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 deadend default program of last resort. This tragic state of affairs is neither tolerable nor necessary. This report proposes a ‘Basic Income Plan’ that will replace welfare for most Canadians with severe disabilities. Through related restructuring of other programs, the Basic Income Plan will also offset the cost of disability to all who need it and establish a reformed system of support and services for persons with disabilities. The foundation of this plan is a new federal Basic Income program that would replace provincial/territorial social assistance for most working age persons with severe disabilities. The second reform is to convert the existing nonrefundable 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. These federal income security initiatives would free up provincial and territorial revenues for investment in urgently needed disability supports and services. 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 livable assured minimum income and a system of supports for daily living that could be among the best in the world. All this is achievable at a cost that is realistic in light of other fiscal choices. This report is divided into two parts. It begins with a short statistical snapshot of working age Canadians with severe disabilities, followed by a catalogue of Canada’s major disability-related income security programs and tax benefits. We then focus on weaknesses in three social programs that would form the core of our proposed Basic Income Plan – welfare, the Disability Tax Credit and disability supports. This material provides background for the second part of the report, which sets out a detailed design for our proposed Basic Income Plan.

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