Where is the Canada Disability Benefit?

At the end of the spring Parliamentary session in 2022, the Liberal government tabled a hastily drafted bill which was intended to establish the Canada Disability Benefit (CDB). Bill C-22 went through the Parliamentary process and received Royal Assent a year later, on June 22nd, 2023. Although she fully supported the stated intent of legislation, as the relevant Shadow Minister at the time Stephanie consistently pushed the Liberal government to strengthen the bill by including specifics, such as: the amount of the CDB; who will be eligible; will it be a taxable benefit; will it result in the loss of other assistance (such as the Disability Tax Credit or insurance payments); how will it be accessed; and particularly, to establish a timeline when Canadians could expect to start actually receiving the CDB. None of those key questions were addressed by the Liberals at the time – and Canadians living with disabilities are still waiting. Her speech at second reading is available here.  The Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA) heard testimony from key stakeholders on C-22 in the fall of 2022. You can access the Hansard’s from those meetings, and the final report, here.

As she pointed out, one in five Canadians lives with a disability. They need our support – to live full lives and participate in society, including in the workforce. She and her Conservative colleagues believe all Canadians living with disabilities deserve timely access to benefits and services and certainly should not be penalized for going to work – as is too often the case today.

What is known is that recipients must be working age and unable to work because of a disability, with an income below a certain amount.

When will it begin? We still don’t know for sure. The government has until June 22, 2024 to proclaim C-22 into force, and then they have another 12 months (under regulations) to get the CDB started. However, Stephanie is concerned that there was no mention of the CDB in the government’s recent Fall Economic Statement (FES). As well, officials have already stated they will probably need at least 18 months for the rollout. Some experts predict the earliest a person could receive a CDB payment would be January 2025, but even that could be overly ambitious.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer has recently released a paper on some possible modelling for the program, in terms of costs and to show how “the government’s choices regarding design elements can wield a substantial influence on both the program’s cost and the number of individuals who stand to benefit from it. They stress repeatedly that, in the absence of parameters from the federal government, the numbers are only estimates.

Meanwhile, some of the most vulnerable in our society, continue to wait.