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THE GRAND DESIGN : ACHIEVING THE `OPEN HOUSE' VISION


The past two decades have seen people with disabilities come closer to achieving their dream - equality, full participation and integration in Canadian society. It is best captured in the "Open House" vision that was endorsed three years ago not only by people with disabilities but also by the federal and provincial governments.

The "Open House" vision looks forward to a society in which people with disabilities enjoy the same rights and the same benefits as do other Canadians.
It is a society in which people with disabilities are participating fully in all aspects of community life, including school, work and recreation. They are able to participate in the mainstream because discriminatory barriers have been removed and disability-related supports have been provided.
Finally, it is a society in which people with disabilities have the same degree of control as other Canadians over the decisions which affect them and which influence their lives.1
1 The Federal/Provincial/Territorial Review of Services Affecting Canadians with Disabilities, Pathway to Integration: Final Report, Mainstream 1992, Ottawa, May 1993, p. iv.
The Canadian public has consistently given strong support to measures that promote the realization of this vision, including the expenditure of tax dollars to achieve this end. Members of the House of Commons and the Senate from all political parties have joined together in Committee reports and legislation that have assisted in removing barriers to integration, full participation and equality. Provincial governments have endorsed the principles of inclusion expressed in Mainstream 1992, which in Quebec are set out in a comprehensive policy framework, À part . . . égale. Non-partisanship has been the hallmark of the approach which has led to some impressive achievements for people with disabilities.

A HISTORY LESSON

To mark the beginning of the International Decade of Disabled Persons in 1981, the Canadian Parliament established a Special Committee of the House of Commons that produced the landmark report, Obstacles. The Special Committee unanimously endorsed a roadmap for the future by adopting 130 comprehensive recommendations. That same year, Quebec proclaimed its Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms which provides for a full and equal recognition and exercise of rights "without distinction, exclusion or preference based on disability or the use of any means to palliate a handicap" (Chapter I.1 [10]). The following year, the federal government proclaimed the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees "equal protection and equal benefit of the law . . . without discrimination based on . . . mental or physical disability" (Section 15 [1]). All other provinces and territories now have human rights legislation that guarantee equal rights for people with disabilities.

This Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Disabled Persons is proud of its lineage which goes back to Obstacles. We are equally aware that our predecessors have tabled a series of unanimous reports which point out ways to foster access, participation and integration for people with disabilities. And we hold to our mandate from the House of Commons to "propose, promote, monitor and assess initiatives aimed at the integration and equality of disabled persons in all sectors of Canadian society."

Among the achievements of our predecessors was a report, A Consensus for Action, that recommended that the government "in partnership with people with disabilities, representatives of the private and voluntary sectors, organized labour, and this Committee, make the economic integration of people with disabilities a continuing national priority and develop a national action strategy . . . "2

2 House of Commons, Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Disabled Persons, A Consensus for Action: The Economic Integration of Disabled Persons, Ottawa, June 1990, p. 35.
This broad process was to include working with provincial and municipal governments to ensure ongoing consultations, cooperation and coordinated action. The government of the day responded in 1991, although in a limited way, by establishing the National Strategy for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities which comes to an end in March 1996.

The present report provides us with an opportunity to express our views and to make recommendations on the direction that policies and programs for people with disabilities should take in the future.

Our general conclusion is simple: While we have moved forward, there is a long way to go yet to reach many of the destinations on the roadmap provided in Obstacles. While we have found no lack of expressions of goodwill towards people with disabilities, implementation of policies and programs that benefit them in a practical and ongoing fashion has not been as comprehensive as it could be.

As the members of the Special Committee remarked fourteen years ago, there was a "lack of direction and coordination on the part of government, institutional and community leaders who have the power to make changes."3

3 House of Commons, Special Committee on the Disabled and the Handicapped, Obstacles, Ottawa, 1981, p. 6.
They also pointed out that by reassigning priorities - and without increasing public spending - governments could assist people with disabilities in achieving their vision. When they reassessed the situation in 1990, our predecessors on this Standing Committee reiterated the same conclusion and noted that the essential problems had remained unaddressed since 1981.

