Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities Act

An Act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act

Sponsor

Pierre Poilievre  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Defeated, as of June 6, 2018

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-395.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act in order to ensure that persons with disabilities do not lose more through taxation and the reduction of benefits than they gain as a result of working.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

June 6, 2018 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-395, An Act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with DisabilitiesPrivate Members' Business

October 5th, 2018 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak to Motion No. 192, the private member's motion of my colleague from Fort McMurray—Cold Lake. It seeks to enhance government policy responding to persons who suffer from episodic disabilities, including those caused by MS.

I had the pleasure of knowing my colleague from Fort McMurray—Cold Lake for several years before I came to the House. I met his wife, Kathy, when they were door knocking for their by-election, and his daughter, Melissa, a wonderful lady who is suffering under snow in Calgary. She can come home to Edmonton any time. She served on my EDA. I tease David that we have the third best Yurdiga in the House today, but they are wonderful people nonetheless.

His wife, Kathy, is a wonderful lady, She spent countless hours helping out those in Fort McMurray during the disastrous fire we had a couple of years ago. Even with the issues she is facing, she still continues to give to the community, and I thank her for that.

I know my office, no doubt like other MPs here, works with constituents who need help accessing disability resources and, as is often the case, are looking for support from the system that may not be best equipped to handle changing needs, demographic and demands.

Discussions like the one we are having today are essential for establishing an action plan for community organizations that serve those who live with debilitating conditions. This type of discussion, a proper referral to committee to hear directly from those affected, how they can be better accommodated, what needs to be changed and so on, is the best way we can ensure that the needs of those who suffer from a disability, which may not always present signs or systems, are heard.

I compare this motion against the government's Bill C-81, which rather than provide an opportunity to develop a tangible plan with a road map for goals and desired outcomes, seeks to merely increase the bureaucracy and spending and add what will likely be decades more of proposals for upgrading buildings from Infrastructure Canada and PSPC. I have no doubt it will be added to the Liberals' list of “underway with challenges” on the Liberals' fabled mandate tracker.

We need to truly address the needs of persons with disabilities and, like my colleague for Fort McMurray—Cold Lake has highlighted, those whose condition may present episodically rather than chronically. The best way to do this is not through the observed experience of a policy analyst at PSPC or of a bureaucrat whose government mandated focus is fining and penalizing government agencies whose buildings are not up to code.

Bill C-81's information package provided by the government had twice as much information on how it would fine and penalize Canadians than it did on how it would implement the program or how it would help Canadians with disabilities. I would not be so cynical if there were not a clear record of the government penalizing persons with disabilities rather than helping them.

Let us go back to as recently as last year. The CRA began targeting people living with type 1 diabetes, people suffering from autism, as well as those suffering from severe mental health disorders. Autism Canada says that to this day it still is hearing too many stories of people who have had the disability tax credit, sometimes for decades, for their children with autism and it is being taken away.

What is going on with the government that it is allowing the CRA to go after families that have a loved one suffering from autism and now saying "you don't qualify"? Here is a hint to the government. People do not have autism and a tax credit one day and then the next not have autism. The way the government is acting is beyond belief.

The disability tax credit reduces the tax burden of people with type 1 diabetes and others with disabilities. Under the law, they have been eligible to receive it for the last 10 years as long as a doctor certified that they required life-sustaining therapy at least three times each week for a total of 14 hours on average. The government is now taking away tax credits from people who have diabetes or autism even when doctors certify they are eligible under the existing law and policy, neither of which has changed apparently.

This new direction appears to have happened secretly, with no public notice or consultation with the diabetes community. As a diabetes sufferer stated, "It's not like I can snap a finger and this disease turns off." Therefore, I have a question in all of this for a government that is so heavy on the need to consult. Why is it so quick to unilaterally decide on how to handle the issue of the level of disability? This is part of an alarming trend from a government increasingly desperate to raise revenue to fund its out of control spending.

I note that in its accessibility legislation, there is no mention of helping community-based organizations, those that persons with disabilities rely on during their day-to-day lives. People living with a disability do not need additional red tape, empty promises or an enhanced bureaucracy that just increases the amount of redirects they get when they call the department for help.

They need tangible change, something that can be attained by digging into exactly what is working and what is not working through a comprehensive study like that proposed under Motion No. 192. Perhaps the Liberals need to take heed of our record on disability legislation with programs that provided concrete action to address disability-related problems.

The Conservative government introduced the registered disability savings plan, which helps parents and grandparents with children with severe disabilities to contribute to the children's financial security. Over 100,000 Canadians have taken advantage of this program to save for their children's future. It took all of three months from election to legislation to create this program. Compare that to the Liberal record on Bill C-81 with three different ministers, or maybe four when we consider that it started with the current minister of PSPC under a different department. Now it is with disability and sports. With three different mandate letters over three years and it is still not accomplished.

During the former Conservative era, we invested $30 million into the opportunities fund to help persons with disabilities gain employment. We supported caregivers by providing tax credits to help them through the difficulties associated with caring for a loved one. There was over $200 million for labour market agreements for persons with disabilities to assist provinces in improving the employment situation of Canadians with disabilities, millions of dollars for the initiative of the Canadian Association for Community Living to connect persons with developmental disabilities with jobs, millions to support the expansion of vocational training programs for persons with autism spectrum disorder, and the list goes on.

However, the former Conservative government's action on disability resources did not stop with our previous government. The member for Calgary Shepard introduced Bill C-399,, the fairness for persons with disabilities act. This bill would amend the Income Tax Act to reduce the threshold for the number of hours necessary for an activity to be eligible for the tax credit from 14 to 10 hours. In the case of therapy that requires a regular dosage, it would take into consideration time spent on calculating the dosage to qualify for the tax credit. This would protect diabetics and certain rare disease patients for whom the calculation of their dosage takes considerable time. It would also add medical food and formula to qualifying for the DTC in order to add certainty for patients with certain rare diseases. This is the action that we need and action that will help those living with disabilities.

The member for Carleton introduced Bill C-395, the opportunity for workers with disabilities act to ensure that those with disabilities, upon gaining employment, are not net losers when government benefit clawbacks occur. Again, this is real action, common-sense action to help. Now my colleague for Fort McMurray—Cold Lake is introducing this motion to develop a road map that would close the gaps in policy for people who are not always presenting signs of a disability, as is often the case for people suffering from MS.

We need a record that clearly shows what Canadians are saying about how the current system affects them and how it must be changed to help them not only live with dignity but continue to be active and contributing members of Canadian society. Motion No. 192 provides the action plan to do exactly that and I hope my colleagues on all sides of the House recognize what it seeks to do and support it.

October 4th, 2018 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

I'll take it as quickly as I can.

I'd like to ask Ms. Carroll a question.

I thank you for giving us some of these statistics and information on labour force participation. We know that being able to participate in the workforce is an incredibly fulfilling activity, and for those who are not able, there are consequences for society, which you've mentioned.

One of the barriers to employment participation for a variety of disabled Canadians is the prospect of losing existing supports, in the sense that once someone has employment income, they may lose medical or prescription benefits. Thus, even though they are able to take a job, and even though a job is available, they cannot take a job because it would cost them more to take a job than to remain outside of the workforce. The opportunity act was another private member's bill that tried to address this.

Can you comment on some of these barriers to employment that exist for disabled Canadians?

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

September 24th, 2018 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-81, the accessible Canada act. This bill is, for lack of a better description, a horribly missed opportunity. I think all of us in the House would agree that any opportunity we have to enact legislation that would help Canadians with disabilities, or all Canadians, access employment opportunities so they could help their families and their communities would be a benefit and something we should all be focused on doing. Unfortunately, the Liberal bill, the accessible Canada act, does none of those things. It is very thin, it lacks any details, and it certainly lacks any tangible results or aspirational goals we are trying to meet. I think the four million Canadians who have disabilities would be extremely disappointed, because this is certainly not what they were promised by the Prime Minister in the 2015 campaign.

There are already three provinces in Canada that have implemented accessibility legislation. Ontario passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005, Manitoba passed the Accessibility for Manitobans Act in 2013, and Nova Scotia passed the Accessibility Act in 2017. Additionally, British Columbia has, as recently as this past July, pledged to establish a provincial disabilities act later this fall. Therefore, there are lots of templates already in place the Liberal government could have used as a measuring stick when it tried to develop its own legislation.

In the 2015 Liberal platform, the Prime Minister promised he would “eliminate systemic barriers and deliver equality of opportunity to all Canadians living with disabilities”. He would introduce a national disabilities act. In fact, the first mandate letter in November 2015, and every mandate letter since, and I think there have been two or three, has called on the minister responsible for this file to continue the consultation process and introduce legislation. There have been three years of consultation, and the culmination of that consultation is a very weak piece of legislation that really does nothing other than put forward another $290 million for additional consultation and study. It is extremely disappointing that it has taken three years to develop this piece of legislation that really does not do anything that was promised in the 2015 election campaign. It must be extremely disappointing for those stakeholders who are looking for something with some breadth, content, tangibility and real results.

