Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook.
It gives me great pleasure today to rise in the House to speak to a piece of legislation that I think is essential to supporting Canadians, reducing poverty, making life more affordable and building a more inclusive and accessible Canada. Bill C-22 is another step forward on the path to reducing poverty in Canada.
Our government has been focusing on uplifting Canadians and identifying the barriers that limit people in communities from economic advancement and participation. It is why, in 2018, Canada's first-ever Opportunity for All poverty reduction strategy was launched. Opportunity for All focused on government action to reduce poverty through dignity, opportunity and inclusion, resilience, and security. These are the pillars that have guided our government's work in identifying how to better serve Canadians, while also measuring the progress of our efforts in tackling poverty. Poverty is a long-standing problem in this country and has persisted for much too long. It can and must come to an end.
As a government, we have been strong in implementing measures to serve all Canadians in the pursuit of poverty reduction. We have seen significant improvement in the lives of Canadians and their families through the increases to the Canada child benefit, which has lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty. By listening to seniors, we have provided increases to the guaranteed income supplement, which has lifted many thousands of seniors out of poverty. There is also the creation recently of the Canada workers benefit, which provides tax credits to low-income workers across Canada. All of these benefits help to build up our middle class and support people who are most at risk of living in poverty.
What all of these measures have in common is that they are necessary for reducing the risk of Canadians' finances receding below the poverty line. What they also demonstrate is that we have a real track record of taking sizable and tangible steps forward on tackling the income gaps that exist in Canada. We are committed to continuing to bridge these gaps. It is why I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-22, an act to reduce poverty and to support the financial security of persons with disabilities by establishing the Canada disability benefit.
As a part of our government's poverty reduction strategy, persons with disabilities were identified as one of numerous groups at risk of living in poverty. As we know, over six million Canadians have been identified as persons with disabilities, and six million is by no means a small segment of the population. Many of our family members and neighbours are persons living with one or more disabilities, which is exactly why this bill is a crucial measure for improving the financial security of the Canadians who need it most.
The Canada disability benefit would build upon the groundwork that has been established by this government to ensure the rightful inclusion of persons with disabilities. This is directly in line with not just our government's commitment to poverty reduction, but another important piece of legislation, called the Accessible Canada Act, which came into force in 2019. It mandates that Canada must improve and move toward a barrier-free Canada by 2040.
Building upon the work that our government has done for Canadians with disabilities is of the upmost importance to this government. It is why we have initiated consultations with the disability community and other equity-seeking groups as a part of the disability inclusion action plan to ensure that our government continues to develop policy that is reflective of the needs of Canadians. This bill will be a cornerstone of our disability action plan.
The Canada disability benefit will greatly impact the lives of many Canadians, as this legislation seeks to reduce poverty and support the financial security of working-age persons with disabilities. The Canada disability benefit will become another crucial part of Canada's social security net, as it will address the long-standing financial hardships felt by persons with disabilities. Supporting the financial security of persons of working age with disabilities is at the heart of this bill as approximately one in five Canadians is living with a disability.
As we know from the Canadian Survey on Disability from 2017, approximately 22% of working-age Canadians with disabilities were living in poverty in 2017. Furthermore, persons with severe disabilities, at 26%, and very severe disabilities, at 31%, are particularly vulnerable and experience high rates of poverty, nearly three times the rate that persons without disabilities experience, which was roughly 11% in 2017.
Let me repeat that: Living with a severe disability makes a person three times more likely to live in poverty. That is a social injustice that needs to be rectified as soon as possible. The income supplement that is proposed in this legislation will help provide additional needed income assistance over and above those offered by provincial and territorial governments.
In addition to the vulnerability of individuals living with severe and very severe disabilities, those who also identify as members of the BIPOC community and/or as LGBTQ2S+ have also been reported to have a greater likelihood of facing income insecurity.
We must also not forget the strain that the pandemic has put on these communities. Of course, the inflationary pressures we are seeing caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the supply chain disruptions that resulted, not to mention Russia's unjust war on Ukraine and China's zero-COVID policy, have continued to exacerbate an already challenging increase to the cost of living.
It is a priority of our government to create legislation that enhances the lives of persons with disabilities, which is exactly why implementing the Canada disability benefit to strengthen the financial security of working-age persons living with disabilities will do just that.
By working with the provinces and territories, the implementation of the Canada disability benefit will serve as an income supplement to ensure those who qualify for the benefit do not experience clawbacks in their finances from other income supports that they currently receive. We will make sure people are better off as a result.
Through an inclusive consultation process centred on the disability community and stakeholders across the country that serve them, provinces and territories included, the development of the disability benefit will be designed to work for the people it is intended to help. This legislation provides a framework for enacting this important support while creating the room for details to be formulated through regulation.
We have all heard of the principle of “nothing about us without us”, and this legislation provides the framework for staying true to this principle. This legislation allows us to do this now and delay no further. The Conservatives seem to fail to understand the concept of a framework legislation and a consultation process that will help determine more specifics as we move forward.
I have heard first-hand from people in my community who live with disabilities of the financial strains and hardships that they deal with on a day-to-day basis. I want to highlight the story of a man named David whom I spoke to last week in my riding.
David has several disabilities, and his wife also lives with a disability. David and his wife have four children and an annual income that puts them well below the poverty line. David's family receives the Canada child benefit, thankfully, which provides them with much-needed extra funds to support their family. In David's case, the Canada disability benefit would provide further financial security to his family. Many Canadians share a very similar experience to David.
I also spoke recently with a woman named Marie in my riding, who is a former school teacher who suffered from a stroke and now faces challenges with mobility and communication. Her husband has taken on the role of a caregiver in their home, and Marie requires the use of a wheelchair and remains on the first floor. The couple are living well below the poverty line and reached out to me to get advice on how they could raise funds to widen a doorway, just so Marie could get out to her backyard and experience some fresh air.
These stories are heartbreaking to hear, but they are not uncommon, and I know Marie and her family, as well as David, will benefit greatly from the Canada disability benefit. We must continue the work of adequately addressing the financial insecurity that millions of persons with disabilities experience. Like in Marie's and David's cases, the need for special equipment, customized supports for cars or homes, and medical procedures can really add up and increase the financial burdens they experience.
I am confident that the Canada disability benefit will greatly benefit many low-income, working-age Canadians with disabilities. As a government, we will continue to work diligently to reduce the risk of poverty for those individuals. I fully support Bill C-22, as I know this benefit will improve lives and lift Canadians out of poverty. I encourage all opposition members to do so as well.