House of Commons Hansard #205 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pesticides.

Topics

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to one petition.

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Routine Proceedings

June 13th, 2002 / 10:05 a.m.

Kenora—Rainy River
Ontario

Liberal

Bob Nault Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-60, an act to establish the Canadian Centre for the Independent Resolution of First Nations Specific Claims to provide for the filing, negotiation and resolution of specific claims and to make related amendments to other acts.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34 I have the honour to present to the House the report from the Canadian Branch, Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, concerning the 51st seminar on parliamentary practice and procedure at Westminster, United Kingdom, which was held from May 14 to 24, 2002.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I move that the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, presented in the House on Thursday, March 21, be concurred in.

Mr. Speaker,I will be sharing my time with the member from Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore.

I rise today to draw the attention of the government to a very important report by the disability subcommittee on the issue of the disability tax credit and the government's recent initiative to have over 100,000 Canadians with disabilities requalify for the disability tax credit.

The reason I rise on this issue today is because the House is about to leave for the summer recess and we as parliamentarians will have at least a break from the regimen of this place. However, as we all know and hear daily from constituents, for Canadians across the country with disabilities, there is no respite and no break from the relentless struggles for those persons to eke out a living, to maintain self-esteem and a sense of hope in the face of enormous obstacles.

While MPs and the eye of the government will not be focused as intently on the legislative process and the reports of committees over the summer months, the real lives of persons with disabilities will continue to experience the hardships brought about by the recent decision of the government to embark on the arbitrary review of eligibility for over 100,000 Canadians.

Over the past several months 106,000 Canadians, who currently receive the disability tax credit, received a letter from Canada Customs and Revenue Agency that states:

After reviewing your file, we have determined that we do not have enough information to continue to allow your claim for the 2001 and future tax years.

The letter goes on to tell the citizens that they must reapply to maintain their benefit.

The House of Commons subcommittee on the status of persons with disabilities, a subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Human Resource Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, held hearings over many months on the matter facing Canadians with disabilities, specifically focusing on the form change, the view of the disability organizations and the medical community.

We have heard many things that broke our hearts, that angered us and hardened our resolve to do better for persons with disabilities. A mother, whose adult daughter has an intellectual disability, told us that the whole family had to work so hard to focus on the daughter's strengths and abilities. They will now have to take cap in hand to a doctor to focus on her disabilities to get a small tax credit to assist with the many costs which disabilities bring to individuals and families.

We heard from people with lifelong hearing, sight impairment and disabling genetic disorders who were being told that they must spend $30 to $150 to have a doctor fill out a form that says: “Yes, they are still blind. Yes, they are still deaf. Yes, they still have Down's syndrome”. The whole scheme is so punitive, so unjust and so painful really for the persons involved.

New Democratic members of parliament have received hundreds of calls from Canadians who are being harassed by this policy. Under the DTC, an individual or independent may claim a non-refundable credit of $960. This credit is designed to provide a measure of financial relief for the increased cost of living with a disability. Approximately 200,000 Canadians claim that credit annually, but if the government has its way that number will be significantly decreased. Here are some of the individuals who will no longer be eligible for the DTC.

These are some of the horror stories we have heard as New Democrat parliamentarians. A former public service employee from Atlantic Canada had one leg amputated and a severe neurological disorder. She got the DTC letter in November and her doctor is now reluctant to re-approve, saying that she can technically walk 50 metres with her artificial leg. However her leg is not always on and even when it is, she cannot walk on an incline or a ramp. She will not appeal this. She is very frightened that she will lose her LTD and her CPP disability benefits if the Liberals can identify her. It is a shameful example of people being targeted by the government on such an important issue.

A Winnipeg woman had been receiving the credit since 1991. During a recent medical appointment caused by the CCRA letter, her doctor informed her that she no longer qualified for the disability tax credit. The reason: thanks to her leg braces she is now able to walk somewhat. As she has said, she cannot do up her buttons and she cannot get out of bed by herself but she is now technically able to walk. If she falls down she would be unable to get up. She is unable to be alone. She is now unable to receive the disability tax credit.

It appears to any thinking, caring person that persons with disabilities, with this initiative around the tax credit, are being targeted and harassed by this government. They are not being supported. They are not being assisted.

We have seen many other examples of that over the course of the last several years. We have seen the CPP disability program shrink. We have seen the benefits shrink and the eligibility criteria hardened. We have seen the elimination of the Canada assistance program, CAP, which was essential in providing disability support for persons across the country. We have seen an enormous patchwork of quality of various kinds of services available for people with the same disabilities across the country. I have personally seen in my community a crisis in education for young people with disabilities who no longer are getting the support they need for them to have equal citizenship in Canada. Why is this happening? Why are we facing this?

