Fairness for Persons with Disabilities Act

An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (disability tax credit)

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.

Sponsor

Tom Kmiec  Conservative

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

Status

Introduced, as of March 21, 2018
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Income Tax Act to reduce from 14 to 10 the number of hours necessary for an activity to be eligible for the tax credit for mental or physical impairment, and to include certain activities in the computation of that time.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

May 16th, 2022 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

Dave Prowten President and Chief Executive Officer, JDRF Canada

Good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.

My name is Dave Prowten. I'm the president and CEO of JDRF Canada. We're the leading charitable funder of type 1 diabetes in the world. I'm joined by Dr. Alanna Weisman, who is a clinician scientist and endocrinologist at Mount Sinai Hospital and University Health Network.

We are here to offer one key recommendation that will vastly improve the lives of Canadians who live with type 1 diabetes. It's a much-needed and long-awaited change to the disability tax credit.

Type 1 diabetes is a relentless 24-hour-a-day and seven-day-a-week disease that requires monitoring and attention. From the moment of diagnosis, a person with type 1 diabetes is reliant on insulin to stay alive. It therefore, by definition, is truly a life-sustaining therapy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that someone living with type 1 diabetes has to make roughly 300 or more decisions per day than does someone without type 1. Do I need to eat? Do I not need to eat? Do I need to eat less? Do I need to eat more? Do I need to take insulin? How much insulin do I need? Do I need to check my blood sugar? Even with vigilant management and innovative technologies, the risk of long-term complications like heart and kidney disease, and the short-term realities of dangerously low blood sugars, which can lead to confusion, coma and even death, still remain.

That is why we are asking the committee today to make things a little easier for those living with type 1 diabetes by ensuring that they have equitable access to the disability tax credit by removing or reducing the antiquated and arbitrary 14-hour-a-week requirement. It is simply the right thing to do.

Type 1 diabetes is a costly disease, not only for our health care system but also for individuals and families. Depending on which province you live in and what type of benefits package you have through your employer, it can cost Canadians with type 1 diabetes, out of pocket, up to $15,000 a year.

Previously, JDRF has advocated for reducing the number of hours needed to qualify for the DTC from 14 to 10, which was also proposed in the fairness for persons with disabilities act. The disability advisory committee appointed by the Minister of National Revenue actually proposed an even better solution, that qualification be automatic for all Canadians who need life-sustaining therapy, including insulin.

We implore the committee to amend the budget implementation act and call for either a removal of the 14-hour requirement entirely or, alternatively, a reduction in the hours to seven, so that more Canadians with type 1 diabetes can qualify.

To speak more on the disability tax credit, I will turn things over to Dr. Weisman.

National Framework for Diabetes ActPrivate Members' Business

March 8th, 2021 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to continue debate on Bill C-237, which was brought forward by the member for Brampton South, and to listen to the previous member. I agree with him. I do not see much to disagree with in this private member's bill. It was in the format of a motion in the previous Parliament, and I know the member for Brampton South is well-meaning in the work she is attempting to have the House pass to committee to study this issue.

The contents create more reports to Parliament and parliamentarians in which we would get further information, hopefully from government sources, that will track and provide very specific timetables and details in the content of this report, which I am all for.

Generally speaking, we find that in government legislation there is simply an ask for a report to be made to Parliament, but often it does not ask for much detail. This one does. It has five points that would be in the report, including an explanation of diabetes and pre-diabetes. It also asks for things like data on the promotion of research, prevention and treatment. There are a lot of good things this bill is attempting to do.

It could have also asked the Canada Revenue Agency to provide more information on the disability tax credit, which we know many diabetics would like to use. In 2017 or 2018 the Liberal government made changes and thousands with type 2 diabetes were no longer able to obtain the DTC.

We also know that the DTC and the registered disability savings plan are two very important programs that a lot of people with serious disabilities make use of, and the DTC maximum payable tax benefit in 2019 was $8,416. This is a substantial amount of money to help people with a disability. For constituents with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, it is a very serious disability.

