Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Tell the Senate to Strengthen Bill C-22 (the Canada Disability Benefit Act) Action Kit
February 14, 2023
The Time is Now to Email Senators to Strengthen the Weak Bill C-22
It’s good that the Trudeau government promised to create a Canada Disability Benefit (CDB) to lift people with disabilities out of poverty. However, their weak Bill C-22, now at the Senate, does not require the government to ever lift any people with disabilities out of poverty. It does not require the Government to ever pay a CDB, or set a deadline to start paying it. It sets no minimum benefit amount. It could be $1 per month.
The bill disqualifies almost one-third of people with disabilities over the age of 15 from the benefit because of their age, no matter how poor they are. Only working-age people qualify. Yet, disability poverty doesn’t end at 65.
The bill gives cabinet a blank cheque to decide everything about the CDB. Cabinet would decide in secret all the specifics, including the CDB’s amount, who’s eligible, and when or if it will be paid.
The Senate can amend Bill C-22 to make it stronger. Tell the Senate to strengthen it! Email the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs (SOCI) at email@example.com
It also helps if you email and tweet on Twitter to each Senator on SOCI. Below is a list of the SOCI members, their email addresses, and their Twitter handle (if they have one).
We want Bill C-22 to become a disability rights bill. It should give people with disabilities actual rights. Now, it is not a disability rights bill. It does not entitle people with disabilities to anything, no matter how poor they are. It forces impoverished people with disabilities to have to plead with Cabinet to create the CDB, to make sure it is large enough to lift them out of poverty and to never cut it.
What to Ask Senators
Please ask senators to pass the amendments to Bill C-22 in the February 10, 2023 joint Discussion Paper by the AODA Alliance, the ARCH Disability Law Centre and the Income Security Advocacy Centre. Also, ask them to make sure that private insurance companies cannot clawback the CDB, as addressed in the excellent February 10, 2023 brief written by lawyers Steven Muller and Hart Schwartz. Add any suggestions you think would help.
Respond to the Trudeau Government’s Claims
You may wish to respond to things the Trudeau Government said to defend the weak Bill C-22.
First, the Trudeau Government flip-flopped again on whether amending the bill is a good thing or a bad thing. In the House of Commons, the Trudeau Government first said last fall that the bill was great and needed no amendments. They tried to get witnesses from the disability community to agree with them, during last fall’s public hearings in the House of Commons.
Then along came the opposition parties with a series of proposed amendments. The Trudeau Liberals flip flopped, saying that most of those amendments were “excellent”. To see that flip flop for yourself, watch the AODA Alliance’s 7-minute video of this. It has already been seen over 2,500 times.
In the Senate, they flip flop flipped again! Speaking for the Trudeau Government, Senator Cotter said this on February 9, 2023:
“…a vast majority of the disability community — I have counted — is comfortable with the structure of the bill before us and strongly supports its passage in its present form.”
Let Senators know if you agree with Senator Cotter:
- Are you comfortable with the fact that Bill C-22 does not set the amount for the Canada Disability Benefit, and that the bill allows it to be as low as $1?
- Are you comfortable with the fact that that the bill does not ensure that the Canada Disability Benefit will lift any people out of poverty?
- Are you comfortable with the idea that under the bill, a future Cabinet could slash the Canada Disability Benefit in a secret Cabinet meeting that the public cannot observe, with no public debates or vote?
Are you comfortable with the fact that a private insurance company could clawback the Canada Disability Benefit from someone on long term disability insurance benefits, diverting the money from someone living in poverty to the insurance companies’ shareholders as dividends?
Second, speaking for the Government, Senator Cotter said in the bill’s defence that people with disabilities will need to trust the minister and the public servants, who are working on the regulations that will fill in all the specifics that the bill lacks. He said that it:
“…places a significant degree of trust in the ministry and the officials to put it together.”
Tell senators if you think it is fair for people with disabilities to have to trust politicians and public servants to ensure that the CDB will be delivered quickly, and will lift them out of poverty. People with disabilities languishing in poverty have had to trust them to do the right thing for the past three years, while waiting for the Government to deliver on its commitments.
It is not good enough to have to trust one minister, no matter how strong is her commitment to people with disabilities. She has only one vote in her Government. She does not have her minister’s post forever.
The Trudeau Government wants you to tell senators to pass Bill C-22 with no amendments. It wants people living in poverty to think that money will come sooner if the Senate makes no amendments.
It would hurt impoverished people with disabilities to urge Senators to do nothing to strengthen this bill. Amendments we seek will speed up getting money to impoverished people. We have no assurance that regulations the Government must make to get dollars flowing to poor people will be enacted quickly and will overcome the bill’s weaknesses. The Government promises it will consult people with disabilities on those regulations. Yet the Government has consulted the disability community for three years. The result is a weak bill.
How to Reach the Senators Who Sit on the Standing Committee on Social Affairs (SOCI)
Where to Go to Learn More About Bill C-22
Here is where you can learn more:
- What Bill C-22 says now, after all the amendments that were passed in the House of Commons so far.
- The widely-viewed AODA Alliance 7-minute video that shows how the Trudeau Liberals flip flopped in the House of Commons on whether Bill C-22 needed any amendments.
- The 21-minute captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s November 14, 2022 testimony at HUMA. It tells you all you need to know. Its concerns about the bill remain valid even after HUMA’s amendments.
- The November 14, 2022 open letter on Bill C-22, originally signed by 37 organizations (now increased to 41) from six provinces across Canada, that the AODA Alliance tabled with the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
- 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 with Bill C-22.
- The AODA Alliance website’s Bill C-22 page, which shows our efforts to strengthen this proposed new law.