Question Period: Accessible Canada Act – Sen. Munson

By: The Hon. Jim Munson

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Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, we were in a state of euphoria last year — and I was struck by Senator Seidman’s statement today on accessibility — when, if you remember, we had unanimous consent for the Accessible Canada Act. There was a lot of talk about it, front and centre. It was part of being very proactive on “Nothing about us without us.”

I’m a little astounded today as we listen to the government’s approach to disability. On June 5, they announced a one-time payment of $600 to Canadians with disabilities.

Think about this, Senator Gold. Under the disability tax credit right now, there are a number of disability groups that do not receive any tax breaks. That includes autism and the diabetes community; they are still fighting for it. They came before the Social Affairs Committee to fight for it and still haven’t received anything there.

So we have the $600. I have no idea where that number came from. It arrived 14 weeks after the CERB program was announced. There are differences in the House right now; it hasn’t come to us because they are still fighting over it. The disability community is still waiting for it. Why has it taken 14 weeks to roll this out?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the question. I’m advised the government still remains and is committed to helping persons with disabilities maintain their health, their safety and their dignity as it is challenged even more so during these difficult times.

All senators know that the bill that includes this provision — not only for this one-time grant to persons with disabilities, but also to form mechanisms so that information can be shared properly between agencies to make the provisions as targeted and inclusive as possible — has not yet seen the light of day due to negotiations in the other place. That said, the government will continue to use all of its best efforts to support persons with disabilities, including seeking ways to provide that additional funding through alternative mechanisms. It’s also worth pointing out, senator, that many of the programs this government has put into place to help Canadians through these difficult times are available to — and have been taken advantage of by — persons with disabilities, whether it is seniors, students or the general population.

Senator Munson: I’m hearing from the disability community, Senator Gold, that is this is too little too late. COVID-19 has really ravaged the disability community. We don’t even have the stats. Whether they are disabilities in nursing homes, disabilities at home, it is a very serious issue. I somehow feel that the disability community is not being treated in the same sense as others in this country. I really believe it’s a shame, from my point of view.

Do you have any idea, Senator Gold, who came up with the $600? Why not $700 or $1,000 or $500? How does somebody get to that figure, in terms of dealing with somebody with a disability?

Senator Gold: Thank you for your question. I do not know why that number, as opposed to a higher or lower number, was chosen. These are complicated calculations that are always made in the context of all the programs that are in place from which people might benefit.

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