A mom came to one of my town halls, and at a later point to an annual general meetings in my local association, and she explained how difficult it is to live with a daughter who has diabetes. It involves waking up in the middle of the night because an alarm would go off on the diabetic pump. It is trying to ensure that they have enough insulin, especially after eating.

It is a serious condition, but I do not think many Canadians really understand the depth of how bad it can go. The member for Winnipeg North spoke to how serious this condition can be because of the complications that arise from being a diabetic, and of one of his friends having had a leg amputated.

I have a friend who was diagnosed later in life, and he had half of his foot amputated because of diabetes, so we know it is a very serious condition. Diabetes Canada and JDRF have done extensive, profound work to try to sensitize Canadians and governments across Canada to how serious this condition is, but also to the weight it places on our health care systems. It is one of the fastest rising chronic conditions in our health care system, and it is a big driver of Canadian health care costs.

If we look at Diabetes 360°, I think Diabetes Canada has put forward an excellent plan within it. This framework could be used to further those types of private sector projects that are trying to gather more support, both from government and from private sources. This funding is to ensure that we deal with the rising tide of diabetes diagnoses across our country.

There is a Yiddish proverb that says, “Spare us what we can learn to endure”. Diabetes is a difficult condition to endure. I have kids who have a chronic kidney condition, so I have an inkling of what goes into trying to manage a condition like this. A framework to Parliament is a simple ask by the member from the back benches in this Parliament for the government to build information and report it back to Parliament, so we can have good, solid evidence for decisions to be made in the future.

The disability tax credit is one of the key tools being used by those with a disability across Canada. Members will know I proposed Bill C-399 in the last Parliament. It never came to a vote because I drew too high a ballot count. It would have made changes to the DTC specific to diabetics. This is where it ties in with the national framework that the member is asking the House to pass to committee.

Making it easier to access the disability tax credit, or any type of disability program that the federal government could run, should be addressed directly in the framework. I would hope that the reports provided to Parliament in the future would specifically address the disability tax credit, how it functions, and how it addresses issues and conditions such as diabetes.

An important piece of evidence to be tracked is the cost per person, across all of Canada's health care systems, of a diabetic's condition as it worsens in later years. Its annual cost to the health care system would lead to better decision-making at the front end when considering different types of insulin and technology, and whether there is a government role or support that could be provided to bridge the gap for those who cannot afford it.

One of the recommendations in the pre-budget report from the finance committee in this Parliament was to make the disability tax credit refundable. Because tax credits are administered by the Canada Revenue Agency, those types of decisions would be easier to make if a national framework, and a report from a national framework specifically on diabetes, provided information and evidence from the DTC program on the top 10 doctors in Canada who are approving the six-page form for the DTC, and if they are approving them specifically for diabetes. That would offer an excellent opportunity for parliamentarians to reach out to those doctors and ask them to describe their experience filling out these applications, how serious the condition is, what the downside is and what it can lead to. That would be an interesting data point, and we cannot easily get that information without having something like a national framework that produces evidence.

As I said, I would like to see the Canada Revenue Agency compelled, through a report tabled in Parliament through this national framework, to provide such information. I would also like to see which provinces are applying the most for this one condition, specifically diabetes. JDRF, Diabetes Canada and other stakeholder groups have all asked in the past for more information to be provided to us so that we could make better decisions.

Often, I find that the Canada Revenue Agency is a black box: It does not like to reveal any type of information. A few years ago, the Auditor General reported on the DTC and the program's performance and administration. It was not very good. It was not what we parliamentarians would expect to see in the administration of such an important tax credit for Canadians.

A report like this is important. It is beneficial. I applaud the member for bringing it forward. I have no doubt that we will be able to pass it to committee, and I am hoping at that stage there would be further consideration given to perhaps including a specific mention of the disability tax credit and other federal government programs specific to diabetics, and that we could address the specific lack of information in the framework. When the bill returns to the House and we have our final say before it heads to the Senate, we could add that important piece of information. The changes that were made a few years ago by the Canada Revenue Agency, as directed by the government, really hurt the case for thousands of diabetics across the country who were removed from the disability tax credit. It would be good for us all to have that type of information available.