During the federal/provincial review, Mainstream 1992, the federal government, the provinces and the disability community again agreed on common strategic directions:

Disability-Related Supports: Providing disability-related supports which people with disabilities require if they are to participate in community life and to provide for their own well-being as other Canadians can.
Role of Social Services: Ensuring that mainstream sectors (e.g. education, housing or employment) should ensure that their mainstream services are as accessible to people with disabilities as they are to other Canadians.
Employment-Related Services: Making concerted and coordinated efforts to remove social, economic and physical barriers and providing people with the training and disability-related supports required for equal participation in the workplace. Secondly, removing of barriers in a range of income support and income replacement programs that prevent people with disabilities from remaining in or returning to the paid labour force.
Community/Independent Living: Undertaking efforts to move the social services system and society in general, in the direction of supporting community and independent living (short term: redirecting current expenditures and developing processes for accountability. Long term: developing funding arrangements to allow individuals to purchase and manage the supports they require).
Promotion/Prevention: Promoting understanding of differences and eliminating conditions that place people with disabilities at greater risk of poverty and exclusion.
Income Support/Replacement: Ensuring that the programs of income support and replacement provide for both basic and disability-related needs.
The leaders of the disability community welcomed the review of social programs that took place in 1994 as an opportunity for consideration and implementation of systemic reforms identified during the past decade. But the community also realized that any reform of social programs would have a disproportionately significant impact on people with disabilities because of their reliance on these programs. For example, at least one-third ($2.3 billion) of the federal expenditures on the Canada Assistance Plan provides income security and supports and services to people with disabilities. This translates into support for 320,000 heads of households with a disability and an uncounted number of dependents with disabilities.

As all levels of government in Canada attempt to get their fiscal houses in order, none of us can ignore the danger that people with disabilities could fall through the cracks. During the past year, people with disabilities in Canada have seen many of the programs on which they rely examined under a microscope in a search for flaws in their fiscal framework or efficiency. The growing apprehensiveness of the disability community has become obvious. Instead of achieving the goals that had been established several years ago and reiterated in Mainstream 1992, they are confronting changes to - or elimination of - almost every major federal program that deals with persons with disabilities namely:

With so many disability-related programs up for reassessment at the same time, we must ask ourselves what can be done to keep disability-related concerns on the table. This calls for a "national strategy" - a "grand design". A management textbook sets out a good view of what this is:

When an organization has clarified its purpose and objectives, it knows where it wants to go. The question is how best to get there . . . [It] needs a `grand design' for achieving its objectives. That is called strategy. Strategy involves the choice of major directions for pursuing objectives and the allocation of supporting resources . . . It should not be confused with tactics, which are derived activities designed to win battles [not the war].4
4 P. Kotler and R. Turner, Understanding Marketing Management: Analysis, Planning, and Control, Scarborough, 1981, p. 71-72.
Historically, adding disability on to programs developed to meet other major objectives cannot result in any grand design to assist people with disabilities. As Marcia Rioux, Director of the Roeher Institute pointed out:

The assumption fifty years ago was that people with disabilities would be shut away somewhere and we wouldn't worry too much. We'd give them enough money to live and hopefully they wouldn't live too long . . . So when you suddenly have to add disability to the welfare system, it did not work very well. When you had to add disability to the employment system, it didn't work very well. When you tried to add disability to the tax system, it didn't work very well. We constantly have these odd pieces that don't fit, plugged onto all these systems. (74:17)

A lesson learned

Our hearings made the contemporary implications of this historical legacy very evident. As we listened to the public servants speaking about their efforts to accommodate the concerns of people with disabilities, we noted that they believed that they had done a great deal. And, we believe that they deserve credit for what they have accomplished. But, - and this is the crux of the matter - they also demonstrated that federal institutions have not succeeded in bringing about the systemic changes that are required to build disability-related concerns into the basic premises that guide policy formulation and programme implementation. Our predecessors who produced A Consensus for Action reported the same circumstance and concluded that:

By treating disabled persons as individuals with "special needs", rather than as citizens with the same rights as others, debate has centred around how money can be distributed to fill the needs of this "special group". We notice that the argument which segregates out disabled persons is most often used to deny them resources or to "throw money" at them.5
5 Ibid., p. 25.
We believe that a grand design to deal with "add-ons" can only be achieved when government develops a true measure of accountability that ensures the inclusion of people with disabilities before policies and programs are set in stone. Parliamentary committees have a crucial role to play in this context. They have been among the few ongoing institutions that try to fill this gap and secure the inclusion of people with disabilities in public policy and programs. For the past fourteen years, they have recommended such measures as

