Canada Disability Benefit passes in House of Commons, heads for Senate

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Canadians with disabilities might be getting a boost to their bank accounts.

Despite lacking some important details, the Canada Disability Benefit took a critical step forward Thursday, receiving third reading in the House of Commons.

The proposed legislation is essential given the hardships faced by many Canadians with disabilities, said Port Moody-Coquitlam MP Bonita Zarrillo.

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“Almost one million people living in poverty are not eating enough meals daily,” Zarrillo said on the house floor.

Those hardships are so acute, Zarrillo was adamant the disability benefit move forward despite not identifying who will get the benefit, nor how much the benefit will be.

“Too many persons with disabilities are living in poverty, and with skyrocketing costs of living, persons with disabilities are making impossible choices between food, medication, housing, transportation and more,” Zarrillo said.

The bill was brought back to the table last year by Zarrillo and Delta MP Carla Qualtrough after being scuttled in 2021.

The benefit was intended to: “supplement, not replace, existing federal and provincial territorial supports with a goal of lifting hundreds of thousands of persons with disabilities out of poverty,” according to a 2021 release from Employment and Social Development Canada.

Approximately 59 percent of Canadians with disabilities between the ages of 25 to 64 are employed, compared to 80 percent of Canadians without disabilities. Canadians with mild disabilities earn approximately 12 percent less than Canadians without disabilities while Canadians with severe disabilities earn 51 percent less.

Given the amount of Canadians with disabilities facing financial struggles, Zarrillo recently asked if the federal government would approve an interim benefit while the country waits for the disability benefit to be finalized.

Irek Kusmierczyk, Parliamentary Secretary for employment, workforce development and disability inclusion, did not respond to Zarrillo’s call for an interim benefit.

Kusmierczyk promised the disability benefit would be a: “ground-breaking income supplement,” lifting hundreds of thousands of working-age people out of poverty.

“And that’s why we are taking the time to get it right,” he said, noting extensive consultation with people with disabilities, researchers, provinces and Indigenous groups.

The legislation now requires three readings from the Senate.

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