Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities
,Email the Senate Today to Pass Bill C-22 (the Canada Disability Benefit Act) Including the Five Wise Amendments that Disability Advocates Got the Senate’s Standing Committee to Make to the Bill
May 17, 2023
The Senate is about to debate Bill C-22, the Canada Disability Benefit Act, on Third Reading. There appears to be a campaign on behalf of the Trudeau Government to get the entire Senate to reject the five wise amendments to the bill that the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs (SOCI Committee) recently passed. We and a good spectrum of other disability advocates have campaigned hard for these amendments. It would be horrible if the Senate rejected those amendments.
We have just written the entire Senate, urging all senators to pass Bill C-22 on Third Reading including the fie wise amendments that the SOCI Committee made, after holding extensive public hearings. Please write the members of the Senate right now! Please urge them to pass Bill C-22 including the amendments that the SOCI Committee made.
Below you can read our open letter to all senators. Cut and paste from it if you wish. To get 4email addresses for senators, just google the Senate of Canada and you can find them all!! The Senate could vote on this as soon as today, so please act now.
Text of the May 17, 2023 Letter from the AODA Alliance to the Senate of Canada
(Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
May 17, 2023
To the Senate of Canada
Please pass Bill C-22 with the five wise, narrowly-tailored amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs (SOCI Committee) made to this bill. Those amendments are desperately needed to better ensure that Bill C-22 truly lifts people with disabilities out of poverty. They are needed to speed money more quickly to impoverished people with disabilities.
Please reject the fear campaign, evidently orchestrated by the Trudeau Government, aimed at getting the Senate to reject those amendments. No one claims that the content of those amendments is bad policy, that they weaken the bill, or that they will hurt impoverished people with disabilities.
The Government’s troubling campaign against the amendments is based on two transparently incorrect arguments. First, it is based on an inaccurate claim that all the concerns that the SOCI Committee‘s amendments address can be fixed in regulations that Cabinet could later make under the bill, even if you reject the SOCI Committee amendments. The SOCI Committee received unchallenged, uncontradicted expert testimony that this is simply not true.
For example, if the bill is not amended, Cabinet would not be able to prevent private insurance companies from clawing back the Canada Disability Benefit from recipients of private long term disability insurance. Money that the Federal Government intends to go to impoverished people with disabilities should never be diverted to rich insurance companies. We emphasize that the Government presented no expert witnesses before the SOCI Committee to contradict this or to prove that this concern is incorrect.
Even if Cabinet could make some regulations that could address some of the concerns that underlie some of the SOCI Committee amendments, there is no assurance that the current Cabinet would do so. There is no guarantee that no future Cabinet would repeal such regulations in a secret Cabinet meeting, with no oversight by Parliament.
The second basis for the Government’s call for you to reject the wise SOCI Committee amendments is that for the Senate to pass these limited, measured amendments somehow jeopardizes passage of the bill. Yet, if you pass the bill with these amendments, we have every confidence that there will be massive pressure from the disability community for the House of Commons to rapidly ratify these Senate amendments. No political party in the House has opposed this bill. All are aware of the importance of passing it quickly. All parties voted for the bill in the House of Commons. No party would want to face the political heat of stalling the ratification of the amendments. No party is on the record opposing the policy content of these amendments.
Senators, please remember that the Trudeau Government made the very same fear-based argument four years ago, when the Senate considered amending Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act. We were told that if the Senate amended it, the bill could die before the House of Commons had time to ratify the Senate amendments. That fear turned out to be entirely unfounded. The Senate wisely amended that bill four years ago. Within a month or so, the House of Commons ratified those Senate amendments. No party opposed them. Indeed, four years later, Minister Carla Qualtrough, speaking for the Government, told the SOCI Committee two months ago that it had done a “fabulous” job with Bill C-81.
Stand up for ensuring that no private insurance company can claw back the Canada Disability Benefit from impoverished people with disabilities. Stand up for Cabinet having a reasonable time line set for passing the regulations that are needed to get the Canada Disability Benefit to impoverished people with disabilities. Stand up for ensuring that Cabinet must take into account the additional costs of living with a disability, and the intersectional needs of disadvantaged groups, when setting the amount of the Canada Disability Benefit. Vote to approve Bill C-22 with the high impact, least intrusive amendments that the SOCI Committee passed, based on substantial supporting evidence from experts in the field of disability rights.
David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance