A Basic Income Plan for Canadians with Severe Disabilities


Despite billions of dollars spent on a complex assortment of social benefits, many working age Canadians with disabilities end up desperately poor and trapped on welfare – the dead-end default program of last resort. While there has been some progress for persons with disabilities since the landmark Obstacles report was released 30 years ago, one area in which there has been almost no improvement at all has been that of income security. This tragic state of affairs is neither tolerable nor necessary.

A Basic Income Plan for Canadians with Severe Disabilities is a new report commissioned by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and the Canadian Association for Community Living. Written by the Caledon Institute of Social Policy, the document describes the current situation facing Canadians with severe disabilities and sets out a detailed plan to revolutionize income support and services.

The foundation of this plan is a proposed new federal Basic Income program that would replace provincial/territorial social assistance for most working age persons with severe disabilities. The Basic Income program would be a close model of the long-established and well-regarded Guaranteed Income Supplement for low-income seniors. The second reform is to convert the existing non-refundable Disability Tax Credit into a refundable Disability Tax Credit that would extend compensation for the extra costs of disability to the lowest-income people with disabilities. The refundable credit would pay $2,000 through the income tax system to every person eligible for the Disability Tax Credit. These federal income security initiatives would free up funding for urgently needed disability supports and services, permitting the provinces and territories to set up a coherent, comprehensive system of supports and services for those with disabilities.

This federal and provincial/territorial policy partnership could bring Canada into a new age of enlightened programs for those with severe disabilities, with a modest but liveable assured minimum income and a system of supports for daily living that could be among the best in the world. All this is achievable within the boundaries of our current political and administrative institutions and at a cost which is realistic in light of other fiscal choices.

Publication date: 
Nov 2010
Michael Mendelson, Ken Battle, Sherri Torjman and Ernie Lightman
Caledon Institute of Social Policy
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