Bill C-81 is extremely weak. It does not outline any regulations or details. It only calls for more consultation and another regulatory process to begin, but the price tag is $290 million. I cannot go back to my constituents and explain to them what the $290 million is going to be used for and what the results are going to be. Certainly stakeholders in my riding who are looking for this type of legislation are going to be asking me what this would do. I cannot give them a definitive answer, because there really are no answers in the bill, which is extremely disappointing, considering the track record of the previous Conservative government in supporting Canadians with disabilities. It has been and always will be a priority for the Conservative Party.

I want to look back at the strong legacy left by the former Conservative finance minister, Jim Flaherty, and some of the tangible tools we were able to bring forward that had real results. They delivered real results for Canadians with disabilities. There was the home disability tax credit that allowed people with disabilities to renovate their homes to ensure that they had healthy living spaces that were accessible. They could stay in their homes, in their communities, close to friends, family and social networks, where they were most comfortable. We created a working group that was tasked with developing a national autism strategy. We completed the groundbreaking study “Rethinking DisAbility in the Private Sector”, which was completed in 2006. This was a template for the private sector to address accessibility and disability issues in private businesses across Canada. It was an industry standard and is still used today.

The previous Conservative government also invested $218 million a year, in partnership with the provinces, in labour market agreements, which ensured that we were improving employment opportunities for Canadians with disabilities across the country.

One of the hallmark pieces of legislation we were able to bring in was certainly the registered disability savings plan. This helped parents and grandparents of children with disabilities to contribute to their child's financial future and the financial security that every parent, and certainly every grandparent, feels is so important. Last week, during the debate on Bill C-81, I recall that the Minister of Public Services and Procurement said that the disability tax credit was a game changer for Canadians with disabilities. I credit her for pointing that out.

Those were tangible pieces of legislation that had tangible goals and tangible results. That is what Canadians are looking for from this House of Commons. That is what they elected their representatives to come here to do.

Unfortunately, I look at Bill C-81 as merely a rushed piece of legislation that is really all about meeting an election promise and not meeting the needs of Canadians with disabilities.

If we look at the Conservative record again, that record has continued even as we are opposition. As my colleague mentioned, the member for Calgary Shepard tabled the fairness for persons with disabilities act. My colleague, the member for Carleton, tabled Bill C-395, the opportunity bill, which would have imposed a simple rule on governments that they would have to respect that workers with disabilities would always be able to gain more from wages than they lost in clawbacks and taxes. It would have simply required governments to ensure that people with disabilities would always get ahead through their own hard work and would not be punished financially when they were successful. Like any working Canadian, that is what they want. When they are working hard, becoming successful, and earning a living, they do not want to be punished by different levels of government.

We heard from Canadians across the country that they want to work. That is their ultimate goal. They want to have financial stability, not just for themselves but for their families. However, we know that under the current rules, although some Canadians work hard, they come home with less. That was the situation the opportunity bill was trying to address. It would have addressed it successfully. Again, it was tangible legislation with tangible results that would have helped Canadians with disabilities.

However, rather than supporting common sense legislation, the Liberal government turned down the member for Carleton's Bill C-395. Instead of supporting definitive action that would have supported Canadians with disabilities, the Liberals voted down this bill and have instead tabled Bill C-81, which, in essence, does nothing to address the fundamental issues facing Canadians with disabilities.

In fact, not only did the Liberals turn down Bill C-395, they also went after Canadians with disabilities, specifically Canadians with type 1 diabetes. Liberals went after their health tax credit. While we are trying to find real solutions to real problems, the Liberals are chasing the opportunity for a tax grab on the backs of Canadians who are the most vulnerable. That is what makes this extremely disappointing.

On this side of the House, we recognize the strong contributions persons with different abilities can make to our country, our economy and certainly our workplaces. Disabilities come in all different sizes, shapes and forms. Unfortunately, one in seven Canadians aged 15 or older has reported some kind of disability, and three out of four adults with disabilities have reported more than one type of disability. These are not necessarily visible disabilities. They are not something we see on the street every single day. Many Canadians have disabilities that cannot necessarily be identified when seen, but they struggle each and every day to find a job and to make ends meet.

Almost 80% of Canadians 25 to 64 years old with a disability have at least a high school diploma, but compared to almost 90% of those without a disability, that is still a stark gap we need to try to address.

These Canadians represent a large and talented employment pool, yet too many are denied the opportunity to work and earn a living and their own self-esteem and self-respect. Persons with disabilities often face more challenges in the labour force than, obviously, persons without disabilities. Inequities for persons with disabilities that currently exist in the workplace must be properly addressed in this legislation. Unfortunately, Bill C-81 does not do that.

Half of working age adults with disabilities are employed, and two-thirds with mild disabilities are employed. We can definitely do better.

Unfortunately, as I said, this legislation is a poor attempt to keep an election promise. Throughout the debates, the Liberals have touted this legislation as a historic bill, but they are simply using flowery language to cover up legislation that does not have the teeth Canadians are expecting. This document is really nothing more than another funding announcement that the Liberals will have $290 million and will be doing yet another study on Canadians with disabilities.

All this bill would do is create another level of bureaucracy, but it has no details on what the cost would be to the Canadian taxpayer, what the impact would be on the private sector or what this program would entail. The cost-benefit analysis is not there. There is no specific data on what this bill would intend to do.

My colleague from the Liberal side said earlier that this bill would provide a framework. Canadians with disabilities are not looking for a framework. They are looking for results. They are looking for a clear path that is going to remove the barriers keeping them from accessing the workplace. This bill would not do that.

Also, it will frustrate a lot of Canadians that this bill would take more than six years to implement. My first question would be, “to implement what?” That information is not in there. It was a promise made in the 2015 campaign that there would be a national plan to address disabilities. It did not say that it would be nine years, and it certainly did not say that it would be six years. The Liberals have had more than three years to try to come up with a plan, and they have failed to do that. That is extremely disappointing. As I said, if there were a tangible piece of legislation, all of us in this House would be willing to support it. It is something we could all work on together.

We will support this getting to the next stage, but I am hoping that there is an opportunity to improve this bill, because it is certainly lacking. This is a hollow document that would not address any of the promises made by the Prime Minister in 2015. Canadians have had enough of Liberal broken promises. Canadians, certainly Canadians with disabilities, want a government that will deliver.

There are vital details missing from this piece of legislation. How would private sector businesses be impacted by this legislation? I am talking about community airports, postal workers and those types of private sector businesses under federal jurisdiction. How would Parliament or constituency offices be impacted by this legislation? How much would this legislation cost to finally implement? What would be the cost of the bureaucracy that would be constructed as part of this bill? Who would have the authority to make the decisions? That is also not in this bill. How would compliance be measured? The bill says that there would be 5,000 new public sector workers hired. How would they be employed? Where would they be employed? Would they be given tangible and meaningful work, or would they be simply token hires?

As I said at the beginning of my speech, this bill had incredible potential, but the bill needs to establish clear and definitive lines of accountability and recommendations for the private sector and certainly for the public sector. This is not what the four million Canadians with disabilities asked for. They did not ask for more consultation or more studies. Those have been done before.

The Liberals had more than three years to update those studies and add to that information if they truly wanted to make this a priority. What is clear with Bill C-81 is that it was not a priority. This is something that has been rushed and thrown on the table to try to fit in by the end of this mandate.

As a society, the barrier we need to overcome is inclusion. We must remove the barriers, whatever they may be, to ensure that every Canadian has the opportunity to earn a living and be successful. We cannot judge people's abilities based on their disabilities. It is not about finding someone with a disability to suit our structure or our business model. It is about changing the workplace to suit the person with that disability. A disability is not a disability until that person is put in an environment or a context in which it disables them. For example, someone in a wheelchair can engage in debates and conversations, read and write, but it is not until that person is put in a situation without an accessible wheelchair ramp that it becomes a disability. The context of the situation has disabled them. It is this barrier that needs to be broken down.

Preventing and removing barriers means people with disabilities can participate in the workplace through inclusion and accommodation. People living with a disability can gain persistence and meet the challenges of any workplace, but someone has to give them that chance.

Bill C-81 needs to be more than a feel-good Liberal bill. We need concrete action to break down barriers and open up inclusivity to those living with disabilities. All of us in the House have an important role to play in achieving that goal. It is a chance to empower and mobilize. We are called upon to break down barriers and open doors for Canadians with disabilities. When we are an inclusive society, we all benefit.

I took a look at a couple of the organizations in my riding of Foothills, groups like Foothills SNAPS and the Foothills AIMS Society. They have done the heavy lifting. They are going to businesses across my riding to find work placement opportunities for Canadian adults and children with disabilities. They are breaking down those barriers on their own, working with the small business owners in southern Alberta.

I know they would embrace some help. If there were an opportunity to partner with the federal government to break down those barriers, providing additional opportunities to their clients, it would be welcomed. However, I know, when discussing Bill C-81 with them over the weekend, they were extremely disappointed by the lack of clarity and structure in the legislation.

I would like to finish off with a bit of a story about someone who I think many of us in the House know: Dr. Temple Grandin. She is an inspirational individual.

Dr. Grandin is a world renowned scientist, an American professor and one of the first individuals on the autism spectrum to share a personal experience. She did not speak until she was three and a half years old. When she was 15 years old, she visited her aunt's ranch, something that inspired her future career. She is world renowned in teaching techniques of animal handling in the agriculture sector and her methods are used on ranches and meat processing facilities across the world, including those in my riding of Foothills.

