In News & Blog, Politics, SCI BC News

Canada’s October 19 federal election is fast approaching, and mail-in ballots are already being cast. Whether you’re a steadfast party supporter or an undecided voter, learn what the four main parties in BC—Conservative, NDP, Liberal, and Green—say about disability issues in their platforms.

In the midst of a long election campaign it’s hard to sort through the information to make an informed voting decision. There is lots of time for rhetoric from the parties, the leaders, and local candidates across the country, which can be very confusing. Most parties are releasing their platforms in increments so voters need to tune in regularly to find out the how the issues are being addressed.

This article won’t tell you who to vote for but it will tell you what the party platforms say about some of the issues we know are important to our members.

HOME ACCESSIBILITY TAX CREDIT* Introduced a new non-refundable Home Accessibility Tax Credit in 2015 for seniors and persons with disabilities to help with the costs of renovations for accessibility. People will need to pay for the renovations up front (up to $10,000) and receive a non-refundable tax credit of up to $1,500. The credit will apply to work started after Jan. 1, 2016.

RDSP* Extended the temporary measure that allows a qualifying family member to become the plan holder of a Registered Disability Savings Plan. The party will also increase the Canada Disability Savings Grant from $3500 to $4000 for low and middle income earners.

SENIORS HEALTH INCLUDING AGING IN PLACE: Providing up to $42 million over five years, starting in 2015–16, to help improve seniors’ health through innovation by establishing the Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation.

EMPLOYMENT: Providing increased funding to the Opportunities Fund for people with disabilities for their projects to help people with disabilities across Canada prepare for the job market.

Read the full Conservative platform here, most of which was introduced in the 2015 federal budget.

*The other parties have not indicated that they would make changes to or discontinue the existing Home Accessibility Tax Credit or the RDSP, as far as I’m aware.

INCOME AND EMPLOYMENT: Platform includes putting the retirement age back to age 65 and working to strengthen public and workplace pensions. The NDP platform also includes increased funding for the Guaranteed Income Supplement and working with provinces, territories, indigenous communities and disability organizations to review and coordinate income supports. Platform includes reinstating the Court Challenges Program and fixing the CPP disability appeals process.

HEALTH CARE: Platform includes working with the provinces to provide better access to health care. The NDP platform also aims to make prescriptions more affordable with a universal drug plan that improves coverage for Canadians, cutting costs by up to 30% with bulk purchasing. The platform also focuses on expanding homecare coverage to 41,000 more seniors.

CANADIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT:  Platform includes introducing a Canadians with Disabilities Act and developing a National Action Plan to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

HOUSING: Platform includes building 10,000 new affordable housing units, and maintaining and strengthening social housing.

TRANSIT: Platform includes investment in transit.

MAIL DELIVERY: Platform includes reviewing Canada Post to ensure that Canadians receive quality service for a reasonable cost.

HOUSING: Platform aims to ensure social housing and seniors facilities will be included in the ten year spending program for infrastructure.

HEALTH CARE: Platform includes working with the provinces to lower drug costs. Platform also aims to make it easier and more affordable to hire caregivers and promises to eliminate the current $1,000 Labour Market Impact Assessment fee.

NATIONAL DISABILITIES ACT: Platform includes consulting with provinces, territories, and other stakeholders to introduce a National Disabilities Act.

INCOME: Platform includes making Employment Insurance benefits easier to access for Canadians caring for a seriously ill family member. The Liberal platform promises to put the retirement age back to age 65. The platform also includes cutting income taxes for middle class earners.

TRANSIT: Platform includes boosting federal funding for transit.

THE CANADIAN ASSOCIATION OF SOCIAL HEALTH: Platform includes increasing transfers to the provinces for targeted health spending on things like rehabilitation. The Green Party platform also includes the implementation of a national drug plan. The party believes that no one should spend more than 3% of after tax income on pharmaceuticals and related treatments.

CANADA DISABILITIES ACT: Platform includes working to create a plan.

INCOME AND EMPLOYMENT: Endorses the Basic Income Program for people with disabilities to provide basic income security while allowing people to focus on becoming full members of society. Platform promises greater enforcement of employment equity rules for people with disabilities. Platform includes a redesign of the CPP disability program to use the Disability Tax Credit definition of disability and increase the opportunities for employment while receiving CPP. Promises to convert the Disability Tax Credit into a refundable tax credit.

EQUIPMENT: Platform includes supporting a national equipment program in conjunction with the provinces to allow everyone access to necessary equipment for daily living.

HOUSING: Platform includes investment in social housing, including additional support for co-op housing.

MAIL DELIVERY: Roll back cuts to Canada Post and restore home delivery.

Looking for a more in-depth comparison? The Canadian Association of Social Workers has a useful report card on the party platforms for social programs.  And the March of Dimes in Ontario has a page outlining some of the federal party platform promises on disability issues.

Despite the promises made in the party platforms, as noted above, there has been little mention of disability, health care or social programs in the leaders’ debates. I haven’t yet had a chance to attend a local candidates meeting, but I haven’t seen mention of these issues in the media coverage of local candidates either.

I encourage people to look through the party platforms for themselves, as I’ve only highlighted the issues most relevant to our members that are related to disability policy. There are, of course, many other factors to take into account when deciding who to vote for. However, this gives you a starting place for your decision making and an idea of what to ask local candidates during the campaign. I also encourage people to contact local candidates directly. I did this during the last municipal election and found it fascinating to see which candidates bothered to respond, whether they answered the questions I asked or simply provided generic information, and whether they were interested in engaging in a discussion about what mattered to me.

After all the reading I did for this blog, I am still an undecided voter for this federal election. However, I know for sure that I will be voting on October 19 because I want a say in how Canada is governed. With what is currently a close race this time around, BC votes could decide the election, so please make your voice heard by heading to the ballot box.

NOT SURE WHERE YOU STAND? Take this Vote Compass poll to see whether your views align with the Conservative, NDP, Liberal, or Green party on a variety of political issues.


DISCOVER THE MANY WAYS TO VOTE IN THIS 2015 ELECTION—from mailing your vote in now, to voting in advance from October 9-12 and casting your ballot on election day on October 19.

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