In about twenty days, the lives of all Canadians with disabilities could change and not for the better. I’m so fearful as a Canadian with an invisible and little known disability. The Conservatives’ platform should scare all Canadians, and not just those with disabilities.
In 2020, the Trudeau Liberal Government introduced the Canada Disability Benefit Act, which came to be known as Bill C-35. It was introduced in June, but without the consent of all major parties, or more simply the Conservative Party, to allow the bill to only require one reading, it died on the floor of Parliament.
Bill C-35 would have provided a basic livable income to Canadians with disabilities. In some cases, it would simply be a top off if the person is able to work and in other cases it would be a monthly payment if a person cannot work, similar to Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to help bring a person living with a disability out of deep poverty. It would not replace provincial benefits such as a health card, equipment, and workers. In New Brunswick, a person on Social Assistance Disability earns less than $700/month. Who can live on that?
Last week, the Conservative party made announcements that they were standing up for persons with disabilities- and talked about increasing the Disability payment to $1,500. They tried to slip it through as a positive, as a payment. However, it is simply a one-time tax credit. Many of us do not earn enough to be able to claim the current amount of $713, let alone their new proposal of $1,500.
To be clear, the Conservative’s Disability Tax Credit will not help people who live with disabilities in Canada. There will be the odd person who is able to continue a full-time career, or have a spouse who is very well paid and can benefit from a tax credit of $1,500, but not very many. This in no way helps our community. A National Disability Benefit will. No one should have to live in the abject poverty that we are forced to live in.
Further concerning is the Conservatives’ support for two-tier Medicare, specifically their support of private health care for those who can pay. With a quick glance one might say: “well, if they have the money and go private it will move me up the long list quicker” and in an ideal world, yes! But, all over Canada, the US and the world, there is a shortage of doctors, nurses, practical nurses, and medical
technicians. This shortage is only going to get worse. For example, in New Brunswick close to 40 per cent of all doctors will be of retirement age over the next ten years. We will not graduate enough doctors to cover the retirements, let alone fill the vacancies of today. The same goes for nurses. It is the same across the world. If we start a two-tier system and doctors and nurses get to choose, the bulk will go private. They will have better salaries, better hours, the best equipment. This will decimate the public health care system. There will be no one left to work it, but hey as long as the wealthy Conservatives can get treated so that they can continue to travel, spend money, and run businesses that insist that minimum wage is more than enough, then what could be wrong?
Persons with disabilities, regardless of financial ability or insurance that they may have if still working, will not qualify for the private component of two-tier medicare as our disabilities will be considered pre-existing conditions.
An additional problem that the Conservatives would like to add to our health care system is allowing doctors to turn away patients if certain treatments go against their conscience. If the doctor does not
understand your condition, if it’s an invisible illness that is relatively new, if you have atypical symptoms, they could deny you service.
There’s already a huge shortage in medical professionals today, made way more egregious by
retirements and the proposed two-tier system of the Conservatives. Persons with disabilities will
be left to suffer in silence. These two proposals, placed together, will move our community back to
the 1950s. Those of us still able to work today will eventually lose that ability as we will be in
pain, have mobility issues, will be dealing with the progression of our disability and will have no
medical professionals available to care for us.
There is absolutely no positive aspect to the two-tier medical system nor the conscience protection proposed by the Conservatives for the disability community in Canada. This federal election is vitally important to the disability community. You must decide if you want to take two steps forward via a Federal Disability Credit and a Basic Income for us, or three steps back with the death of Medicare, which will decimate the health care system that so many of us rely on just to get out of bed daily, let alone function as a human being, and face the consequences of conscience protection.
I respectfully ask that all members of the disability community, their friends, family and disability advocates research the political platforms of the parties, especially the sections that deal with disability concerns, ask questions and most importantly vote!
If you are unable to get to a polling station to vote due to your mobility, health or another reason, you can still apply to vote by mail-in ballot. It is so easy to do.
1. Go to www.elections.ca.
2. Click on Vote by Mail (about halfway down the main page, on the left).
3. Once on the Vote by Mail page, click on Step 1. You have until Sept 14 to do so.
4. Complete the form. This will include uploading your identification. It clearly explains what is needed for ID (when 1 piece will do, vs 2 pieces). If ID is a huge issue, there is also an affidavit that can be completed.
5. Once submitted, you will receive a confirmation email.
6. When you receive your ballot by mail, you will need to fill in the first and last name of the candidate you are voting for. Without both the first and last name, your ballot will not count.
Shelley Petit is a disability rights advocate in New Brunswick.