians with disabilities in Canadian society.

Thank you for your interest and we hope you will all become champions of making Canada more inclusive and accessible.