Dr. Grandin developed a centre track double rail conveyor restrainer system for holding cattle during stunning in beef plants. In addition, she developed an objective numerical scoring system for assessing animal welfare at slaughter plants. The use of her system has resulted in significant improvements in animal handling, which are now the industry standard.

She has lectured around the world about her experiences and the anxiety of feeling threatened by everything in her surroundings. She uses that fear and anxiety to motivate herself in her work with humane livestock practices. She has designed and adapted these corrals, which have reduced stress, panic and injury in animals. They have certainly been a game-changer in the agriculture sector. What some may have seen as a disability was certainly a workplace ability.

Recently in Vancouver, she spoke at the Pacific National Exhibition about developing individuals with different minds. She said, “There are different kinds of minds. Some people are visual thinkers. Another kid is going to be a pattern thinker and another one a word thinker. We have to start figuring out what a person can do. And this is true for all things involving disability.”

Under the previous Conservative government, we introduced the registered disabilities savings plan, which quickly gave Canadians with disabilities increased financial security. We introduced a new home accessibility tax credit and developed a working group tasked with developing a national autism strategy.

The best direction forward is toward workplace ability. Canadians with disabilities want tangible action and tangible and achievable goals. I will support getting the bill to committee in the hopes of improving it. However, this is a disappointing effort and is clearly another piece of rushed legislation trying to meet an election promise. This does not address the barriers Canadians with disabilities are facing when they are trying to enter the workforce, and that is where Bill C-81 falls disappointingly short.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

September 24th, 2018 / 5:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-81, or as I call it, another Liberal feel good bill that is short on details, does not note how it will actually help the disabled, and yet somehow manages to detail how it will grow the bureaucracy, but that is just a working title.

This situation with the delay in getting to this bill kind of reminds me of an old Seinfeld episode where Newman and Elaine steal someone's dog. It takes the police a while to catch them. When Newman is confronted by the police, he asks, “What took you so long?” That is what I would like to ask the government.

We will support this bill in order to get it to committee, where hopefully we will get the Liberals to actually work on concrete measures to help improve the lives of the disabled. I have heard that the bill may go to the government operations committee, on which I sit. We would welcome that if it does come to us. We are going to suggest and support amendments to ensure that it actually helps the disabled, and is not just a make-work project for bureaucrats.

The establishment of this bill was in the first minister's mandate letter in 2015. Ironically, the current Minister of Public Services was the original Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, tasked with this legislation three years ago. Back then, her mandate read:

Lead an engagement process with provinces, territories, municipalities, and stakeholders that will lead to the passage of a Canadians with Disabilities Act. In this work, you will be supported by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.

Work with the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities to deliver on our commitment to support the construction of recreational infrastructure that allows more children access to sport and recreation.

It is a bit ironic that the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities at the time was the MP for Edmonton Mill Woods. In West Edmonton, my riding, we have been looking to build a new recreation centre specifically as outlined in the mandate letter. Unfortunately, our minister, the senior minister for the Liberals in Edmonton, Alberta, has been completely absent on this issue. We have not received a single penny.

Recently, Huffington Post put out this big article and a map showing how the Liberals, in the summer, plastered most of eastern Canada with cheques: $43 billion. They showed how much was actually delivered to Edmonton: not one penny. Some $43 billion went to various Liberal ridings and not one penny was delivered by the Liberals to Edmonton. We will get to more on that issue later.

It has taken three years to get to introducing the bill that actually just punts the work down the road over the next six years. From the mandate letter to maybe actually achieving goals is going to be nine years.

The famed Liberal mandate tracker says on this issue that it is under way and on track. Regarding the development of a national disabilities act, it says the result anticipated is for federal accessibility legislation that promotes equality and opportunity, increases inclusion and participation of Canadians who have disabilities, with the outcome being that building on extensive nine-month in-person and online consultation with Canadians, the government has tabled the bill.

In three years since the mandate letter, the Liberals managed to consult for nine months. That makes me ask what they have done for the other two years and three months. It is funny that the current minister probably thought she could just transfer to another department and escape the mandate, yet here it is back with her at public services to fulfill.

Now, as for being under way and on track, it has taken three years to get to it being under way and on track. It has a bit of funding over six more years, and they say that it is on track.

I want to look at a few other things from the Liberal mandate tracker that are also under way and on track.

There is the review of Canada's environmental assessment project: under way and on track. Another refers to environmental assessment processes that are fair to all parties, rely on scientific evidence, respect the rights of indigenous people and protect the environment for generations to come. Here we have the Liberals failing on Trans Mountain. Their Bill C-68 is also known as the bill to ensure that a pipeline will never be built in Canada again. It says “rely on scientific evidence”, but this bill actually puts the final word and the political decision-making with the minister, not basing it on science. However, it is under way and on track.

Another is to establish new performance standards for government services, and measure and report on performance: under way and on track. The result is to be government services that better meet the needs of Canadians.

Every single government has to put out a departmental plan. In that plan, it lists all of its goals and expected results. Fully one-third of the entire departmental plan from every Liberal ministry does not actually have goals set. They all say what they are spending and what they hope to achieve in a roundabout way, but there are no actual goals set. Here we have that it is on track, but fully one-third of their programs do not have any results showing as a goal.

Here is another one that is under way and on track. Sure, committees can introduce effective opioid treatments and programs, but we have an opioid crisis across the country. The much reviled by the Liberals President Trump has actually declared it a national emergency in the United States, but the government cannot do that here, yet it is on track.

Another one under way and on track is to eliminate all long-term drinking water advisories in public systems on reserves. It is a great goal. The result anticipated is to continue progress in eliminating long-term drinking water advisories. Since this mandate came out, we have had 35 new communities that have been put on the boil water advisory. The Liberals sit there and say that they have done this, this and this, but they have actually added 35 new communities. However, it is under way and on track.

Another one is to help veterans by establishing lifelong pensions ensuring they will have access to financial advice and support. We have seen the current government fail miserably on that, but it is under way and on track.

It says that promoting economic development and creating jobs for indigenous people is under way and on track. The result anticipated is higher employment rates for indigenous people. In the government operations committee we recently studied small business procurement and how we have set-asides for indigenous businesses. We are required to set aside a certain amount of business through the government for indigenous-led businesses. The government had someone come up and say that they are fulfilling every role and succeeding massively. However, every single witness we have had from the indigenous community, Métis, Cree, it does not matter, from Alberta and Quebec, every single witness said that the government is not even following its own laws, yet here it says it is under way and on track.

It says that to implement an infrastructure strategy that improves public transport is under way and on track. The result anticipated is that Canadians spend less time in traffic. We have heard the Parliamentary Budget Officer say that he cannot even find the infrastructure money that has been established in the budget. He has begged the government to produce an infrastructure strategy, which the government has not done, yet somehow the Liberals say it is under way and on track. I will note that the member for Edmonton Mill Woods, when he was the infrastructure minister, managed to get some work done on public transport in Alberta. He got ashtrays for the bus stops in Edmonton and so I thank him.

It says that modernizing the National Energy Board is under way and on track. We have seen the government belittle, bad-mouth and discredit the NEB, yet it says it is on track to modernize it. Bad-mouthing and discrediting it is not modernizing it.

My favourite from the Liberal mandate checker has to be the budget: to balance the budget by 2019-20 is under way with challenges. Now, it is not going to be balanced, and the most recent update we heard from finance was 2050. Here is the funny thing: Every single finance minister from the provinces across Canada has set a date when they will balance their budget. In Alberta, where we have the financially challenged and mathematically challenged NDP spending us into bankruptcy, it has actually set a date for when it will balance the budget. Even with Kathleen Wynne's Liberals, the finance minister had set a date when they would balance the budget. Of course, it turns out it was all incorrect information, but they set a date to balance the budget. Who has not set a date to balance the budget? Well, it is the finance minister from this government. Every single other one but the finance minister has, but I digress.

Ensuring Canadians who are living with disabilities are allowed to live with equal opportunities by eliminating systematic barriers is a great cause. We all support it. My office works with a great many in Edmonton West on this issue. I want to read a letter from one of them. His name is Timothy Parnett. He is a gentleman who was hurt in a car accident years ago and is confined to a wheelchair with limited movement in his arms and legs.

He writes, “I run the advocacy group called Mightywheels.ca. This organization was created to address accessibility within the community. Our mission is simple: Mightywheels.ca wants to bring attention to poor infrastructure and problem areas in the community that you live in. Mightywheels is located in Edmonton, Alberta. Edmonton has grown at a rapid pace within the past few decades, so much so that the city struggles to keep up with the demand of reconstruction of aider communities, where the accessibility conditions are severely lacking, even deplorable to a certain extent. 1 am hoping to raise awareness for the struggles that people with wheels or mobility issues face every day.”