At the same time, as members of parliamentary committees we recognize the limitations that we face, both in our powers and in the resources that we can devote to any issue. We can neither force governments to accept our analysis or our prescriptions, nor do we always receive the formal responses that we request to our reports. For example, the dissolution of Parliament in 1993 left four of the Committees previous reports in limbo. One response, dealing with recommendations to reform the tax system, was late, and the onus to respond to the others was removed by dissolution.

One of the most important parts of our mandate includes monitoring the activities of government and we intend to treat it as seriously as our predecessors did. We recognize the importance of the issues that they raised and we believe that it is important for us, during this current Parliament to revisit many of the issues that they studied. In particular, we feel that the situation of aboriginal people with disabilities merits ongoing consideration, since the previous government did not respond to the report, Completing the Circle, that dealt with the ongoing and difficult situation of aboriginal people with disabilities.

People with disabilities have not changed their dream. It has been articulated not only consistently but also constructively with a willingness to cooperate with governments by providing knowledge and expert assistance. This is as true in our experience during this Parliament, as it has been in the experience of our colleagues on the Human Resources Development Committee and the Finance Committee during their recent hearings on the Social Security Review and Bill C-76.

What has their message been? It is crucial to note, as we discussed above, that it has most emphatically not consisted of defending the status quo. People with disabilities have been among the most ardent proponents of change. And, they argue, change need not involve additional long-term cost to government or, more accurately, to the other taxpayers of Canada. People with disabilities have expertise to lend to the community as a whole. And they want to be consulted about and involved, in the decisions about how best to resolve issues of interest and concern to them. As Randy Dickinson of the New Brunswick Premier's Council on the Status of Disabled Persons told us:

If you're getting your car repaired, you have a mechanic who is skilled in repairing the car, but you still make the decision as to . . .what type of repairs you want and what you're willing to pay for those repairs in the marketplace. So certainly, rehabilitation providers are part of the tools out there to rehabilitate or to participate in the needs of persons with disabilities, as long as they don't control the process unilaterally, and there is a role there for consumers. (Meeting 81).
Mr. Dickinson also pointed out that:

I think Canadians as a whole across the country are supportive of the goal and the objective of tapping into that under-utilized resource of the disability community. We look at the changing demographics of the Canadian population, regardless of the problems in structural unemployment, etc. We need to include Canadians with disabilities in that labour force not because it's the right thing to do morally, but because it makes good economic sense in using the resources to help people participate in the community rather than using those resources to help people stay at home.
I'm not here on bended knee looking for a hand out. I'm not here to thump the table and say we want more rights for Canadians with disabilities. . . What we're looking for is to take those rights and to provide the support systems in a sustainable and long-term way so that Canadians with disabilities can assume also their responsibilities as Canadians. They want their opportunity to contribute back to the community. They want their opportunity to be part of the community. They want a national strategy, a national vision, and national leadership that provides the environment where that's possible. (Meeting 81).

EVALUATING THE NATIONAL STRATEGY

A. Inception and Organization

With the inauguration in 1991 of the National Strategy for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities, the federal government made a commitment to people with disabilities to take action to work towards the goals of equality and inclusiveness. The omens for success were good: the National Strategy constituted a positive, though limited, response to a non-partisan and unanimous report to Parliament by this Committee; it sought to foster partnerships among various federal departments and agencies, and its objectives coincided with those of people with disabilities. These were:

In order to achieve these objectives, the government proposed several initiatives:

The budget for this five-year initiative was $159.35 million allocated among the partner departments (see Chart 1) and was to be targeted to assist people with disabilities in five areas:


