New Guest Column in the Toronto Star’s Metroland Newspapers Shows Why the House of Commons Should Immediately Vote to Ratify All the Senate’s Amendments to Bill C-22, the Canada Disability Benefit Act

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities Website:
Twitter: @aodaalliance

May 29, 2023

The Toronto Star’s Metroland newspapers have published a guest column in its Metroland newspapers. This column, as it appears in Metroland’s Barrie Advance, is set out below.

AODA Alliance Chair, David Lepofsky, shows why it is so important for the House of Commons to immediately ratify all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-22, the proposed Canada Disability Benefit Act. The Trudeau Liberals have promised that no persons with disabilities should ever live in poverty and proposed the Canada Disability Benefit as a way to achieve this.

We encourage you to:

* Publicize this guest column widely. Post it on social media. Send it to friends.

* Send this guest column to your Member of Parliament. Urge them to promise to vote to ratify the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-22 so it can finish its journey through Parliament. Tell them we need real action during National AccessAbility Week. You can find all the email addresses and Twitter handles for members of Parliament in the May 27, 2023 AODA Alliance update.

For more on this, check out:

* The May 29, 2023 open letter to the House of Commons from 37 community organizations and groups, calling for immediate ratification of the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-22. * The AODA Alliance website’s Bill C-22 page.

May 29, 2023 Guest Column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky in the Toronto Star’s Metroland Newspapers

Metroland Newspapers May 29, 2023

Originally posted at OPINION

Honour AccessAbility Week with action on Canada’s Disability Benefit Act, advocate says
Amendments ensure Bill C-22 comes into force within one year, writes David Lepofsky By David Lepofsky Barrie Advance

Monday, May 29, 2023

David Lepofsky is a retired lawyer who chairs the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

Hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities in Canada now languish in chronic poverty. They desperately need the House of Commons to immediately vote to ratify a short list of wise amendments that the Senate passed to Bill C-22, the proposed Canada Disability Benefit Act. Trudeau’s Liberals pledged that no people with disabilities in Canada should ever live in poverty. They say this bill tackles this by creating a new social benefit, the Canada Disability Benefit (CDB).

Admirably fulfilling its mandate to give legislation sober second thought, the Senate made much needed, but modest amendments to strengthen the bill. The House of Commons must ratify those amendments in order for the bill to be passed by Parliament. The government cannot pay the CDB until Parliament passes this bill. If the House doesn’t ratify the Senate amendments, it will take months for the bill to go back to the Senate once again, compounding three years of delay since Trudeau first promised the CDB.

No one could sensibly oppose the Senate’s amendments. Had Trudeau included these amendments in the bill in the first place, no one would demand their removal.

These amendments ensure that the bill comes into force within one year. Once the bill comes into force, they require Cabinet to make regulations within one year to set the CDB amount, to define who is eligible for it, and to create the application process to get it.

These amendments ensure that a person who is refused the CDB has a right to appeal. When Cabinet is deciding the amount of the CDB, they require Cabinet to take into account the added costs of living with a disability, the intersectional needs of disadvantaged groups, and Canada’s international human rights obligations.

If a person with disabilities receives long term disability benefits from a private insurance company, these amendments forbid insurance companies from clawing back the CDB. Money which the Federal Government intends to lift impoverished people with disabilities out of poverty should never be diverted instead to rich insurance companies’ bank accounts.

The Trudeau government’s spokesperson in the Senate, Senator Brent Cotter, made a claim that Parliament cannot ever regulate private insurance companies. Give him an F in basic Canadian constitutional law! The Supreme Court of Canada recently upheld the constitutionality of federal regulations that forbid private insurance companies from requiring genetic testing. Were he correct, the federal government can never stop private insurance companies from scooping the CDB away from impoverished recipients of long-term disability benefits.

Bill C-22’s sponsor, Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough, told the Senate that she’s open to the Senate amending her bill. Senator Cotter, the government’s spokesperson in the Senate on this bill, voted for the bill, including these amendments, despite voicing misgivings.

This is National AccessAbility Week. Too often politicians honour it with flowery speeches. Why not instead honour it with real action, by calling for an immediate free vote in the House of Commons on ratifying the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-22? People with disabilities deserve nothing less.

David Lepofsky chairs the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.