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.