He goes on to say that he has a website that is “geared to help people who face social inequality, the main issue we currently address is accessibility for all people: we focus on the barriers that cause inaccessibility: these would be things like parents pushing baby strollers, people with mobility issues or impairments, or people who use walking aids or wheelchairs like myself.” He writes:

Here is one gentleman confined to a wheelchair with no resources who has put in a simple email better outcomes than what are in Bill C-81. He finished by saying, “My Mightywheels website is to give hope to everyone who has an issue with accessibility. l am very passionate with my website and l am hoping that people will be enlightened and educate. Most of all, l am hoping people will see and hear my advocacy. This is not just for me, but for all the people who have issues with mobility. l am a firm believer that together we can do it one step at time.”

I had a coffee with Tim at West Edmonton Mall. We chatted about his accident and his difficulties in life and what he wanted to achieve. He wants to inspire people to succeed. I am going to consider it a failure if the next time I see him I have to say it is a great idea but to hold on for the next six years because this legislation is going to take that long.

It reminds me of an interview when the Prime Minister told a desperate unemployed oil sands worker in Alberta to just hang in there. That was over two years ago. Since then the Liberals have killed energy east and northern gateway, and have botched Trans Mountain. I guess we are going to have to tell those workers to just hang in there a bit more.

It also reminds me of the injured veteran at the Edmonton town hall who had lost a leg. Pleading for help, he was told by the Prime Minister that veterans are asking for more than the government could give. Ten million dollars for an ice rink on Parliament Hill is not too much to ask for and $10 million for Omar Khadr is not too much to ask for, but it is for a veteran.

I want to go back to the mandate letters. The next minister for disabilities was the member for Calgary Centre. His mandate letter stated, “Develop and introduce new federal accessibility legislation. You will build on the significant consultations that have already taken place involving provinces, territories”, etc. By then, the consultations were going to have to be done.

Did the minister get it done? Of course he did not. Part of his mandate letter also read that he was expected to live up to the highest ethical standards. Instead, he is under investigation by the Ethics Commissioner for using House of Commons resources for a family member's election.

We are now over to our third minister for the file. She too will build on the significant consultations that have already taken place. Hers too should be an ambitious legislation. Six years is not ambitious unless it is the Minister of Finance balancing the budget when 20 years would be ambitious, but in his case apparently it is going to be 30.

What I am getting at is that we do not need six years of added bureaucracy. We need a truly ambitious plan to help the disabled. Provinces have plans. Ontario has the Ontarians With Disabilities Act. This is not new ground that we are breaking here. It has been done before.

The previous Conservative government took the disabilities file seriously. We did not pass off the issues from minister to minister. We actually got stuff done, like introducing the landmark registered disability savings plan, which helps parents and grandparents with children with severe disabilities to contribute to the children's financial security. From mandate letter to actually getting it done, it was three months, not three years to get to a program where six years down the road we might have something done, three years from mandate letter to actually getting to legislation and getting the program done.

We invested $30 million into the opportunities fund to help persons with disabilities gain employment. We supported caregivers and recognized their enormous contribution through tax incentives. There was over $200 million for labour market agreements for persons with disabilities to assist provinces in approving the employment situation of Canadians with disabilities, and millions of dollars for the ready, willing and able initiative of the Canadian Association for Community Living to connect persons with developmental disabilities with jobs, and millions to support the expansion of vocational training programs for persons with autism spectrum disorder, and on and on.

I want to swing back to the registered disability savings plan. Since we introduced the plan, it has helped 105,000 Canadians save for the future. This is the outcomes-based work that we need from the current government. Conservatives are not in power anymore, but the members on this side are continuing to work for the disabled.

My seatmate, the member for Calgary Shepard, has introduced Bill C-399, the fairness for persons with disabilities act. It aims to reduce the threshold for the number of hours needed for an activity to be eligible for a tax credit. Medical food and medical formula would also qualify under the disability tax credit.

Our member for Carleton has introduced Bill C-395, the opportunity for workers with disabilities act, which is an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act.

His legislation would amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act to ensure that persons with disabilities do not lose more through taxation and the reduction in benefits than they would gain as a result of working. His bill would enforce Ottawa to measure the impact of every thousand dollars a disabled person earns in wages against the value of their lost benefits. It would force the federal government to adjust its tax and benefits program so a disabled person would always be financially better off working than not working.

What has the Liberal government done besides passing this file from minister to minister to minister? It sicced the CRA on disabled people. It targeted people living with type 1 diabetes. As a diabetes sufferer stated, “It's not like I can snap a finger and this disease turns off.” The government was quick to go after people who suffered from diabetes, but slow to work on its mandate.

Who else did the Liberals target in their tax grab? They targeted people suffering from autism and severe mental health disorders. Autism Canada says it is hearing too many stories of people who have had the disability tax credit, sometimes for decades, for their children with autism taken away.

It is funny to note that I did not see in any of the Liberal mandate letters ministers being told to harass people with disabilities and to do a tax grab on them. They seem to have acted quickly on it, though. It is too bad they did not have it in their mandate letters, because this would be one issue they could actually mark as completed instead of marking it as “under way with challenges”.

We have a lot of questions on this legislation. We do support it like our colleagues in the NDP and other parties. We want it to get to committee so that we can get some teeth into the measures currently in it and help disabled people.

We do have some questions for the minister, though. When will the new regulations come into effect? The six-year time frame would suggest that the entire process is going to take six years to get done between now and the time help will be given to the disabled. How much is it going to cost federal workplaces and private businesses? What will the new standard be? Why will we be voting on legislation when we do not know the regulations that will come out of it? Is it going to be properly defined to avoid a flood of human rights complaints?

I want to go back to the comment about voting on legislation when we do not even know what the regulations will be. We saw the government do this recently with the estimates, in what we called vote 40, the slush fund. The government asked us to give it $7.4 billion and that it would tell us later what it would be spent on. When we asked further, we were told that it was presumptuous to expect opposition members to understand what the money would be used for until it was given to it.

We have another situation here. What is the $290 million going to be used for? Can the Liberals give us a breakdown of how it is going to be spent? Is it going to be spent on changing our buildings and updating them, or is it all going to be spent on bureaucracy? Have estimates been done on the cost to the private sector across the country? If the bill were passed today, what would the changes be, asides from spending lots of money on bureaucrats? Is it going toward hiring more public servants to examine which regulations we should have?

I note that in the 10-page slide deck or briefing document the government sent out, it provided more information on the bureaucracy going after people and penalizing them, etc., than it did on how the bill would help the average disabled person. We are worried about that.

Is the government going to build a bureaucracy that will create paperwork and go after people? It has not put anything in the bill specifying how it is going to physically and pragmatically help the disabled. What will the outcome be? We do not know. We do know that there will be a lot more bureaucrats going after people.

The $290 million will not even scratch the surface of what it is going to cost the federal government and the federally regulated private sectors to catch up to the new standards.

We have a lot of issues with this legislation, but we do support it. We support the work that we have done in the past toward helping disabled individuals. We continue to do so with our private members' bills, such as the one put forward by the member for Calgary Shepard and the member for Carleton. Both have produced bills that would show tangible results for the disabled without the resources the government has, whether it be easier access to the disability credit for those who are suffering from autism, diabetes, or mental health disorders, or as my friend from Carleton has put in his bill, that would encourage the disabled to get back to work. His bill would not punish someone by taking away benefits because they had a job. Nothing is better for the dignity of Canadians than having a job.

We support getting the bill to committee. We want to improve the lives of those living with disabilities, but we are worried about the lack of government ambition toward getting it done.

Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities ActPrivate Members' Business

June 6th, 2018 / 4 p.m.
See context

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Pursuant to the order made on Tuesday, May 29, 2018, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-395 under private members' business.

The House resumed from May 31 consideration of the motion that Bill C-395, An Act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities ActPrivate Members' Business

May 31st, 2018 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-395, the opportunities act. I want to take an opportunity very quickly to thank the member for Carleton for bringing this forward. I know the opportunity to present a private member's bill does not come along that often, and many members in the House will not have an opportunity to see one through to completion. When people take the time they are allotted for a cause and purpose like this, it is to be commended. The member, through his private member's bill, is really starting to highlight and draw attention to a very important issue that we need to be looking at closely. We need to be examining it and figuring out what can be done. The bill he has introduced puts us on the right path and in the direction of being able to start having this discussion.

I am going to focus my comments on the problem that exists. My staff and I had an opportunity to research this and look at some of the problems. I would like to talk about those as well as about some statistics we were able to find that highlight even further the problem that exists. I will then talk a bit about some of the recommendations out there and the Canada social transfer component and what this bill would do to change that.

The first thing we have to understand is the marginal effective tax rate that so many people who are receiving some kind of social assistance or disability payment, or whatever it might be from the government, are dealing with. In particular, as it relates to people with disabilities, what we are finding is that they are less interested in getting into the marketplace because of the clawback that would happen when they get into the workforce and start to generate income. Their disability payments would be clawed back. Therefore, their marginal effective rate of tax would actually starts to increase.

According to figures we were able to obtain from the Library of Parliament, a person with a disability working 30 hours a week in Ontario pays a marginal effective tax rate of up to 70%. If members think that is astonishing, in Alberta it can be as much as 115% for a person who has a disability and is working 40 hours a week. Another term for this is what is referred to as the “welfare wall”. That was coined by the Centre for Research on Work and Disability Policy. It refers to a cluster of factors that together act as a trap for people on social assistance, or ”welfare”, the term it uses, and makes it difficult for them to move off that program of income support. I think that is exactly the case we are seeing here for people with disabilities with the disability payments they are getting.

