A photo of Kitchener Centre MP Mike Morrice who submitted the petition to fast-track the Canadian Disability Benefit, speaking on the floor of the House of Commons.
Kitchener Centre Green MP Mike Morris speaking on the floor of the House of Commons in February of this year. Morrice introduced the petition to fast-track the Canadian Disability Benefit.

A proposal to fast-track a proposed Canada Disability Benefit (CDB) has received all-party support, with endorsements from more than 70 MPs.

The legislation would provide a guaranteed minimum income supplement to Canadians with disabilities.

The proposal has received support from Conservative MPs Scott Aitchison and Marilyn Gladu, 35 Liberal MPs, one independent MP, both Green MPs, and the entire Bloc Québécois caucus.

A letter of support, written by co-chair of advocacy organization Disability Without Poverty, Michelle Hewitt was delivered on April 12.

“Disabled people have lived in poverty for far too long. They lived in poverty before the pandemic, and this has only been exacerbated during the pandemic,” said Hewitt in a release.

Disability Without Poverty identified more than one million Canadians with disabilities living in poverty. As of 2017, one out of every five people in Canada aged 15 and older has a disability. That’s 6.2 million Canadians.

“We expect the Canada Disability Benefit to make major strides to eradicating this poverty,” Hewitt added.

Re-introducing and passing Act a “moral imperative”: Green MP

For Kitchener Centre Green Party MP Mike Morrice, reintroducing legislation for the Canada Disability Benefit (CDB) is both time sensitive and vital to ensuring people with disabilities are not left behind.

While Morrice has only been in public office for less than a year, he has been front and centre in the fight to protect Canadians with disabilities. 

Morrice was recently able to garner nearly 18,000 signatures for a Green Party petition he sponsored and submitted in the House of Commons to reintroduce and fast-track CWB legislation. That petition was accompanied by a letter of support, co-signed by 43 Senators in January.

In that letter, the supporting Senators recognized that “while the systemic discrimination and exclusion [people with disabilities] face is long-standing, (the pandemic) has exacerbated these inequalities.”

They also pointed out that many people with disabilities were ineligible for programs like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) due to income requirements.

In an interview with rabble.ca, Morrice pointed out that Canadians with disabilities have been calling for [a CDB] “for quite some time.” He pointed out that the legislation originally died on the order paper when the 2021 federal election was called. He also pointed out that The Liberals floated the idea in the 2020 Speech from the Throne. A 2021 Angus Reid poll found that nearly nine in ten Canadians support a CDB.

“Organizations like Disability Without Poverty have been on the front lines calling for a guarantee for Canadians with disabilities,” Morrice said, adding that the federal government must recognize “this is a group of people who are disproportionately living in poverty.”

Morrice called the efforts to reintroduce and fast-track the CDB legislation a “moral imperative” and urged the Trudeau government “to involve Canadians with disabilities every step of the way.”

“Like anything else, it’s really important to focus time as parliamentarians where we do agree and where constructive progress can be made,” he said. “It just continues to make the case that this legislation needs to be prioritized.”

Morrice calling for bill to be tabled as soon as next week

The Green Party noted in February that the federal government promised to introduce the benefit in 2020, “with the potential to lift as many as 1.5 million Canadians out of poverty.” 

“They repeated this commitment in their 2021 election platform, but there was no mention of it in the 2021 Speech to the Throne, the fall fiscal update, or last week’s federal budget,” the release continued.

Now, Morrice is calling for the CDB bill to be tabled “as soon as Parliament resumes” next week. 

“Canadians with disabilities have been clear for so long in helping others across the country to understand how insufficient existing supports are,” he said. 

Morrice also noted that the only mention in the current federal budget relates to an employment strategy, “as if the only value Canadians with disabilities offer our country is the extent to which they’re ready to work.”

“We need to be doing so much better,” Morrice said.

Employment, Workforce Development, and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough, tabled a response to the Green Party’s petition on Mar. 28, writing that “The Government remains committed to the re-introduction and implementation of a Canada Disability Benefit Act that will support hundreds of thousands of working age Canadians with disabilities living in poverty.”

“The aim of the proposed benefit is to reduce poverty by supplementing existing federal and provincial-territorial supports,” the response continued, adding, “Our intention is to move forward as fast as we can.” 

Image: Gilad Cohen

Stephen Wentzell

Stephen Wentzell is rabble.ca‘s national politics reporter, a cat-dad to Benson, and a Real Housewives fanatic. Based in Halifax, he writes solutions-based, people-centred...