In 1982 the charter of rights and freedoms was passed, declaring that all Canadians were entitled to equal protection and equal benefit under the law without discrimination based on race, nation or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. The charter, combined with disability clauses in the provincial human rights code, protects persons with disabilities from some of the most blatant forms of discrimination.

Canadians with disabilities are a long way from the promised land of full participation, equality and access. Many of the nearly five million Canadians are facing poverty, lack of housing and a severe hardship in the supports that they need to live.

I would like to give time for my colleague to speak on this issue as well, but I would like to tell the House the points that were made in our report of the disability subcommittee. I would like to read them into the record. I want to ensure that these initiatives are looked at very carefully and immediately by the government and that it acts on them. I will then pass the floor to my colleague so he can speak on this.

Disability issues do not take a summer vacation. At the conclusion of our hearings the subcommittee tabled a report on April 21, 2002, critical of the government. The members of the subcommittee recommended the following.

One, that the CCRA apologize to the 106 Canadians who received a poorly explained letter from the agency indicating that they were no longer eligible for the DTC despite the fact that these individuals had been receiving this credit for anywhere between six and 17 years.

Two, we believe they need compensation for the expenses of those who have successfully recertified.

Three, we believe there should be no new reassessment of claimants until the certification process is revised and then new procedures and forms put in place.

Four, we also believe there should be an immediate amendment to the Income Tax Act so that it incorporates recent court decisions.

Five, we believe that consultation with disability communities and medical professionals needs to happen to draft amendments to the Income Tax Act that spell out exactly the eligibility criteria for the tax credit that reflects the reality of living with a disability.

Six, we believe that we need to have an immediate redesigning of form T-2201 that establishes eligibility for the tax credit and streamlining approval process.

Seven, we believe an educational campaign is necessary for the public, for medical practitioners and tax preparers. We need an evaluation of the disability tax credit and a re-examination of all tax measures affecting persons with disabilities.

We rise today to make sure that everyone in the House and that the government is aware that the disability tax credit is an issue on the minds of hundreds of thousands of disabled persons who are feeling the crunch from this cynical and very punitive measure.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Dartmouth who brought forward this motion in the House today.

This motion is very important because the government recently decided to send forms to all persons with disabilities. They now have to ask their doctor to fill out the form or their disability tax credit will be cut once they have sent in their income tax return.

Not content to go after the unemployed, the government also went after on the most vulnerable members of our society and now it is going after persons with disabilities who have received tax deductions over the last ten years.

For example, in my riding, a lady with an artificial leg came to my office and said “Look at this; I need a new pair of pants each month because my artificial limb cuts my pants. It is very costly. I was always recognized as an handicapped person and obtained the disability tax credit”.

Now the government has changed its mind and is requiring that a form be filled out. Some doctors have even refused to do so, saying their job is to help sick people. The government sent the form to every person with disabilities in Canada, and that has increased the workload of doctors, who certainly did not need the additional work.

Does the member for Dartmouth have the same problem in her riding? Did she also hear other members say that persons with disabilities in their ridings have the same problem?

What is happening, in this parliament, is outrageous.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Acadie--Bathurst spoke with a great deal of passion. As parliamentarians we have all heard from the people who come into our riding offices telling us how desperate they are for disability support and assistance to buy wheelchairs, hearing devices and respite services for families caring for people who have multiple disabilities.

We cannot deny the fact that we are looking at a population that is incredibly disadvantaged. We have a population that has inadequate income support and rehabilitation programs. One out of three severely disabled Canadians live in poverty. At least 40% of Canadians with disabilities are unemployed. Many workplaces are completely closed to persons with disabilities. They are just not able to enter the workforce. Workers with disabilities often are not covered by basic employment standards, minimum wage legislation, occupational health and safety and workers' compensation. Most transportation systems still remain inaccessible to persons with disabilities. Students with disabilities are often without the support they need to exercise their right to an education. There is a shortage of affordable and accessible housing for persons with disabilities.

The rate of disabilities in the aboriginal community is twice that of the general population. Women, aboriginal and visible minorities with disabilities face double and even triple the discrimination. On top of all of this, we have systemic discrimination and harassment by the government with this very punitive measure to try to haul back a very small tax credit that gave some level of support for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. It is just a disgrace.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Dartmouth for this motion, but my remarks on this motion will deal more with a certain tendency of the government.