I will be voting for this private member's bill. It is a good bill. It provides the foundations for better work to be done at committee to add the disability tax credit angle. Again, spare us not what we can endure to learn. Diabetes is a very serious chronic medical condition, and it is about time we had a framework in this country to deal with it.

Disability Tax CreditPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 18th, 2019 / 7 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, my first petition is from petitioners in my riding. They are supporting Bill C-399, which is my private member's bill offering more tax fairness for persons with disabilities. We know that 1.8 million Canadians suffer from a disability so the petitioners are drawing the attention of the House of Commons and the Government of Canada to this very important private member's bill.

Employment InsurancePrivate Members' Business

February 7th, 2019 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak to this motion this evening. I appreciate the opportunity to comment on Motion No. 201, which seeks to extend the EI benefits for those experiencing sickness and disability caused by sickness.

The motion proposes a valuable examination of a program that many Canadians rely on during very challenging times. As members of the House will know, the employment insurance program was initiated to offer temporary financial assistance to unemployed workers. It helps workers to bridge the financial gap between jobs and ensures that people are able to stand on their own two feet during seasons of transition or change.

One of the special benefits that the EI program provided was the sickness benefit, and it does still provide it. Those who are unable to work due to sickness or injury can turn to EI when their circumstances keep them from working. As it stands now, individuals unable to work because of sickness or injury who would otherwise be available to work could be eligible to receive a maximum of 15 weeks of EI sickness benefits. The purpose of this is to give people time to get better, making sure that they are able to restore their health so that they can go back to work healthy.

It makes sense to have a safety net in place for Canadians who are sick and injured. Even when we have not experienced long-term illness or injury ourselves, chances are we know someone, whether a family member, friend or co-worker, who has. Missing work as a result of situations like this can be taxing and take a personal toll. Beyond that, it can leave individuals in a financial lurch too. I have experienced sickness both in my family and in my circle of friendship.

I was recently reading a Global News report which said that half of all Canadians are $200 away from not being able to pay their bills. Part of what the motion proposes is to also eliminate the two-week waiting period for those experiencing sickness or injury. I think that is a tremendous measure. When I think of the statistic that half of Canadians are $200 away from not being able to pay their hydro bill or buy groceries or prescription drugs, that is a very sobering thought.

Illness and injury do not respect anyone. They can happen at any time. When something like that happens, I think we have to have measures in place that people can depend on to get them through that difficult time. We know that if people have to worry about their finances when they are sick, it adds to the sickness and injury. It actually decreases their chance for a speedier recovery. It adds that extra stress, which sometimes the body just cannot handle. This is precisely why EI programs exist: to help lessen the toll on our fellow citizens who are facing tough times.

As policy-makers, it is up to us to make sure that this system serves Canadians the way it was intended to and that it is sustainable for future generations of workers. This means finding exactly the right balance between the needs of employees and employers. It means ensuring responsible government management of the program today and also down the road.

In 2006, the member for Sydney—Victoria introduced Bill C-288, an act to amend the employment insurance act regarding benefits for illness, injury or quarantine. His legislation proposed to extend the maximum period for benefits from 15 weeks to 50 weeks. In 2011, a former member of the House introduced Bill C-291, an act to amend the Employment Insurance Act regarding the waiting period and maximum special benefits. This legislation also proposed to extend the maximum duration of employment insurance for sickness to 50 weeks from 15 weeks, as well as to eliminate the requirement of the two-week waiting period prior to receiving sickness benefits.

It was during the more recent iteration, known as Bill C-291, that the Parliamentary Budget Officer took a look at what this new maximum would mean in terms of dollars. The PBO determined that the estimated cost would have been up to $1.1 billion for the year 2009-10. Broken down, there was about $200 million for the elimination of the two-week waiting period and around $900 million for the extension of benefits from 15 weeks to 50 weeks. This figure was a static cost estimate, and so potential behavioural responses to these changes were not factored in.

