Evidence of meeting #42 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was benefit.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jeffrey Neven  Chief Executive Officer, Indwell Community Homes
Gary Gladstone  Head of Stakeholder Relations, Reena
Morse  Senior Manager, Advocacy and Family Engagement, Easter Seals Ontario
Amélie Duranleau  Executive Director, Quebec Intellectual Disability Society
Samuel Ragot  Senior Policy Analyst and Advocacy Advisor, Quebec Intellectual Disability Society
Jen Gammad  Communications and Advocacy Manager, Women's Legal Education and Action Fund
Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Danielle Widmer

5:15 p.m.

Head of Stakeholder Relations, Reena

Gary Gladstone

In terms of the phrase “amendment”, I'd be a little afraid of the timeline to both get that done right and get it done quickly. I'm not sure if an amendment is necessary, or just instructions back to drafters. Again, that's not my area of expertise, but I really think it's important that those with disabilities and those representing them be around the table as the regulations are being drawn up and drafted.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bobby Morrissey

Thank you, Madam Zarillo. You were a bit over.

Mr. Aitchison, you have five minutes, please.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Aitchison Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

I have a question. I'm going to start with Mr. Neven.

I want to focus more on the actual supply of housing. Both your organizations obviously don't just operate facilities; you offer homes and you build them as well. Can you quantify for us the need, the waiting list—maybe locally, regionally and even nationally—for homes?

5:15 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Indwell Community Homes

Jeffrey Neven

Yes. Thank you for that question.

The need is tremendous. It's similar to the number of folks who are living in poverty due to a disability. It comes as no shocker that when people have only a little over $500 to purchase housing that costs $1,500, it leads to homelessness.

I can speak to it city by city just to give you a couple of anecdotes. In the city of Hamilton, where I reside, there are about a thousand people living on the streets. It's a similar number in London, which is a slightly smaller city. That's for just two cities here in our country.

What we're looking at, if you look at the ratios on this, is that somewhere between one in 250 and one in 500 in those cities are looking at homelessness. Much of it is due to inadequate incomes to be able to purchase the housing required.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Aitchison Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Quickly, then, if I can follow up on that, in terms of getting new units built, I am assuming that organizations like yours have to engage the assistance of something like the CMHC to make the numbers work. Is that true?

5:20 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Indwell Community Homes

Jeffrey Neven

That is correct. It's incredibly difficult, even with the current programs that exist, because the ability of individuals to purchase their housing is so very low. Even with those capital support programs, currently it's nearly impossible to create deeply affordable housing in the range of $500 a month for rent, which is the current housing benefit that people in Ontario receive, so—

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Aitchison Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Can I give you an example of a situation that exists in Muskoka?

Community Living South Muskoka is obviously a pretty important organization in our community. They actually owned a piece of land and got all the municipal approvals done. Everything was ready to go. When they finally got through all of that painful process—having been a former mayor, I know how painful municipalities can be—and they started dealing with the CMHC, that's when they gave up. They sold the land. It was like a straitjacket.

If you've had enough experience in dealing with CMHC, I'm wondering if you could speak to whether there is anything we should be focusing on here to improve the process. I know that they're all well-meaning and want to help, but it sounds like there have been an awful lot of circumstances in which they couldn't get the money out the door because we couldn't tick every box. Would you suggest any things that we could do to make the CMHC work better and faster?

5:20 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Indwell Community Homes

Jeffrey Neven

I think that's for another committee, perhaps, but what I will say is that this benefit, if implemented, would work hand in hand with the national housing strategy and actually make that strategy much more effective.

For those like the community living folks you mentioned, the numbers would work. I spoke to that in my remarks. Currently the cost of construction, the cost of land and the various challenges that are in front of us in order to create deeply affordable housing are large. They're too big. The challenge that comes back consistently is that it's nearly impossible to find enough programs at the federal, provincial and municipal levels to actually make it work when people's incomes are so inadequate for purchasing their housing, so I think with this benefit, groups like the ones you mentioned will actually find success when they're working out the numbers with groups like CMHC. As the—

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Aitchison Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Neven, I'm running out of time. Let me just quickly follow up and say to you that I think you're right: They do have to work hand in hand.

I think this is actually a conversation that we need to have. If possible, I'd like to follow up with you.

5:20 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Indwell Community Homes

Jeffrey Neven

Absolutely.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Aitchison Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

We're looking for ways to make it work better, so perhaps off-line we can talk about it some more.

5:20 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Indwell Community Homes

Jeffrey Neven

Absolutely.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Aitchison Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

They do have to work together, and it sounds like they're not right now. I think everyone around this committee and in Parliament does agree that this benefit is important. We need to get it done, and we need to get it done as quickly as possible, but we have a lot of work to do on the other side to get supply up. That's one of the areas where we could use your help.

5:20 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Indwell Community Homes

Jeffrey Neven

Let me tell you this: We created 330 deeply affordable units this year. If this benefit comes into being, we can up that by at least double, and in subsequent years maybe even triple it, because the sustainability will work.

5:20 p.m.

Head of Stakeholder Relations, Reena

Gary Gladstone

Then in terms of your question of the need, as you're well aware, the—

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bobby Morrissey

Excuse me, Mr. Gladstone. You may want to interject that with another questioner later.

