Federal Budget 2019: Disability Issues in Focus

On March 19, 2019, Finance Minister Bill Morneau tabled his fourth federal budget (the “Budget”), ahead of the next election in October.  The Budget, entitled Investing in the Middle Class, claims to provide over $2 billion in funding over six years to remove barriers experienced by people with disabilities and improve the lives of Canadians with chronic health issues. Of particular interest to the disability community include:

  • Changes to the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) and the Disability Tax Credit (DTC),
  • New and renewed support for inclusive employment opportunities for people with disabilities, ASD and visual impairments, and
  • Enhanced federal supports for students with disabilities.

While these changes to the RDSP and DTC are welcomed, the Budget does little to address many of the major issues identified in Breaking Down Barriers: A critical analysis of the Disability Tax Credit and the Registered Disability Savings Plan, released by the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology in June 2018.  In particular, some people continue to face a barrier when it comes opening an RDSP due to discriminatory language in the Income Tax Act that speaks to a consideration of their contractual capacity.

In addition, concerns raised about the timing of withdrawals and accessing funds from the RDSP were not addressed.  Limits placed on the quantum of withdrawals by a formula that accounts for life expectancy coupled with the requirement that people wait 10 years after federal government contributions cease before accessing their funds will result in many beneficiaries never benefiting from their RDSPs.

After the considerable time and resources invested in the Senate’s review and recommendations, it is disappointing to see the key issues of contractual capacity and access to withdrawals go unaddressed yet again.

Inclusive Employment

The Budget includes funding though the Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities to support real work opportunities for Canadians with intellectual disabilities and ASD.  As we transition away from sheltered work and segregated day supports towards community-based, inclusive employment and meaningful participation, this funding will help to ensure that people with disabilities and ASD will have the supports they need achieve their full potential.

The Budget also includes new funding for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) to improve employment opportunities for people with visual impairments.

In addition, the government has committed to identify, remove and prevent technological barriers for people with disabilities and ASD in federal government workplaces.

This support for inclusion and employment for people with disabilities in our community will improve opportunities for work, eliminate barriers at work, and improve financial and overall wellbeing for people with disabilities through work across the country.  We applaud these changes and encourage all levels of government to demonstrate a similar commitment to inclusive and accessible employment for people with disabilities.

Other Measures

The Budget also includes a number of other commitments to support Canadians with disabilities including:

  • enhancements to existing supports for students with disabilities, such as increases to grants for disability related services and equipment and expanded eligibility for loan forgiveness for students with severe permanent disabilities;
  • investments in accessible services for people with visual impairments, such as a $3 million for new accessible reading materials for public libraries across Canada and a $22.8 million investment in independent book publishers for the production of accessible books; and
  • improving the accessibility of electronic payment terminals.

PooranLaw will provide further updates and analysis as we learn more about the Budget. If you have any questions or wish to discuss the implications for you, your family, or the people you support, please contact Brendon Pooran.  You may also access the full text of the Budget here.