The PBO's report further noted that if the bill had been implemented in 2009-10, total sickness benefit payments would have been approximately 100% higher than they were at the time. As stated in the report, given the fact that the “Employment Insurance program is financed by the collection of EI premiums from employers and employees...any increase in EI expenditures would require an equivalent increase in EI premium insurance revenues.” This would be in order for the program to remain self-funding.

This is, of course, an important consideration for the long-term sustainability of the EI program that we must keep in mind as we proceed with this study.

In the June 2016 report of HUMA entitled “Exploring the Impact of Recent Changes to Employment Insurance and Ways to Improve Access to the Program”, recommendation number 7 states:

The Committee recommends that the federal government explore increasing the maximum number of weeks of employment insurance sickness benefits.

While the official opposition wrote a dissenting report to address some important concerns with the contents of the main report, the fact of the matter is that the key idea behind Motion No. 201 has been laid out previously. Several times parliamentarians have seen the need to address this issue in the EI program.

Sickness benefits cost the EI system $1.6 billion in 2017. We have also seen a trend since 2015 of a greater demand for sickness benefits.

The government noted in its response to the HUMA June 2016 report:

The EI sickness benefit is designed to provide temporary income support for short-term absences from the labour force due to illness, injury or quarantine. While the 15 weeks of benefits appear adequate for the majority of workers, some claimants do exhaust their sickness benefits and stakeholders often request an extension in the case of more serious illnesses. In 2014/2015, on average, claimants of the EI sickness benefit collected 10 weeks of benefits and 34.8% used all of the 15 weeks available to them. The EI sickness benefit complements a range of other supports that are available for workers with longer-term illnesses, including benefits offered through employer-sponsored group insurance plans, private coverage held by individuals and long-term disability benefits available under the Canada Pension Plan and provincial and territorial programs. Improvements to the sickness benefit including potential extension of the maximum duration would require careful consideration of the interactions with other supports, impacts on employers, and would be expected to have a significant cost implication, with resulting premium rate increases.

With these realities before us, there is ample reason to take stock of the situation and lay out recommendations for the best path forward. There are many moving parts when it comes to EI sickness benefits that we ought to take note of throughout our work.

I appreciate the work of the member for Sydney—Victoria for facilitating this conversation with this motion. We have certainly seen this issue considered in various forms over the past years, but when we are talking about a program that supports Canadians, it is important for all of us to be engaged in these discussions. I will be supporting this motion because this is a conversation worth having, recognizing that we must be responsible stewards of the EI program to make sure it continues to serve Canadians well now and into the future. Conservatives understand that when individuals are facing challenges like longer-term illness or injury, they need support.

On this side of the House, I know members are always open to exploring ways that government programming puts people first. That is why members of our Conservative caucus have been championing initiatives that focus on government being more compassionate and responsive to the needs of Canadians.

In our 2015 economic action plan, our previous Conservative government extended compassionate care for the care of terminally ill loved ones from six weeks to six months. These benefits, provided through the EI program, help support individuals temporarily away from work to care for a sick family member with a significant risk of death. Our party has always been committed to helping families receive the support they need as they care for loved ones, especially at end of life, and we backed that up with meaningful action.

Now in opposition, Conservatives continue to champion initiatives such as the opportunity for workers with disabilities act, introduced by the member for Carleton, to ensure that disabled Canadians never lose more in benefits and taxation than they gain as a result of work. Unfortunately, a majority of Liberal MPs voted against this bill before it was even studied.

The member for Calgary Shepard has brought forward Bill C-399 to improve access to the disability tax credit to help ensure that all Canadians living with a disability receive the benefits they deserve and are entitled to. I hope all members of this House will support that common-sense initiative as well.