CHART 1

NSIPD ALLOCATIONS AT TIME OF TREASURY BOARD (1991) DECISIONS

Department/Agency

A-Base Funds

Priorities
Reserve Funds

Total

Communications Canada

$2,513,000

$3,250,000

$5,763,000

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

$13,195,000

$13,195,000

Employment and Immigration Canada

$10,550,000

$9,424,000

$19,974,000

Health and Welfare Canada*

$12,889,000

$33,121,000

$46,010,000

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada

$4,000,000

$1,000,000

$5,000,000

Justice Canada

$600,000

$600,000

$1,200,000

Labour Canada

$2,340,000

$2,340,000

National Library

$1,000,000

$1,372,000

$2,372,000

National Transportation Agency

$900,000

$900,000

Secretary of State

$4,000,000

$34,000,000

$38,000,000

Transport Canada

$11,400,000

$13,200,000

$24,600,000

Treasury Board Secretariat**

0

Total

$46,952,000

$112,402,000

$159,354,000

Source: Information from NSIPD implementing departments, January-April 1995.

* Includes $6 million for the Canada Pension Plan-National Vocational Rehabilitation Project (NVRP).
** Treasury Board Secretariat received no new funding under the NSIPD.
Over the course of the five years of the National Strategy, the partner departments but not the overall budget changed as a result of the 1993 government restructuring. (see Chart 2)


CHART 2

NSIPD ALLOCATION AFTER THE 1993 RESTRUCTURING OF FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

Department/Agency

A-Base Funds

Priorities
Reserve Funds

Total

Canadian Heritage

$575,000

$575,000

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

$13,195,000

$13,195,000

Health and Welfare Canada

$889,000

$5,847,000

$6,736,000

Human Resources Development Canada*

$26,550,000

$72,463,000

$99,013,000

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada

$4,000,000

$1,000,000

$5,000,000

Industry Canada

$2,513,000

$3,250,000

$5,763,000

Justice Canada

$600,000

$600,000

$1,200,000

National Library

$1,000,000

$1,372,000

$2,372,000

National Transportation Agency

$900,000

$900,000

Transport Canada

$11,400,000

$13,200,000

$24,600,000

Treasury Board**

Total

$46,952,000

$112,402,000

$159,354,000

Source: Information from NSIPD implementing departments, January-April 1995.

* Includes $6 million for the Canada Pension Plan-National Vocational Rehabilitation Project (NVRP).
** Treasury Board Secretariat received no new funding under the NSIPD.
This amalgamation of several departments, or parts of departments, meant that the responsibilities as lead department moved from the Department of the Secretary of State to the Department of Human Resources Development. In addition, the ongoing coordination of the Strategy had moved from the Deputy Ministers to a Steering Committee of Assistant Deputy Ministers. At the same time, any of the active coordination of departmental activities and sharing of information took place in a Working Group that functioned at the level of director or program manager. The implications of this are discussed below.

B. Unanimous Conclusions

As a Committee, we are indeed fortunate to have heard congruent views of the National Strategy set out by those who evaluated its strengths and its weaknesses. The community of persons with disabilities who came before us as witnesses explicitly and unanimously told us their views. Because the National Strategy is due to come to an end in March 1996, the various departments and agencies have prepared formal evaluations of their activities. We hope that these unanimous conclusions will have the same impact on the federal government which is responding to this report as they have had on this Committee.

The concept of a national strategy, a grand design, to address issues important to people with disabilities received an overwhelming endorsement. The conclusion that disability issues require a cross-cutting mandate, interdepartmental coordination and intergovernmental collaboration was strongly expressed in all testimony and submissions to the Committee. The value of community involvement in the processes of defining and implementing this grand design and the possibility of achieving partnerships between levels of government and the community (nationally and provincially) has received universal support.

But - and it is a critical consideration - there is a fear that the federal role in disability issues is moving toward a narrower focus than it had previously taken. Employment may be the single most important issue in assuring integration. But it can serve neither as a panacea nor an excuse for failing to address issues related to income security and pensions, quality of life, physical accessibility, transportation, citizenship rights and responsibilities, communications, housing, deinstitutionalization, the criminal justice system or education. We have based this report on evidence that unanimously took a broader view - and so do we - of what a national strategy ought to mean.

