Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Reflections on Second Reading Debates in the House of Commons Earlier This Fall on Bill C-22, the Canada Disability Benefit Act
November 13, 2022
On the eve of the AODA Alliances November 14, 2022 presentation in Ottawa to the House of Commons HUMA Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, we offer reflections on what the politicians had to say earlier this fall during Second Reading debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-22, the proposed Canada Disability Benefit Act. Our excerpts are taken from the full debates on September 20, 2022 and October 17, 2022. The bill was voted on during Second Reading on October 18, 2022. “Second reading” is when the House of Commons decided to approve Bill C-22 in principle, and send it to HUMA for public hearings and clause-by-clause debates.
Remember to tune in online to watch the AODA Alliance’s appearance before HUMA tomorrow at 3:30 pm EST at this link: https://parlvu.parl.gc.ca/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2?fk=11907914
If you want more background on this issue, take a look at:
- The AODA Alliance brief to the House of Commons on Bill C-22.
- The AODA Alliance’s guest column in the November 7, 2022 edition of the Toronto Star, and the powerful Toronto Star editorial that day that cites the AODA Alliance’s concerns over Bill C-22.
- The painfully short Bill C-22
- An analysis of how the first day of HUMA’s public hearings on Bill C-22 on October 31, 2022, and the hearings’ second day on November 2, 2022 together show why this bill needs to be strengthened, and
- The AODA Alliance website’s Bill C-22 page, which shows all our efforts to strengthen this proposed new law.
During Second Reading debates, all parties supported the need for the Canada Disability Benefit to tackle poverty among far too many people with disabilities. All agreed that action is needed now. All parties said they would vote for Bill C-22 on Second Reading.
All the opposition parties, including the Conservative party, the New Democratic Party, the Bloc Quebecois and the Green Party criticized the bill because it included far too few details, such as how much the benefit would be and who would be eligible for it. They looked to the Standing Committee public hearings to add needed specifics to the bill. Here are some key passages, mainly from the Liberal Government’s speeches.
Excerpts from the First Day of Second Reading Debates September 20, 2022
- Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough:
“Today, I begin with the following declaration: in Canada, no person with a disability should live in poverty.”
AODA Alliance Comment: Bill C-22 does not ensure that no people with disabilities will live in poverty in Canada. It cuts out from the Canada Disability Benefit any people with disabilities who are not working age. That excludes almost one third of people with disabilities over the age of 15.
- Minister Qualtrough:
“Working-age Canadians with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty than working-age Canadians without disabilities. The poverty rate for working-age Canadians with disabilities in 2017 was 23%. The situation is even worse for individuals with severe disabilities, women, indigenous people, LGBTQ+ and racialized Canadians with disabilities.
When the pandemic hit, the situation only got worse.
In a recent Statistics Canada survey, two-thirds of respondents with a disability said they had difficulty meeting their basic financial needs because of the pandemic.”
AODA Alliance Comment: There is agreement across the House of Commons on the severity of poverty among people with disabilities.
- Minister Qualtrough:
“Canada has a bold poverty reduction strategy and has set ambitious targets, including reducing poverty by half by 2030.”
AODA Alliance Comment: Bill C-22 sets no time line or target, such as reducing poverty for people with disabilities by 2030, or closing the gap between people with disabilities and people without disabilities by 2030. It merely seeks to “reduce” poverty by some undefined future time.
- Minister Qualtrough:
“In fact, the poverty levels of persons with disabilities decreases by almost 60% between the ages of 64 and 65, from 23% to 9%. For persons with severe disabilities, it goes from 31% to 11% just for having their birthday. Canadians should not have to wait until they are 65 years old to experience even a modest degree of financial security.”
AODA Alliance Comment: This proves that disability poverty does not end at age 65. Yet Bill C-22 would not do anything to reduce poverty for seniors with disabilities living in poverty.
- Minister Qualtrough:
“Bill C-22 would give us the opportunity to send a clear message to working-aged persons with disabilities and, quite frankly, to every person with a disability that we will no longer sit by and watch them struggle to make ends meet, struggle to live with dignity, struggle as they live a life of uncertainty and poverty, that the equal opportunity to make for themselves the lives that they wish, as afforded to every Canadian, is theirs as well.”