This problem is also well documented by the Caledon Institute of Social Policy in a 1993 study, which found that Ontario social assistance recipients who supplement their social benefits by working get to keep only a very small fraction of these earnings. Basically, there is a wall, called the “welfare wall”, put up in front of people that is preventing them from actually getting into the workforce. In particular, the more they work, the more is clawed back. Therefore, even if they do start to get into the workforce, there is a disincentive to continue to work more.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD, did a study on this and found that unemployment rates of persons with disabilities in 2006 were 50% higher than for Canadians without disabilities. The OECD concluded:

Much of Canada's sickness and disability policy reform efforts so far have been piecemeal rather than co-ordinated, and had seemingly limited overall impact on a system that remains complex and fragmented.

I mentioned earlier that I would talk about some statistics. This is from Statistics Canada. According to a 2012 Canadian survey on disability, there were over 650,000 disabled individuals, aged 15 to 64, who were not in the labour force who either used to work or indicated that they were capable of working. Of these, 94,000 reported feeling that if they were employed, they would lose additional support.

That is key. These are people thinking to themselves that if they start working, they will lose support. They are not even in the participation rates, because many of them are not actually looking for jobs, because they fear these clawbacks.

The unemployment rate for persons with disabilities is 11%, compared to 6% for people without disabilities, which is almost double. It is important to mention that the unemployment rate always includes people who are actively looking for work, and that is why we have to talk about the participation rate, which is equally important. The participation rate is 55% for people with disabilities versus 84% for people without disabilities.

I have outlined why I see a big problem here. I would agree with the member that we are not doing enough to combat this problem. We are not doing enough to put additional measures in place to discourage the welfare wall that has been created.

That is why I think the part of the member's bill that talks about the minister collecting data and reporting back to Parliament on a regular basis is extremely important. By getting that information, we can have a discussion about it. Quite frankly, a lot of Canadians are not having a discussion about this, because they are not aware of the information and do not realize the impact.

My colleague on the other side talked a little bit about the HUMA recommendations. I admit that I am not a member of the committee, but I did look at the report it produced. It had four recommendations that I believe are related to this.

The first is “that the government task the Parliamentary Budget Officer with reporting annually on the marginal effective tax rates...that low-income disabled people pay in each province.”

The second recommendation is “that, at the next meeting of the federal-provincial Finance Ministers, all governments agree”, which I think is the key word here, “on a coordinated plan to cap [marginal effective tax rates] at...50% for all disabled Canadians”. It goes on to give more detail. I think it is key that we recognize that the word “agree” was used there because of the problem that is presented by the Canada social transfer.

The difference between this bill and the HUMA report is that the bill directs the federal government to do something with the Canada social transfer.

I know the member across the way mentioned that the Canada social transfer has one single condition, but there is a valid reason for that. Under section 25.1 of the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, provinces and territories must meet a national standard of having no minimum residency period. That is the sole criterion, and this was done intentionally to create a scenario in which the provinces are responsible to the people, as opposed to being responsible to the federal government.

That is probably what has motivated the government, through the parliamentary secretary, to explain why it might not be supporting it. This bill would have been a lot more palatable if it did not have the component regarding the Canada social transfer. If it did not, we would have been able to get that information on a regular basis.

I am very supportive of the concept and what I have heard, but to be completely honest, I am still deliberating as to how I am going to vote on this. I think this is a noble effort, and I know what people with disabilities face.

As a personal anecdote, I have a nephew with Down syndrome. He has great and amazing supports right now, but we worry about what supports he is going to have after he finishes high school.

I will leave it at that.

Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities ActPrivate Members' Business

May 31st, 2018 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

Louis-Hébert Québec

Liberal

Joël Lightbound LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I am happy to outline the government's position on Bill C-395, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act.

I want to commend the member for Carleton, because the end he is seeking to achieve in this legislation is noble and good. However, the means to reach that end are not consistent with our vision of federalism and productive collaboration with provinces and territories.

The bill seeks to help encourage more people to enter the workforce. The government is taking, and has taken, substantive steps toward the same end. The government believes that in order to face the challenges of today and tomorrow, we will need the hard work and creativity of all Canadians.

We are here because our constituents put us here and, as legislators, we must not only do the right thing, we must also do it right. The debate we are about to have hinges on that nuance. That will be central to the debate today because there is a wide gulf between the approach we are proposing and this proposed approach.

The approach proposed in this bill involves imposing more conditions on the provinces and then talking to them about it after the fact. That is not our vision of federalism and the work we need to do with the provinces. The provinces want us to work with them, to collaborate, especially on matters that are under their jurisdiction.

The previous government was in power for 10 years and could have introduced a condition like this, but it did not. The previous government was in power for 10 years and my colleague from Carleton was the minister in charge of the portfolio, but not once in 10 years did he meet with his provincial counterparts to discuss this important issue.

The bill seeks to introduce a condition to the Canada social transfer whereby the transfer payments to provinces and territories would be reduced in cases where persons with disabilities face marginal effective tax rates above 100%. These high marginal effective tax rates are largely the result of the design of provincial and territorial social assistance programs.

The provisions of this bill are not consistent with the intent of the Canada social transfer, which exists to provide funding to provincial and territorial governments while allowing flexibility in the design and administration of programs in their areas of responsibility, including the delivery of social assistance.

What the bill is proposing would amount to an encroachment on an area of provincial and territorial jurisdiction. Provincial and territorial governments are accountable directly to their residents for their spending in their areas of responsibility, and that includes program spending that results from the Canada social transfer payments.

Our government is committed to helping the next generation of Canadians succeed. We believe that every Canadian deserves an equal and fair chance at success, so we agree that removing barriers to entering and staying in the workforce is a principled goal.

However, this is a challenge that no order of government can take on alone. We need the support of our partners. Introducing a condition that could result in reduced CST payments to provinces and territories, which is what this bill proposes, could effectively jeopardize social programming for all Canadians, including post-secondary education, social assistance and social services, and support for children, while doing nothing to address the barriers to employment for persons with disabilities. In other words, this is not a preferable scenario.

There are more effective ways of improving access to good jobs for persons with disabilities. A more collaborative approach with provincial and territorial governments, one that seeks to address labour market barriers faced by persons with disabilities, would achieve more than what is being proposed today.

Our government recognizes the importance of the issue raised by the bill. We are committed to working with provinces and territories to figure out how to give persons with disabilities more opportunities to work and more incentives to join and stay in the workforce. In fact, our government has taken many actions to do just that.

In budget 2018, we introduced the new Canada workers benefit. This new benefit is a strengthened version of the working income tax benefit and will come into effect next year. The new Canada workers benefit will put more money in the pockets of low-income workers and, in doing so, give people help as they transition to work.

For example, a low-income worker earning $15,000 could receive up to almost $500 more from the Canada workers benefit in 2019 than in 2018 under the current system. The government also proposes to increase the maximum benefit provided through the Canada workers benefit disability supplement by an additional $160 to offer greater support to eligible Canadians with disabilities.

The Canada workers benefit will offer real help to more than two million Canadians who are working hard to join the middle class. Enhancements to the benefit, starting in 2019, will also raise roughly 70,000 Canadians out of poverty. This improved benefit will help low-income working Canadians, including those with disabilities, make ends meet.

In budget 2018, the government also provided funding for a new program to develop and enhance pre-apprenticeship training. Working in partnership with provinces, territories, post-secondary institutions, training providers, unions, and employers, it will help Canadians, particularly under-represented groups, including women, indigenous people, persons with disabilities, and newcomers, to explore the trades, gain work experience, make informed career choices, and develop the skills needed to succeed.

We know that labour market barriers faced by persons with disabilities are broader than financial disincentives. That is why the government has committed to introducing accessibility legislation to proactively identify, remove, and prevent accessibility barriers for persons with disabilities in the federal jurisdiction.

Since taking office, the government has also made a number of investments in federal programming to support persons with disabilities. I will now detail a few examples from our first two budgets.

To increase investments in training and employment supports under the labour market development agreements and workforce development agreements, budget 2017 provided $2.7 billion over six years, starting in 2017-18. These agreements are the means by which the federal government transfers funds to provinces and territories to improve employment opportunities, including for persons with disabilities.

Budget 2017 also provided close to $400 million over three years to support the youth employment strategy, which includes funding for vulnerable youth, including youth with disabilities, to overcome barriers to employment.

Budget 2016 and budget 2017 provided $81 million over 10 years to expand the enabling accessibility fund, which funds capital projects that improve the accessibility of community and workplace infrastructure.

Also, budget 2016 provided $73 million over four years to support new work-integrated learning opportunities for young Canadians in the science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and business fields. The program provides wage incentives for employers who hire from under-represented groups, including persons with disabilities.

Our government's position is clear: We need to ensure that the benefits of a growing economy are felt by more and more people, with good, well-paying jobs for the middle class. We need to maximize workforce participation, including for persons with disabilities, and create more incentives for people to join and stay in the workforce. The new Canada workers benefit, and the increased disability supplement that is provided through this benefit, is a step in the right direction.