Thank you, Mr. Aitchison.

Mr. Coteau, you have five minutes, please.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Coteau Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Gary, do you want to finish what you were saying?

5:20 p.m.

Head of Stakeholder Relations, Reena

Gary Gladstone

Thank you very much.

I was just going to indicate that housing for those with developmental disabilities has an approximately 40-year waiting list. In York region alone, there are currently 640 individuals in residential service with supports, and in need are another 1,914. In the city of Toronto there are approximately 1,816 in residential service, and in need are another 5,616. There were 4,825 unique individuals waiting for permanent support living in Toronto. As of March 31, some were waiting for multiple different resources.

Thank you very much.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Coteau Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Thank you, Mr. Gladstone.

I want to thank both of you for being here today and for providing us with so much information.

Mr. Neven, you said something very interesting at the very beginning. You talked about “choice and dignity” and “recovery and independence”. We often forget about the recovery and independence piece. This is about building someone up so that they can be independent and they can chart their own course. I just want to say thank you for bringing that message here to this committee.

The world has changed. Over the last few years, we've seen the impact of the pandemic physically, and in many cases it has impacted many Canadians from a mental health standpoint. We see the economy changing rapidly and people facing more and more challenges.

The message we keep hearing, not only from the two of you today but also from other witnesses, is that we need to do this as quickly as possible. Is that because the challenges people are presenting will bring more pressure? Is it because of the long-term piece or the long-term history of this specific file? Do you believe that if we can, as the minister suggested, take that framework and by putting in regulations get this done, with people from the community involved in the process and doing it together, this is the best route possible to get it done and to take on some of those challenges we're facing?

Either of you can answer.

5:25 p.m.

Head of Stakeholder Relations, Reena

Gary Gladstone

I would say it's absolutely the right way. We need to move it forward. Individuals need the benefit in order to have dignity, in order to make the right choices and in order to lead proper and fulfilling lives. I mean those with all disabilities, and, again, speaking on behalf of those with developmental disabilities, it's absolutely the right way.

5:25 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Indwell Community Homes

Jeffrey Neven

Let me just humanize this conversation with a conversation from yesterday with my friend. He realizes that this month he wasn't able to pay insurance on his car that he needs to use to get to work, which he's currently on a leave from. He recognizes that having his car parked on the street uninsured will likely get it towed, and then he will lose the use of his car and the likelihood of being able to return to work becomes smaller and smaller. He's about to lose his housing, and the lack of basic income support to help him through this hopefully short episode in his life, an episode arising from mental health issues, is going to have long-term impacts on his life.

I think it's the right thing to do. It's dignified to give an adequate income to people who have permanent long-term disabilities so that they can have choice. We talked about a gendered lens here. When people have choice, when money is in their name, they can choose and seek out safe, adequate housing that suits their needs, and it will ensure that we not only help people to move out of homelessness but also prevent others like my friend from moving into it.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Coteau Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Thank you.

I was watching the news a few days ago. They were talking about Bill C-22, and someone used the word “lifesaver” in many ways. When you talk about choice and dignity, recovering independence and real choices, it just says to me as a parliamentarian that we have to ensure that this is a non-partisan issue with a non-partisan approach and that we work together on this committee to get it done as quickly as possible and support that framework that the minister believes can take us there quickest.

I want to say thank you for your time for being here today and for the work both of your organizations do and you do individually.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bobby Morrissey

Thank you, Mr. Coteau.

Ms. Chabot, you have the floor for two and a half minutes.

November 2nd, 2022 / 5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Louise Chabot Bloc Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm going to continue on the issue of the urgent need for action and the call for parliamentarians to pass Bill C‑22 as quickly as possible.

We hear and understand the call, because what is being sought is in the title of the bill: reducing poverty and supporting the financial security of persons with disabilities by establishing the Canada disability benefit.

However, I would like you to give me your opinion, because this bill is a framework bill that talks about what you are talking about, which is having an adequate income, applying the principle of complementarity with the provinces and having a benefit that does not deprive recipients who are already receiving support for their disability. None of that is provided for in the bill. For us, as parliamentarians, this part of the bill is a blank page. What's more, the bill provides that anything you want will be done by regulation. We asked Minister Qualtrough how long it might take to implement this bill, and we haven't received any indication.

Why is it important that the regulations be implemented with the participation of all the organizations representing people with disabilities? It means that there will be delays.

Do you think we'll be able to act on it with a deadline that is perhaps very tight?

5:30 p.m.

Head of Stakeholder Relations, Reena

Gary Gladstone

In my comments, I indicated six months. I recall one of the other parliamentarians indicated 12 months. Either one would be fine. I think it would be almost impossible to consult with “all” organizations because, as you indicated, it is important to relieve poverty for those with disabilities and get the act and regulations in place. Based on the work that this committee does and that I've been involved with in the past, I think that you're able to get a very good cross-section to start the process well. With the committee that the minister will strike, I believe that we'll be in a good position relatively quickly to have a bill with regulations that will make a huge and life-changing difference in the lives of those with disabilities.