AODA Alliance Comment: Here too, the complete omission of any Canada Disability Benefit for seniors with disabilities flatly contradicts what the Minister said about the message to be sent to every person with a disability.
- Minister Qualtrough:
“I urge every member in the House to do the right thing and support this legislation. I urge them to join me and declare that no person with a disability in our country should live in poverty.”
AODA Alliance Comment: Once again, the plight of seniors with disabilities who live in poverty are disregarded.
- Minister Qualtrough: (Answering a question about how much the benefit will be)
“Conceptually, this is modelled after the guaranteed income supplement, so it would be supplemental income, in addition to other supports that individuals receive. However, the negotiations with provinces and territories really will dictate the ambition of this because, if they are not willing to not claw it back, we are not willing to replace the income they already provide.
It is roughly modelled after the GIS. The idea would be to lift people out of poverty and get people to a point where they are no longer living in poverty. However, the exact amount will be directly informed by the negotiations with the provinces and territories.”
AODA Alliance Comment: When the minister said that the Canada Disability Benefit will be roughly modeled after the GIS, she did not say that this referred to the amount to be paid as a Canada Disability Benefit. She spoke instead in terms of the Canada Disability Benefit, like the GIS, being a supplemental payment on top of other benefits that a person receives.
“Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise here today as the Bloc Québécois critic for disability inclusion.
The government has introduced a bill that aims to improve the financial situation of Canadians with disabilities and of working age. The bill is intended to address certain gaps in the social safety net, which includes old age security, the guaranteed income supplement and the Canada child benefit.
I think that this is an important goal, and I can say right now that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of the principle. We believe that it is important that Canadians have access to a strong social safety net and that it is the government’s role to ensure that they do. Today’s Quebec is built on these same principles, and we can only support any initiatives in this vein that could be of benefit to Quebecers.
However, as it stands, Bill C-22 is woefully incomplete. Beyond the principle of solidarity and financial assistance for people with disabilities, the government gives no details on the form the benefit will take. We all know that the devil is in the details. We believe that this is a major shortcoming and that the bill should be enhanced and, especially, fleshed out.”
AODA Alliance Comment: Similar views were expressed by the other opposition parties.
- Irek Kusmierczyk: (Liberal)
“The legislation would lift hundreds of thousands of Canadians out of poverty. This is legislation that would help make life more affordable for hundreds of thousands of Canadians living with disabilities.”
AODA Alliance Comment: This is an overstatement. Nothing in the bill ensures or requires that any people with disabilities be lifted out of poverty.
- Majid Jowhari (Richmond Hill, Lib.):
“…The Canada disability benefit will become an important part of Canada’s social safety net, alongside old age security, the guaranteed income supplement and the Canada child benefit. It has the potential to significantly reduce poverty for hundreds of thousands of Canadians with disabilities.”
AODA Alliance Comment: This speech from the Government is more accurate, by saying that the bill has the “potential” to lift people with disabilities out of poverty. In other words, it could, but on the other hand, it might not.
Excerpts from the Second Day of Second Reding Debates October 17, 2022
- Mike Morrice (Kitchener Centre, GP):
(Note responding to NDP MP’s Ms. Lisa Marie Barron’s speech about the need to strengthen Bill C-22)
“Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith for her strong support of Bill C-22, alongside the rest of the NDP caucus. As she mentioned, there are a number of groups across the country who have called out concerns with respect to what is not in the bill. Today, most recently, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance has done the same.
Can she share more about what she can be doing, working alongside all parliamentarians in this place, to ensure that strong amendments are brought forward at committee as soon as possible to strengthen the bill?”
Ms. Lisa Marie Barron:
“Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for all of his work and advocacy around this bill and getting people with disabilities the support they need and deserve.
It is vital that we are getting all hands on deck and getting this work done today. That includes having our federal Liberal government working alongside provinces and territories to ensure that this benefit is provided in such a way that those living with disabilities are receiving the benefits that they need and deserve. Ensuring that clawbacks are not happening is just one example.
Absolutely, there are many amendments that still need to be done. This is not the bill that the NDP would have put forward, but it is a step in the right direction.”
AODA Alliance Comment: We are delighted that on the same day that the AODA Alliance made public our initial October 17, 2022 brief to Parliament on Bill C-22, this MP from the Green Party referred to it during that day’s debates over this bill.