Again, I would like to thank my colleague for raising that important issue in the House through Bill C-395. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, I believe the end he is seeking to achieve is a good and noble one, and we share that objective. However, the means he has chosen to achieve it, essentially coercing the provinces through a condition to the Canada social transfer, is not the right way to go. This is something that can be better achieved through collaborating and working with the provinces and territories.

The House resumed from April 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-395, An Act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities ActPrivate Members' Business

April 16th, 2018 / 11:40 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I support Bill C-395, the opportunity for workers with disabilities act, put forward by my colleague, the member for Carleton. I want to thank him for his steadfast and exceptional advocacy for accountability to taxpayers and for economic freedom, security, and opportunity for all Canadians, especially the vulnerable and disadvantaged. His bill could benefit many Canadians who have different barriers than others in their day-to-day lives.

The bill would mandate Finance Canada to calculate how much people with disabilities currently lose in taxes and clawbacks as a result of each additional income of $1,000 they earn, up to $30,000, on a province-by-province basis. If there are cases where clawbacks are higher than the employment income, the finance minister can review possible changes to the federal tax and benefits system so people with disabilities are not worse off or get paid simply less because they are working. The finance minister would then consult with each province to fix the problem. Of course, the federal government puts conditions on provincial programs and services all the time.

I support Bill C-395 because every Canadian has value and every Canadian with disabilities who wants to work and is able to do so should be able to maximize his or her opportunities without penalties or barriers from government. Meaningful work is important for well-being, a sense of dignity, for a fulfilling life, and it should be a public policy priority to support people with disabilities who want and are able to work.

Unfortunately, Canadians with disabilities often struggle to secure employment or when they do, government policies stop them from being able to fully benefit from their efforts and endeavours.

According to a 2012 Statistics Canada report on persons with disabilities and employment, the last report done on this subject, the employment rate of Canadians aged 25 to 64 who have a physical or mental disability was 49%, compared to a 79% rate of those without a disability.

In my home province of Alberta, people with disabilities who do work often lose $1.15 for every new dollar they earn under the current system. The assured income for the severely handicapped, or AISH, is Alberta's program supported by the Canada social transfer. This separate supplement income program acknowledges the unique financial costs and significant barriers that only this exceptional group of people face.

Currently, an Albertan living with a disability can receive a standard living allowance of almost $1,600 monthly through AISH. Like many provincial income programs for the disabled, the financial benefit decreases as earned income increases. Of course, an individual living with a disability who is able to work full-time may not receive the same level of support as someone who cannot work at all or who struggles to be accommodated by prospective employers.

Right now in Alberta persons with disabilities in the AISH program can only earn a certain amount before their payments are reduced. Under Alberta's AISH employment income exemption calculation, a single person on the AISH program can only earn up to a maximum of $800 before his or her payments are clawed back monthly. Once a person earns just over $2,700 monthly, he or she no longer receive an AISH benefit at all. That is a salary of $32,000 a year with no additional benefits. However, the reality is that people with disabilities often have an additional set and scope of costs and requirements for survival, never mind to thrive, in their daily lives and for their whole lives that people without disabilities can not imagine.

Canadians with the same income who are not disabled already struggle to make ends meet. People with disabilities who can and want to be included in the workforce should not lose benefits that are specifically designed to support their disabilities.

A notable exception about Alberta's program, through recent improvements by both the former PC government and the current NDP one, is that it is actually significantly more generous when compared to other provinces.

Ontario, for example, has the Ontario disability support program where a single person with a disability can earn a maximum financial benefit of only just over $1,100 monthly. The benefit is based on family status, providing more if a disabled person has dependants.

British Columbia has the person with disability program under B.C. employment and assistance, which is also based on family status. A single person can only receive just over $1,100 per month.

This scenario means there is virtually no financial incentive for disabled people to work. The more they work the less money or benefits they receive, even if they have a low-paying job. If there is no benefit for disabled people to work because they may get paid more if they do not, then what incentive is there for them to go to work and why should they be punished for wanting to contribute to society and for doing something that is fulfilling and meaningful and fulfilling?

The current system therefore presents a unique problem. In “The Dignity Deficit”, Arthur Brooks says, “We feel a sense of dignity when our own lives produce value for ourselves and others. Put simply, to feel dignified, one must be needed by others.”

Involuntary unemployment can be extremely damaging to a person who wants to work. Studies conclude that compared with people who are employed, unemployed people can experience mental health issues, which is not just highly correlated but tied directly to their lack of work. Many struggle with depression and have lesser physical well-being generally. Unemployed people are more likely to cope by drinking, smoking, and using drugs.

It is often assumed that these physical and mental challenges are the cause of unemployment, but there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that the relationship is also the other way around and that for people with disabilities, those who are able to work, are more healthy mentally and emotionally, benefiting from a sense of self-worth from gainful employment, than people with disabilities who can work but do not.

Brooks says, “Involuntary unemployment saps one’s sense of dignity.” Receiving employment insurance or disability benefits does not actually help disabled people who want to work. It is backward and perverse for a government system to disincentivize it or claw back fundamental supports for those who do.

I am passionate about this issue in part because of my personal experience with people with disabilities. In university, I volunteered with the Little Bits Therapeutic Riding Association at the Whitemud Equine Learning Centre in Edmonton. I got to know adults and children with cognitive, developmental, mental, and physical challenges, originating from birth, from tragic accidents, and from diseases and illnesses. They and their families and guardians had a major impact on me. Many of them would not be able to work. They depended completely on a network of family, friends, public and private support systems, and programs. However, there were those who could work, and did, and who made all kinds of contributions through work and volunteerism. They should not be penalized for meaningful employment or profitable entrepreneurialism, and for their efforts to advance and support themselves. All of them, those who could work and those who could not, also contributed to my life, my perspective, and my well-being in ways I am sure they never knew.

In Lakeland, the Vegreville Association for Living in Dignity is a not-for-profit association that helps support people with developmental disabilities to have opportunities for success and personal growth by promoting the development of communication and cognitive and motor skills through participation in work and in many initiatives and events in the community.

VALID has long-standing partnerships with businesses for employment positions, and with charities for volunteer activities in Vegreville. For more than 20 years, VALID's program with the immigration case processing centre secured work placements for three to five, and sometimes more, disabled people every year. These opportunities will soon be taken away from workers with disabilities in CPC Vegreville because despite an outpouring and herculean effort to stop it by employees and their families, union reps, and elected representatives at all levels and of all parties in Alberta, and right across the country, the Liberals are closing the office in September 2018.

That closure will eliminate hundreds of much-needed jobs in Vegreville, with wide-ranging and significant economic and social consequences for the town and region. The Liberal closure will end decades of consistent and predictable employment opportunities for adults living with disabilities in and around the town and end all fundraising by the employee champions for local charities and not-for-profit associations that help the disadvantaged, needy, and vulnerable through their contributions to workplace charitable campaigns.

The immigration department said that the new office in Vegreville would accommodate 312 employees, only a maximum addition of 32 positions. Vegreville could have expanded for them and for more jobs or placements for people with disabilities.

It is a huge loss that was imposed with no consultation and no economic impact assessment. The cost study the Liberals hid for a year showed it would cost millions more. Nothing ever actually prevented them from opening an office in Edmonton. They have never proven the case why the Vegreville office has to be closed, not to the whole team of employees who consistently outperform targets and backstop other offices, not to the 76% of employees there who are women, and not to the people with disabilities who will no longer have opportunities for worthwhile and meaningful work there.

Canadians with disabilities should be able to exercise their talents, abilities, and ambition to pursue and attain employment and entrepreneurial opportunities when they can and want to. Governments should not penalize them for doing so. The aim of Canadian public policy should be to enable and empower people with disabilities to enjoy meaningful work without barriers and to thrive, not take away incentive from their drive to work and pursue their goals.

That is why I support Bill C-395, and all members should support it. It is a focused, specific, and necessary initiative to actually deliver in policy on all the words and intentions elected representatives often share about compassion and about supporting diversity, abilities, and inclusions. The Conservatives mean those words, are acting on those words, and I am sure the Liberals will support it.

Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities ActPrivate Members' Business

April 16th, 2018 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Carleton for introducing Bill C-395. I believe that this bill addresses a gap in the tax system known as the “welfare wall”, a fairly well-known economic principle. It occurs when those who are receiving social assistance or people with disabilities, as we are talking about here, want to enter the workforce but will lose money to taxes or benefit clawbacks by doing so.

I do not think that this is a result of any level of government acting in bad faith; rather, I think it is an indication of the complexity of our tax system. It is becoming so complex that, despite our best efforts, we have introduced unintended effects into the system that penalize people who want to re-enter the labour market.

I will vote in favour of the bill at second reading so that we can study it at committee. I have questions about some aspects of the bill, such as whether the financial implications for different levels of government are those suggested. I believe that will be the case, but we will be able to do a more in-depth analysis at committee.