I remember the fight the Bloc Quebecois and several members of the House waged concerning the guaranteed income supplement. A pervasive tendency in this government and this parliament is to exclude certain groups of citizens, very often disadvantaged people. The guaranteed income supplement issue concerned senior citizens, but the issue raised by my colleague affects persons with disabilities, who are not getting what they are entitled to.

We have here a kind of principle, a basic tendency in this government to exclude the most disadvantaged people, the most vulnerable people in our society. The fact that persons with disabilities are notting get a tax credit is further evidence of the fact that we do not have a policy of inclusion to fight against poverty.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that we are looking at a government that continues to pull back on services to the most vulnerable in the community. We see it with the disability tax credit and we saw it with the Canada pension plan disability program when the government cut back the number of people eligible and reduced the amount of support. It has done this at a time when we are seeing a demographic wave of seniors who will need more and more supports if they become disabled. We need to have that completely rethought at the government level. I will be very much a part of that happening.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to personally congratulate and thank my hon. colleague from Dartmouth who has probably done more than anyone else in terms of parliamentary work to raise the issue of people with disabilities in this parliament.

I also want to send congratulations and kudos to Mr. Jerry Pye, who is an MLA for the New Democratic Party in Dartmouth North. He himself has a disability and has been fighting his whole life for people with disabilities.

There is no way I could match the words, comments and tone the hon. member for Dartmouth so eloquently put forth in describing some of the concerns of people over the disability tax credit. What I will bring is the anger I feel toward the government for what it has done to the most vulnerable people in society. If we as parliamentarians cannot help or offer hope to the most vulnerable in our society we do not deserve to be elected. The House should shut down permanently until we get our facts straight. It is a disgrace to our country, not only nationally but internationally, that we treat the most vulnerable in our society in such a despicable manner.

I know a person in Enfield, Nova Scotia who is a quadriplegic and who is a mouth painter by profession. He has been denied a disability tax credit. My question to the government is why in God's name did the government cut that person off his disability tax credit?

Another person, Philip Gubger, whose leg was amputated at the age of 13, has great difficulty moving around. The $800 a year he claimed for his tax credit is gone. Why did that happen?

The government members should hang their heads in shame. I cannot believe that 106,000 Canadians, and that is just the tip of the iceberg, could be treated in such a callous manner. The political sycophants over there do not deserve to call themselves the government.

I challenge the government members. If they cannot get their own house in order in terms of who wants to lead the party, they should call an election now and we will defeat them at the polls so that every single one of them will be gone from the land. It is unbelievable what those people are capable of doing to the most vulnerable in our society.

I am so angry at the government that I will narrow the discussion down to war veterans. No matter how hard I try to be as nice as I can to the members on that side, I cannot believe how they pick on double amputees. These people fought for this country and lost both their legs in the war. However, because they are in wheelchairs and can go 50 metres they are cut off their disability tax credit. It is unbelievable.

My family was rescued and liberated by the sacrifices of those Canadians. We moved to this country in 1956. My mother is deeply ashamed that those veterans who fought so hard and sacrificed so much are now being treated so callously in their final years.

The government members should hang their heads in shame. They should be ashamed to even call themselves parliamentarians when they do that to the most vulnerable in our society. They go on doorsteps and hand out their householders and say what a great job they have done for the country but they are ashamed to even admit what they have done to those people in our country with disabilities. It is unbelievable.

I cannot thank my colleague from Dartmouth enough for raising this issue in a more passionate and composed manner than I could. It is unbelievable that we as parliamentarians and the Liberal members on that side attack in such a callous way the most vulnerable in our society. We are talking about mothers and fathers with children who are amputees, people with Parkinson's disease and people with muscular sclerosis.

Thousands and thousands of people from hundreds of organizations across the country have written to us asking us to do something to encourage the government to change that form and give these people back their disability tax credits.

What is really sad is that the government makes these people pay on top of that. It costs $35 to take the form to the doctor. By the way, no one at the Canadian Medical Association was advised that this form was coming. No one told the doctors that 106,000 vulnerable people in our society will have to appear on their doorsteps. Of course the doctors will not lie. They have ethics. They will write down the fact that, yes, that person somehow can go 50 metres on a flat surface with a device. The advice is for them to appeal. It would cost them $125 to do that, as well as the time it takes.

It is unbelievable. Not only does the government take away their disability tax credit, it charges them even more money. We are talking about people with low or no income. We are not talking about the rich in our society or those who are well off. We are talking about the most vulnerable in our society.

