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Advocates for Canadians with disabilities say they feel like their needs have not been a priority for the major political parties as campaigns draw to a close.
That could leave just over 1 in 5 Canadians on the outside looking in. There are more than six million Canadians aged 15 and over who say they have a disability, according to Statistics Canada. And the actual numbers could be even higher.
Ask CBC News heard from some of those Canadians and family members of those Canadians. They wanted to know what specifically the major political parties are promising for people with disabilities.
What the parties are promising
It’s worth noting that each party has a number of different platform planks that may not be covered below, many of which would affect all Canadians, including people with disabilities. With this in mind, here’s what each of the parties’ platforms say explicitly about some of the issues important to the disability community.
If re-elected, the Liberals promise to reintroduce a Disability Benefit Act that will create a direct monthly payment for low-income Canadians with disabilities and between the ages of 18 to 64. They say the new benefit will reduce disability poverty, by using the same approach they took with the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the Canada Child Benefit.
The Liberals say in the Disability Statement in their platform that they “have moved to a human rights-based approach to disability inclusion and are moving away from the medical and charity models, to a social model of disability and a focus on poverty reduction.”
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They also point to the fact that during their time in office they have established Accessible Standards Canada, appointed Canada’s first minister responsible for disability inclusion. As well as making investments in disability-specific programs, including the Opportunities Fund, Enabling Accessibility Fund, the Ready, Willing & Able inclusive hiring program and Canada Student Grants for people with disabilities.
A Liberal government also promises a “robust employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities,” focused on support for workers and employers to create “inclusive and welcoming workplaces.”
They also say they are in the process of consulting the disability community to implement a Disability Inclusion Action Plan.
The Conservatives promise to double the Disability Supplement in the Canada Workers Benefit to $1,500, from $713. They are also committing to ensuring that going to work never costs a disabled person money, saying they want to work with the provinces to be sure that programs are designed to “ensure that working always leaves someone further ahead.”
They say in their platform that they will boost the Enabling Accessibility Fund with an additional $80 million per year to provide incentives for small business and community projects to improve accessibility, grants and support for accessibility equipment that disabled Canadians need to work. They say that would be on top of “enhancements to existing programs that will get more disabled Canadians into the workforce.”
The Conservatives want to make it easier to qualify for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) and the Registered Disability Savings Plan. Conservatives say their changes to the DTC will save a qualifying person with disabilities an average of $2,100 per year.
The New Democrats promise to uphold the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and to strengthen the Accessibility Act to empower all federal agencies to make and enforce accessibility standards in a timely manner.
For income security, the NDP says it wants to expand support programs to ensure Canadians living with a disability have a guaranteed livable income, and to work to deliver a new federal disability benefit “immediately.” The party says this benefit would come in at $2,200 per month.
In its platform, the party promises to extend Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits to 50 weeks of coverage, to allow workers with episodic disabilities to access benefits as needed and to expand employment programs to ensure quality job opportunities are available.
On the issue of accessible housing, the NDP says it will create “affordable, accessible housing in communities across the country.”
For people with disabilities, it’s also worth noting the NDP platform includes a publicly funded national pharmacare and dental care program, a national autism strategy and a commitment to restore door-to-door mail delivery.
While there are no specific plans to specifically support people with disabilities laid out in the Bloc Québécois platform, some of its other policies might offer some relief to the community. For example, the Bloc has been vocal about wanting to establish its own standards for long-term care.
People’s Party of Canada
The people’s party of Canada doesn’t have much in their platform that pertains to people with disabilities, but it does offer some promises to veterans with disabilities.
It says it wants to “reinstate the fair disability pension as previously provided for by the Pension Act. The pension will apply retroactively to 2006 and lump sum payments received since then will be treated as advance payments.”
A Green government promises to create a Canada Disabilities Act and to support a national equipment fund to provide accessibility tools to help persons with disabilities.
When it comes to accessible housing, the platform says the party will “invest in adaptable social housing to meet particular needs, with both rental and purchase options.”
The Greens say they are willing to work with the provinces on disability issues as well. They say they will provide federal health transfer payments to provinces and territories directed to rehabilitation for those who have become disabled. They also suggest their equipment fund could be a joint program with provinces, for the sake of “equal access and common standards.”
For income support for Canadians with disabilities, the Green Party wants to institute a guaranteed livable income to lift anyone living with disabilities out of poverty. They are also committed to enforcing the Employment Equity Act, converting the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) to a refundable credit and redesigning the Canada Pension Plan/Disability Benefit to incorporate the DTC definition of disability and permit employment.
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