This is an example of the left and the right being able to work together because we have a common interest. I believe that we have the greater good at heart. We want to help people who want to work, in this case, once again, people with a disability. Support for the bill introduced by the member for Carleton has come from progressives and Conservatives, including a former representative of the Canadian Tax Foundation, the Canadian Association of Social Workers, Jack Mintz, and Ian Lee, who will never be taken for progressives, as well as the Canadian Association for Supported Employment. The entire political spectrum is represented on this long list of supporters, which clearly indicates that we have a social consensus.

I am saddened by the government's attitude. If I am not mistaken, my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, said that the government will not encourage support for this bill, at least at second reading, which I find very disappointing. The bill by the member for Carleton is clear. It would amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act. The various levels of government are subject to conditions with respect to social transfers and health transfers, and these conditions help address any problems that may arise or any issues regarding how different governments use the transfers. When the federal government is able to punish persons with disabilities who want to return to the job market, this will be addressed at the federal level, and it must also be addressed at the provincial level. I am saddened that the speech I just heard had nothing to do with the bill itself, and instead had to do with government measures, since at the end of the day, this bill is worthy of consideration.

If the bill passes, there will be three requirements. The first has to do with the Minister of Finance.

Finance Canada will be asked to calculate the level of taxation and the loss of benefits that would be incurred by the person with a disability in going back on the job market and having a job and wages. Following that, if the earned income is lowered by the effect of taxation and the loss of benefits, then Finance Canada would have to modify or amend in some form the working income tax disability supplement. The same would be asked of the provinces through that modification and the agreement between the federal government and the provincial governments for the social transfer. It is that simple. That is all that is asked here.

I do not understand why the government does not want this bill to be studied. It would complement the measures that the government announced in its latest budget.

I do not see why the government would not study this new measure, which would complement what it proposed in its last budget. At the end of the day, I worry that the government is telling us it can do better than this bill. Personally, I really doubt it.

I introduced Bill C-274 in the House of Commons to fix a specific problem with the transfer of SMEs and family farms. I managed to secure the support of many members. The Conservative Party was on board, as were the independent members and, in theory, 15 to 20 Liberal members. Then the Minister of Finance released a cost estimate for the bill. The tax specialists I had been dealing with had estimated that my bill would cost between $75 million and $100 million.

During the final week of debate, however, the government pulled a rabbit out of its hat and claimed the bill would cost between $800 million and $1.2 billion in lost revenue. That scared off a lot of Liberal backbenchers. Several of those who had initially supported the bill and acknowledged the existence of the problem my bill was trying to fix decided to vote against it.

The Department of Finance misled the members of the Liberal Party, because in a report on the fiscal impact of my bill that was published two months after the vote, the parliamentary budget officer put the fiscal revenue shortfall at about $150 million, not $800 million to $1.2 billion as the finance department led the House to believe.

The government tends to completely ignore positive legislation brought forward by the opposition, especially on fiscal matters. It is trying to undermine the members of the House by systematically refusing all opposition-led tax bills, whether they are proposed by the official opposition or other opposition parties.

In our consideration of Bill C-395, however, we are working on the particular issue of Canadians who are struggling to get over the welfare wall.

The welfare wall exists, and we need to attack it where we can, federally and provincially. It makes no sense.

My colleague, the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, actually showed that this is a principle that should be applied everywhere in our tax system. It should be applied, because it makes sense in terms of creating incentives for people with disabilities or people on social assistance or people who want to find an opportunity to work. We need to give them every single opportunity to do so.

Creating walls and keeping a state of affairs where people going to work actually lose money and benefits because they are going to work makes no sense. It is our duty as parliamentarians, it is our duty as people who have been elected by our constituents, to ensure that we correct these problems. The bill tabled by the member for Carleton aims to do exactly that.

I will be asking the government to look at this bill and to send it to committee to ensure that the objectives targeted by this bill would be achieved. This would actually be a positive contribution by this Parliament. It would ensure that people who want to gain some dignity by going back to work and being able to contribute socially in their communities would not be penalized and would not suffer from the shortcomings of our own legislation when we adopt tax measures provincially and federally.

I encourage all members of Parliament in this House to vote in favour of this bill and to send it to committee to try to see what we can do for people with disabilities who want to gain dignity by joining the job market.

Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities ActPrivate Members' Business

April 16th, 2018 / 11:20 a.m.
See context

Argenteuil—La Petite-Nation Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Lauzon LiberalParliamentary Secretary for Sport and Persons with Disabilities

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-395, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act.

The bill raises an important question: what can we do to encourage people who are not currently in the workforce to enter and remain in it? In the context of this legislation, how do we ensure that measures are put in place to encourage persons with disabilities to work, if they so wish?

Canada's future progress depends on making sure that every Canadian has an equal and fair chance at success. We need to ensure that the benefits of a growing economy are felt by more and more people with good, well-paying jobs for the middle class and everyone working hard to join it. The number of Canadians in low-wage jobs is high by international standards. Many of these workers struggle to support their families and afford basics like healthy food and clothes for growing kids.

That is why budget 2018 introduces the new Canada workers benefit, for example. This measure, which replaces the working income tax benefit, will help low-income workers keep more of their income. With this benefit, the government is also proposing an increase in the disability supplement in order to provide more assistance to Canadians who wish to enter the labour face and face financial barriers because of their disability. The Canada workers benefit will help lift approximately 70,000 Canadians out of poverty by 2020. It will encourage more people to join the workforce.

Whether this extra money is used for things such as helping to cover the family grocery bills or buying warm clothes for the winter, the improved benefits will help low-income working Canadians to make ends meet.

Furthermore, starting in 2019, the government will also make it easier for people to access the benefits they have earned by making changes that will allow the Canada Revenue Agency to calculate the Canada workers benefit for any tax filer who has not claimed it. Allowing the Canada Revenue Agency to automatically provide the benefit to eligible filers will be especially helpful for people with reduced mobility, people who live far from service locations, and people who do not have internet access. As a result, everyone who can benefit from the Canada workers benefit will receive it when they file their taxes, and an estimated 300,000 additional low-income workers will receive the new Canada workers benefit for the 2019 tax year because of these changes. Combined with previous enhancements, our government is investing almost $1 billion in new funding per year to help low-income workers get ahead.

In addition to the new Canada workers benefit, the federal government has provided the refundable medical expense supplement to improve work incentives for Canadians with disabilities. This supplement helps to offset the loss of coverage for medical and disability-related expenses when individuals move from social assistance to the paid labour force.

The intention of ensuring that a financial work incentive exists for Canadians with disabilities is strongly supported. That is why the government is taking action to achieve improvements in labour market outcomes for persons with disabilities. However, while it is obviously desirable to ensure that social assistance programs preserve an incentive to work, the provision of social assistance for the working age populations, including for persons with disabilities, is primarily a provincial and territorial area of responsibility. Of course, the federal government has an interest in ensuring that its policies preserve work incentives and has collaborated with the provinces in this area. In recognition of the important role played by provinces and territories in providing basic income support, our government has worked with them to make province-specific changes to the design of the working income tax benefit to better harmonize with their own programs. Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia, and Nunavut have already taken advantage of this opportunity. Moving forward, our government will continue to work with interested provinces and territories to harmonize benefits under the new Canada workers benefit and to help support the transition from social assistance and into work.

Another noteworthy measure in budget 2018 is a new pre-apprenticeship program that would help under-represented groups in the economy, including women, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and newcomers, explore the trades, gain work experience, and develop the skills needed to succeed.

After 20 years experience in teaching and professional development, I can say that the future is bright and there will be jobs for these people. This program will benefit many people, especially those who need it the most.

As the hon. member probably knows, the government is also committed to providing Canadians more information on the practices of federally-regulated employers. This transparency will contribute not only to shedding light on leaders in matters of pay equity, but also to putting pressure on employers responsible for the wage gaps that affect women, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and visible minorities.

We are also introducing in the House a new bill on accessibility, which will seek to improve accessibility and opportunities for Canadians with disabilities in sectors under federal jurisdiction by removing the barriers these people currently face.

The new legislation will build on a series of Accessible Canada consultations that we held across the country.

As a government, we understand the importance of helping Canadians remove the obstacles to economic development. That is why fairness and equality are at the forefront of budget 2018, which contains new investments to help those who need it most.

I urge the member from Carleton to support these measures and the upcoming accessibility bill because they are good for Canadians with disabilities and millions of other Canadians.

Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities ActPrivate Members' Business

April 16th, 2018 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

moved that Bill C-395, An Act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, work is a basic human need. Its wages feed, clothe, and shelter us. It offers the pride and purpose of doing something valuable for others. Work makes us a living. It also helps us to make a life. That is why almost a million Canadians with disabilities work—including about 300,000 with severe disabilities, according to Statistics Canada—but the system effectively bans many more from working. It is called the “welfare wall”, and here is how it works.

When people with disabilities earn a paycheque, governments sharply claw back supports for income, housing, medications, and other help. These clawbacks, plus taxes, mean that often people are poorer when they work more. They are stuck behind the welfare wall.

For example, if a person with disabilities who is earning the minimum wage in Saskatchewan goes from working part time to working full time, he would see his take-home pay drop from $21,600 to $21,500 on an annual basis. That is right: he is working double the hours and making less money at the end of the year.

Just read the social assistance website in New Brunswick:

For example, a single mother with one child may receive $861 each month. If she has no income at all, she would receive the full $861. If she has income of $300 a month, then she would receive $561 in social assistance.