How dare those Liberals call themselves the government. It is absolutely unbelievable. They balance the budget, give the money to their corporate welfare bums and take the money away from the most vulnerable. What do they also do with the money? Against all of the advice from the military and the House of Commons, they buy themselves two nice cushy Challenger jets so they can fly across the country.

I wonder what the Liberals would like to tell the people who are double amputees, the mothers and fathers of children who are disabled, the veterans who fought for this country who are disabled, and those people who cannot even afford to leave their houses? It is a measly $400 to $1,000. That is all we are talking about for a person who claims the disability tax credit.

Some insane bureaucrat convinced some useless minister that this was the best way to go. We saw it with employment insurance. The government ruthlessly cut off the workers of the country from any assistance when their jobs were gone. It just carried that on. It attacked the workers and businesses of the country. It thought it could get away with it and continue on with this ruthlessness and pick on the most vulnerable. Who will they pick on next? Who is next so it can turn around and give that money away to its corporate buddies?

I find it absolutely insane that as a parliamentarian I must rise in the House to discuss this issue. It is not an issue we should have to be discussing. It is such common sense. The most vulnerable in our society should have a voice. They should have equal status and should never ever be picked on. This is what the government has done.

I notice that most of the government members are not here because they do not want to hear it. They close the doors. They do not return the phones calls. They do not answer the letters. We in the opposition do. The New Democratic Party is proud to stand up in the House and in any legislature across the country to fight for and defend the rights of people with disabilities.

In the most parliamentary manner I encourage the government to reverse the dangerous path that it is on. I ask it to stop picking on the most vulnerable in our society and give those people back their tax credit that they so rightfully deserve so that they can have some sort of a decent lifestyle in this overtaxed country that we live in today.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Mr. Speaker, I noted the remarks of NDP members this morning. We have the same problem in my great riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik.

I totally support the remarks these members made, because we must review this government decision, as soon as possible. I know what I am talking about, since one of my brothers is a person with disabilities.

When persons with disabilities are under attack, this is what I have to say.

My staff has recently told me about certain cases. My assistant Françoise Lamarche is working very hard on social issues. As it stands right now, Quebec agrees with tax credits, and is standing firm on its position, but the Canadian government is backing away and penalizing persons with disabilities.

I would like to ask the hon. member opposite if there are many cases like this in all provinces and in Quebec.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take one statement back. There is an individual on the Liberal side from Abitibi who does have a heart and does care. I wish to congratulate the member for that. However I wish to remind the House that it was an all-party unanimous report on this. Nine Liberals including the chair with the opposition agreed to that report. If the government will not listen to the opposition, then it damn well better listen to its own backbench Liberals. I cannot help but thank the member from Abitibi for supporting this effort. I know his constituents will be well served by his efforts.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate the member opposite for telling it as it really is.

I wish to ask my colleague from Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore in relation to a statement he made about friends of his who could barely manipulate physically but because they had some movement were being told they do not need a tax credit. I had an individual approach me who told me he had a question to answer which was: “can you walk 150 feet”? He said he could walk 150 miles if somebody would only put on his shoes.

This is what we are running into. This decision by government to retract a tax credit from people who most need it is the most idiotic piece of legislation that we have ever seen in our lives. It is absurd, unbelievable and one that the government should never be let away with.

Does the hon. member have, besides the couple of examples he mentioned, more examples of what I am talking about in relation to the support for putting back this tax credit where it should be?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for St. John's West for bringing this up. He is absolutely correct. I can cite hundreds of examples. However, as my colleague from Dartmouth said, very few people will let their names go public because they are afraid that the government may take away another benefit they may have.

I want to thank the members from Quebec because the Quebec province is assisting any way that it can to help people with disabilities. It is leading the way. If that province can do it, surely the government can do it.

I notice my hon. colleague from Halifax West, who I have great respect for, who is on the other side. I ask him to look into his heart and ask the government what it is prepared to do to change this ruthless act that it has imposed upon the most vulnerable in our society.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I wish to say to my colleague that we have seen in the past the government pass legislation extremely quickly when it wanted to. It can do that, with even some opposition from this side of the House. Is there a will of the House to ensure that this type of discrimination and this action against disabled people in Canada stops taking place? I would be hard pressed to see why unanimous consent would not be found to get rid of this legislation right here and now and ensure it is done before it comes to a vote. Will we see any justice for that?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I am not sure if the hon. member is asking for unanimous consent to put this motion.