The interconnectedness of all these issues and the need for a grand strategic approach took on a particular meaning for us when people with disabilities discussed their need for an inter-city passenger transportation system that they could use. The National Transportation Act was amended in 1988 as a clear sign that accessible transportation ought to be an integral part of the overall policies governing transportation rather than a concession, favour or add on. In A Consensus for Action6

6 A Consensus for Action, p. 11-12.
and later in their report, Getting Back on the Road: Passenger Transportation and Persons with Disabilities,7
7 Getting Back on the Road: Passenger Transportation and Person with Disabilities, Ottawa, June 1993.
our predecessors made recommendations regarding the need to improve passenger transportation, particularly access to inter-city buses. Their interest was prompted by the passage in May 1990 of the Americans with Disabilities Act by the United States Congress. One of the major purposes of this Act was to guarantee equality to all Americans with disabilities including equal access to the transportation system. In Canada, a small declaration was added to the National Transportation Act in 1992 to the effect that the transportation system ought to better serve people with disabilities. But guarantees of access to the bus system have not been proceeded with. Two years after Getting Back on the Road was tabled, we heard people with disabilities emphatically repeat their concerns.

C. A Non-Strategic Strategy

All our witnesses and the evaluation reports confirmed our first general conclusion: there was no "grand design." In effect, the National Strategy was not a "strategy" but a series of "tactics." Consequently, the problems of leadership, coordination, and collaboration of various players within the government remain unsolved. Our witnesses drew attention to this conclusion by pointing to the limited mandate itself. Major departments were not involved - in particular the Department of Finance. It is not difficult to deduce that the participation of the Department of Finance is crucial to ensure that a cohesive approach to disability-related issues is put in place. Even within Human Resources Development Canada, the lead department for the purpose of the Strategy, the participation of some critical areas with large budgets was minimal. For example, the Canada Pension Plan's participation in the National Strategy was limited to a small vocational rehabilitation pilot project. Given that almost $3 billion is spent annually on disability pensions by the CPP, this tiny project is not proportional to the strategic effort required to refocus the CPP's disability-related activities. The same can be said for cost-shared programs such as the Canada Assistance Plan and the Vocational Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons Program. Why were these programs not included? Why were they not used to test coordinated approaches to reorienting disability-related activities in conjunction with the provinces? Regrettably, the evaluations of the National Strategy are silent on these questions.

Sherri Torjman, Vice-President of the Caledon Institute, stated that "What I think was truly missing with respect to this National Strategy was a vision or a statement of commitment right from the very top levels of government . . . the commitment that the federal government has to ensure that people with disabilities are full citizens in the country . . ." Marcia Rioux, Director of the Roeher Institute, told us that, "I don't believe there was a National Strategy . . . I do believe, however, that some of the money that was set aside for the National Strategy was used strategically."

The Executive Summary of the Interdepartmental Evaluation of the National Strategy states that:

There was insufficient consultation both across departments and with the disability community and the provinces for setting priorities and operationalizing the objectives . . . The National Strategy was designed as a package of discrete departmental components and there was little evidence of departments working together to capitalize on the complementarity of the objects . . . there was [also] little requirement for formal interdepartmental accountability and little incentive for departments to share information about their initiatives. 8
8 Interdepartmental Evaluation of the National Strategy for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities, "Executive Summary," Ottawa, 1995, p. 3-4.
The interdepartmental evaluation points out that, although there was a Steering Committee of Assistant Deputy Ministers, there was "no structured process to report on implementation of programs, to assess progress toward NSIPD objectives, or to share experiences on what works . . . Although Human Resources Development Canada, as the lead department, has overall responsibility for monitoring implementation, it had no mechanisms for ensuring this happened."

Other evidence supports these conclusions. Treasury Board has obligated all partner departments to evaluate their activities under the National Strategy and these evaluations were prepared and most departments tabled them with this Committee. Regrettably not all of them (including the Treasury Board itself and the Department of Transport) have been received. This fact alone is a statement on the nature of coordination.