Therefore, she makes $300 and immediately loses $300. It is like a tax rate of 100%, and that does not include other taxes, such as income taxes, payroll taxes, and gas taxes to drive to work, or clawbacks of non-cash benefits such as housing and medication. When all of these different work penalties are added together, many have a negative wage for working.

Mark Wafer, who hired 200 workers with disabilities at his Tim Hortons shops, once asked an official with the Ontario government, “What is the best way to get off disability assistance?” She replied, “Die”.

That is not just the experience of an entrepreneur talking to government; that is the insight of Canada's former chief statistician, Dr. Munir Sheikh, who wrote:

In Canada, many inappropriate tax-transfer policies have helped to condemn people to being trapped behind low-income and poverty walls and, rather than improving social mobility, [these programs] may have worsened it.

I refer to the “Zero Dollar Linda” model of author John Stapleton, who examined the incentives that caused a Toronto woman, Linda Chamberlain, to return to social assistance after a successful attempt to rejoin the workforce. Chamberlain's story is a tragic one. “After three decades of battling schizophrenia and homelessness and poverty, Chamberlain finally got a job”, wrote Toronto Star columnist Catherine Porter. As a reward, the government boosted Linda's rent almost 500% and cut her disability payment, making her $260 a month poorer because she worked. Therefore, she had no choice but to quit and remain in poverty on social assistance, ironically at greater cost to the system.

Linda is not alone. Statistics Canada surveyed people with disabilities who were not in the labour force even though they indicated they could work or had worked in the past. I quote Statistics Canada's findings: roughly 94,000 people reported that if they were employed, they felt they would lose additional support. About 82,000 people reported that they expected their income to drop if they worked.

It is time to knock down this welfare wall. It is time to allow people to earn a living. It is time to pass Bill C-395, the opportunity for workers with disabilities act.

This legislation would require governments to permit these workers to keep more in wages than they lose in clawbacks and taxes. It would do this through measurement, action, and enforcement.

First is measurement. The bill would require Finance Canada to calculate how much governments take away in taxes and clawbacks of income, housing, medication, and other help for each thousand dollars a worker with disabilities earns. This calculation would only use publicly available tax and benefit rules, not personal financial information.

Second is action. If the calculation shows people were losing more than they gained from work, within 30 days the finance minister would have to identify and report to Parliament changes to tax and benefit programs that would fix the problem. He might adjust federal disability tax credits, the CPP disability plan, or any other federal measure to make work pay.

Third is enforcement. Provinces must already meet numerous existing federal conditions in exchange for billions of dollars in federal transfer payments. This legislation would add one more condition that would require provincial taxes and benefits to always allow people with disabilities to gain more than they lose from work. To be clear, the federal government would not dictate how provincial policies work; rather, it would instill one simple principle: do not punish people with disabilities for working. Provinces would have total liberty in how they instill this principle.

For example, in British Columbia, people used to lose their drug coverage if they got a job and left welfare. That is not the case anymore. Economist Kevin Milligan, who advised the governing party on its platform, wrote, B.C. “replaced an 'all or nothing' program for social assistance recipients with one that is income-tested and more gently smoothed out as incomes rise. This had the effect of removing a very tall 'welfare wall' that provided a disincentive to work for people on benefits.” Similar solutions can allow other Canadians to get jobs without losing life-saving medications.

Respecting the bill and allowing people with disabilities to work could save taxpayers money. Data from the Ontario government showed that if one person on disability assistance gets a $17-an-hour job, the government saves $14,000 in benefits and collects an extra $1,000 in taxes. Imagine what we would save if we knocked down the welfare wall and freed tens of thousands of workers with disabilities to earn a living and escape poverty.

Speaking of poverty, the best anti-poverty plan is a job. If an individual is of working age but lives in a household where no one works, that person has a 50% likelihood of living in poverty today. However, if an individual works full-time year-round, that person will only have a 3% chance of being poor.

The same is true for people with disabilities, who generally have a higher poverty rate. However, people with disabilities who are employed are only 8% likely to be below the poverty line. Let me give the House a startling example.

Let us put two people side by side, one who has a disability and a job and the other who has no disability and no job. The second person is more than twice as likely to be below the poverty line, which shows that it is joblessness more than disability that causes poverty, and it is not just material poverty.

While we are always told how dangerous it is to overwork, we often forget the greater danger to health and happiness of not working at all. Allow me to quote former British Medical Journal editor Dr. Richard Smith, who said, “Unemployment raises the chance that a man will die in the next decade by about a third. The men are most likely to die from suicide, cancer, and accidents and violence. ... Separation, divorce, and family violence are also linked with unemployment.”

He went on, “But it is mental health that is most harmed by unemployment. The unemployed experience anxiety, depression, neurotic disorders, poor self-esteem, and disturbed sleep patterns, and they are more likely than the employed not only to kill themselves but also to injure themselves deliberately.”

Dr. Diette, a Washington and Lee University economist, wanted to determine if unemployment causes bad mental health or if it is just the other way around. He studied the mental health of people who had never before experienced serious psychological distress. Those who went on to lose their jobs later became at least 125% more likely to suffer such psychological distress than those who kept working.

Elsewhere, researchers tested 1,000 laid-off Danish shipyard workers for psychiatric symptoms during a three-year follow-up period. He found these workers suffered worse mental health results than other workers who kept their jobs at a different shipyard. Here we have a very large sample size of people in the same country and in the same industry. Those who were not working went on to suffer far worse mental health than their counterparts who continued to have jobs.

Some would say, “Of course unemployment harms health and happiness. People without jobs are stressed about money”, but that is only part of the story. University of Zurich economist Dr. Winkelmann found that life satisfaction for unemployed German men was significantly lower on a scale of 1 to 10 than for working German men, even when their total incomes were the same. How can this be? We are always told that work is a necessary but miserable slog, and we would all be happier retiring at 30. Trendy TED talkers are always talking about this amazing future when robots will do all the work for us, yet evidence proves that people are happier and healthier working, even when money is no issue.

Why is that?

First, it is because work makes us valuable to others. Tibet's Nobel Prize-winning spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and the American Enterprise Institute president wrote together that virtually all the world's religions teach us that diligent work in the service of others is our highest nature and thus lies at the centre of a happy life. In one shocking experiment, researchers found that senior citizens who did not feel useful to others were nearly three times as likely to die prematurely as those who did feel useful. That is especially true for people with disabilities, whose skills and contributions are often undervalued by ignorant attitudes and small-minded people.

Second, work connects us to one another. A workday is a constant flow of exchanges of goods, services, emails, phone calls, handshakes, questions and answers that link us together, and in each of these exchanges a worker is important to someone else. That is especially true of people who might be isolated and lonely. Their work colleagues form a social network, and even a family. A worker matters to his colleagues. He has a name, and as the Cheers jingle taught us so many years ago, sometimes we want to go where everybody knows our name.

Third, work puts us in control of our lives, which is a basic human need. “One of the most prevalent fears people have is losing control”, wrote psychologist Dr. Elliot Cohen. Welfare surrenders our control to a system in which politicians we do not know make decisions that shape our lives. Through work, however, we take control of our lives. We do, rather than being done to. We become active players, not passive observers. We are the independent authors of our lives.

For these reasons, work is a blessing, not a burden. A system that robs people of this blessing is not only foolish but inhumane. Therefore, let us knock down this welfare wall and open up opportunity for people with disabilities to earn a great living and live a great life.

Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities ActStatements By Members

March 2nd, 2018 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, his autistic son taught Randy Lewis the amazing and underutilized potential of workers with disabilities.

His job as Walgreens vice-president gave him a chance to do something about it, hiring over 1,000 workers with disabilities at Walgreens' mercilessly competitive distribution centres, earning the same wages and doing the same work as everyone else.

His book, No Greatness Without Goodness, recounts the touching story of a mother breaking into tears when her adult disabled son came home with his first paycheque, which was bigger than either of his parents had ever earned.

I am pleased to announce today that Randy Lewis has endorsed the opportunity for workers with disabilities act, which will allow workers with disabilities to earn more in wages than they lose in clawbacks and taxes. It will give thousands of people the pride and independence of a job, and what Martin Luther King called the “dignity of labour”.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2018 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, this is something I have thought a lot about. We have in this country different provincial programs that offer drug plans to people who are of limited means. Some of them require that people be on social assistance. Others, like in British Columbia, are phased out very gradually as people earn more income. There is no doubt that in many provinces the clawbacks of drug benefits, of housing benefits, and of social assistance combined with taxation create marginal effective tax rates on the poorest people that can often exceed 100%. That is, for every extra dollar they earn, they actually lose more than a dollar. This is a particularly pernicious problem for people with disabilities.

That is why I have introduced the opportunity for workers with disabilities act, which would require the finance minister to do an assessment every year of how much people with disabilities are losing for every dollar they earn, and if they are losing more than gaining, then the minister would be required to introduce measures through the working income tax benefit, the disability tax credit, or others in order to redress that problem. It would further create a condition in the Canadian social transfer program that provinces do the same because we must all agree that work should always pay more and we should reward people for making the courageous decision to work.