Question Period: Canada Disability Benefit

By: The Hon. Andrew Cardozo

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Women Are Persons Monument, Ottawa

Hon. Andrew Cardozo: My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate, and it’s regarding the economy and the disability benefit.

I want to mention three indices regarding the economy that the Trudeau government, in some sense, has delivered upon. Inflation is down to 2.8% — down from 8.1% just two years ago. The interest rate, as defined by the Bank of Canada, is down to 4.75%, and the unemployment rate is steady at about 6.2%. There is still hardship in a lot of areas, and one in particular is regarding the status of people with disabilities.

It was reported last week in response to a question from MP Mike Morrice that only 25,000 people will be assisted by this benefit. It was also raised earlier today. I wonder if you can tell us why the government will not reconsider the low amount of $200 and why —

The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Gold, your response?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): First of all, thank you for your question, and thank you for underlining some of the improvements that we see in our economy. It is also the case, as you remind us, that many Canadians are still struggling in far too many areas for any of us to feel complacent or sanguine about.

As I have answered on many occasions with regard to your question, the government understands that the amounts that have been budgeted for the disability benefit — as the federal component of the support that Canadians with disabilities can, should and will be receiving — is only the first step. The government is engaged to continuously review this program to ensure that it delivers.

Senator Cardozo: My supplementary question is on the same issue. Given the apparent growing strength in the economy, don’t you think now is the time to change that strategy? It really goes toward giving people hope and giving people confidence in our government institutions.

Would the government be prepared to make those changes in the next couple of days while the budget bill is still being voted on in the House of Commons?

Senator Gold: It is unrealistic to assume that the government, at this late stage, would make those changes. As I have said on many occasions, it is a multi-year program. This is a historic first step, and the government will do what is necessary in a prudent and responsible way to address the issues and the concerns that have properly been raised in this chamber, and outside of it, with regard to this disability benefit.

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