We echo the conclusion expressed by our witnesses and the interdepartmental program evaluation: "Weaknesses in the process of developing, coordinating and communicating the National Strategy, led the evaluation team to conclude that the overall approach taken was not sufficiently strategic."9

9 Ibid.

D. Intra-Departmental Coordination

The second part of the coordination issue involves the extent to which the various departments of government - both those which are partners in the National Strategy as well as those which are not - have managed to coordinate all their internal disability-related activities. The evaluation of one of the smaller partners in the Strategy, Industry Canada, points to certain ways that this coordination can take place. Industry Canada's evaluation points out that its disability program has a strong rationale based on efficiency and equity and is supportive of the policy directions for the department and the government as a whole. In addition, the evaluation concludes that virtually all activities supported by the Industry program would not have occurred without funding. In terms of fitting in with the private sector's activities, the evaluation also found that for every dollar it invests, the program levered between $0.47 to $0.65 of private sector money, that nine supported devices are at or near commercialization and that export sales of products are projected to be $30 million over five years.10
10 Abt Associates of Canada, "Project Report: Evaluation of the Industry Canada Component of the National Strategy for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities," prepared for Federal-Provincial Relations, Planning and Evaluation Directorate, Industry Canada, Ottawa, January 1995.

This approach contrasts to the largest partner in the National Strategy, the Department of Human Resources Development. It is worth repeating our view that this department (and its antecedents) did not see fit to include in the Strategy the largest and costliest disability-related activities undertaken by the federal government. This exclusion speaks volumes about how the department perceived the Strategy itself and confined its participation to marginal programmatic activities (i.e. "tactics") that did not challenge major departmental interests by imposing a regime of policy coordination (a "strategy"). Central departmental policy coordination should be crucial for departments like Human Resources Development Canada where disability-related spending is over $5 billion. The omission of large programs from the Strategy and the disengagement of HRDC's central policy operations may account for the unanimous conclusion that the Strategy was not strategic.

E. Human Resources Development: A Model to Follow?

The activities of the Department of Human Resources Development are worthy of some scrutiny, both because it is the lead department and because it is responsible for $100 million or 63 per cent of the funding for the National Strategy. The Department's own Evaluation Branch documents noted the same critical comments that have been made by the independent policy analysts, the disability community and provincial advisory commissions. With regard to the strategic element of HRDC's own activities it concludes that:

Given the needs and potential demand of the disability community in areas such as advocacy and employment . . . overall resources provided by HRDC can be seen as insufficient. In the absence of specific targets and tools to guide program decisions, the question becomes one of whether funds available were used in the most appropriate way.
To determine the most appropriate level of resources requires a much clearer sense of the highest priority areas as well as a statement of results anticipated and quantitative objectives with respect to results.11
11 Employment and Immigration Canada, Strategic Policy and Planning, "Program Evaluation Report: Evaluation of HRDC Initiatives Under the National Strategy for Integration of Persons with Disability (NSIPD): Phase II," HRDC Evaluation Branch, Ottawa, 21 June 1995, p. 28-29.
In the eyes of HRDC evaluators, their department's initiatives were tactical and not strategic.

According to the evaluation team, this same observation was made by representatives of provincial governments. Some provincial participants in the evaluation pointed out that HRDC has increased the competition between the federal and provincial governments in terms of priorities and approaches directed at persons with disabilities. They also noted that HRDC developed a series of services or programs which were left for the provinces to pick up so that the provinces become the "bad guys" when they discontinue these federal initiatives. The provincial respondents commented that:

Employment:
Federal programs are not adequately addressing the fact that persons with disabilities are employable. There is a systemic inability to separate disability-related need from financial need and this is why persons with disabilities are tied to the welfare system. This issue will be an important focus of income security reform and must be addressed;
Maintaining the employment of persons with mental health disabilities who require hospitalization on a cyclical basis is not being addressed; and
Training programs, which have a pre-training component to determine stamina, arrangements, etc., are not being implemented.
Education:
This is an area which is being affected by federal cuts in transfer payments, which, in turn, will impact on the integration of children with disabilities into the regular school systems.12
12 Ibid., p. 27-28.
The evaluation argued the necessity of coordinating federal activities in the social sectors in which the provinces have the primary jurisdiction and responsibility. Consequently, the provinces should agree to the context and overall direction of new initiatives and support for new approaches. If this is not done, the provinces will not carry on many innovative activities as continuing programs.13
13 Ibid., p. 41.