The member for Banff—Airdrie brought forward Motion No. 110 to determine ways for government to be more sensitive to parents who have suffered the loss of an infant child and to improve the level of support for grieving parents. I was pleased to see this motion considered in-depth by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities and I look forward to the committee's report.

These are examples that reflect the passion of our official opposition benches for putting people before government. It is why we are open to studying how we can better a key government program in a way that meets Canadians' needs. I hope all members here will agree that the conversation that Motion No. 201 proposes is one worth having.

I know that as opposition members we are always very sensitive about cost implications and further taxation. This could incur another payroll tax, but it could be one that is worth incurring.

Disability Tax CreditPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

January 30th, 2019 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

The second petition I am tabling today, Mr. Speaker, is signed by 94 of my constituents. It is on a private member's bill, Bill C-399. The petitioners are calling on the Parliament of Canada to pass it expeditiously.

Persons with DisabilitiesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

January 28th, 2019 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to table today. The first one is on Bill C-399. I have nearly 100 petitioners from my riding who are writing in and asking the Government of Canada to support my private member's bill, which would help persons with disabilities obtain greater access to the disability tax credit.

November 20th, 2018 / 9:40 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Indeed, thank you, Chair.

One of the Conservative members, Tom Kmiec, has brought forward a private member's bill, Bill C-399, the fairness for persons with disabilities act. It tries to make sure that everyone who has diabetes and is, as you say, worrying and calculating and taking all these actions 24-7 has access to the disability tax credit, which then also gives them access to the pension that's related to it to try to help when they turn 65 to pay for all of these medications and things going forward. I think that's a good idea, but my concern is that today, even with the disability tax credit, 40% of the people who should qualify aren't able to get it.

Ms. Kemp, you weren't here when we had this discussion. Do you get the disability tax credit?

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.

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.

Disability Tax CreditPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 14th, 2018 / 10:15 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I present my final petition. Twenty-seven signatories have signed as petitioners from my riding, on Bill C-399. They are asking again for the Government of Canada and all members of the House of Commons to support Bill C-399, an act to amend the Income Tax Act regarding the disability tax credit.

Disability Tax CreditPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 14th, 2018 / 10:15 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have five petitions to table, so I will do this as quickly as I can. The first petition is from 26 constituents of mine regarding the Income Tax Act. They are specifically petitioning the House of Commons, reminding it that up to 40% of persons with disabilities do not apply for disability tax credit. They are calling on the House to support Bill C-399, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, disability tax credit. They want to protect diabetics and patients with rare diseases so they are able to apply for the disability tax credit. They want to ensure that they receive the benefits they deserve and are entitled to.

Fairness for Persons with Disabilities ActRoutine Proceedings

March 21st, 2018 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-399, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (disability tax credit).

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to bring this bill before the House for consideration at first reading. I thank the member for Calgary Rocky Ridge for seconding my private member's bill.

The bill is entitled “An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act”. In fact, it deals with the disability tax credit. The short name for the bill is “Fairness for Persons with Disabilities Act”. It would increase accessibility for disability tax credit for Canadians living with diabetes as well as those with rare disorders.

The bill would ensure that those who qualify for the DTC actually would receive it and would put a stop to the Canada Revenue Agency practice of denying the tax credit for diabetics and some patients with rare disorders.

Like we saw in 2017, it would do three simple things, and I will not go into the details right now. The bill would reduce the time to qualify for the DTC from 14 hours to 10 hours; it would add the calculation of dosage into the time to qualify for the credit; and it would finally add the words “medical food and medical formula” for the qualification for the DTC.

I want to thank two individuals particularly who helped me in the drafting of the bill: Patrick Tohill from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund, as well as John Adams from the Canadian PKU and Allied Disorders.

I remain committed to improving the government's processes through this private member's bill to ensure all Canadians living with a disability receive the benefits they deserve and are entitled to. The bill has the support of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Diabetes Canada, Canadian PKU and Allied Disorders, Canadian Nurses Association, and the Canadian Organization for Rare Diseases. I thank them all for adding their voices to the bill.

I look forward to debate in the House.

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