It is also important to ensure complementary federal and provincial activities. In the area of the provision of vocational rehabilitation that is funded by federal/provincial cost-sharing agreements, organizations of persons with disabilities have pointed out that they often do not know where to send their clientele - to the provincial vocational rehabilitation service or to the local Canada Employment Centre. At the same time, service providers are insecure because they do not know which level of government will support them. The evaluation of the Strategy also pointed to "lack of communication and coordination between the two levels of government with regard to areas of legislative jurisdiction (e.g. pensions, transportation . . . ).''14

14 Ibid., p. 43.
Gaps in services mean that people can fall through the cracks.

Since the amalgamation of the various departments into the new Human Resources Development Canada, the evaluation found that departmental officials had expressed concern that disability issues were receiving a low priority. In addition, HRDC officials noted a shift in the departmental focus towards economic issues and away from social development. In particular, the evaluation concluded that:

The 1993 federal government reorganization appears to have undermined the federal leadership role through a reduction of the profile for persons with disabilities within the department and a lack of strategic focus on disability issues at senior departmental levels.15
15 Ibid., p. 41.
Given the need to consider disability issues in the broader cross-cutting context, this is reason enough for concern.

The second, and equally serious, cause for disquiet arises from the evaluation's conclusion that those responsible for federal employment programs have not developed any strategic framework for dealing with disability-related issues. Funding for disability-related projects at the regional level is difficult to identify, may not have been spent on disability programming and is not subject to an explicit planning process designed to achieve concrete goals.16

16 The evaluation states that " . . . HRDC NHQ interviewees felt that the A-base component of Employment Program initiatives under NSIPD (i.e. A-base funds that were to have been reallocated to the regions) was not properly designed and that intended impacts have not occurred. HRDC regional offices face too many competing priorities, and there is a lack of direction as to how to handle NSIPD programming directed at persons with disabilities. Because of decentralization, NHQ has limited authority over the regions. It was left to individual regions to implement the NSIPD initiatives as per the overall departmental guidelines. As there was no specific strategy or plan to implement the NSIPD either regionally or nationally, regional approaches as well as levels of effort differed with some regions more concerned than others about achieving results. Overall, the regional interviewees did not believe that there was any real change in the programming approach for persons with disabilities as a result of the NSIPD." (p. 70-71)
The evaluation pointed out that the Strategy had made no real change in the regional approach to employment programming for people with disabilities. In part, this is because many worthy employment project initiatives that were funded at the regional level were never evaluated. This limits or eliminates information on their success and forestalls sharing of experiences. Good projects done in one region were (and are) not necessarily used as a base for planning projects in another region.

Apart from this, there has been little done to improve the participation rate of persons with disabilities in departmental employment programming. Some HRDC staff told the evaluation team that "there has been no attempt by HRDC to really act on improving the need for better accessibility (this includes appropriate information formats for the visually-impaired, etc.) As a result, the uptake in Employment Services has been weak because of the lack of demand."17

17 Ibid., p. 72.
In fact, figures in the evaluation indicate that expenditures for persons with disabilities in employment programs and services has decreased substantially during the five-year National Strategy. In 1989-90, expenditures amounted to $47.1 million but four years later, this had already declined to $34.9 million. This was the case for HRDC programs in every province except for Quebec and Saskatchewan. HRDC managers indicated that this is the result of reductions in Consolidated Revenue Funding (CRF), the funding normally used for persons with disabilities who are not eligible for UIC benefits.18
18 Ibid., p. 74-76.
Other funding to aid in the training and employment of persons with disabilities (Outreach) has not increased over the timeframe of the Strategy. The evaluation draws the conclusion that much of the funding set aside for employment programs in the National Strategy was not redirected toward people with disabilities.

The proof of the pudding, as the saying goes, is in the eating. In 1993-94, people with disabilities formed 6.5% of the working age population (as calculated for the purposes of compliance with the Employment Equity Act). But they only constituted 2.1% of the clients of HRDC's employment programs (11,874 out of 587,178). This is in spite of the fact that the results of the Health and Activity Limitation Survey in 1991 found that only 48% of people with disabilities were employed and 44% were not in the labour force. HALS 1991 also found that 17% of people with disabilities had never worked and 38% had not worked in the previous five years. When the National Strategy began, the department set its own target: to increase the participation rate in its programs from 2% to 6%. The conclusion is obvious.

In addition to the funding and overall low participation rate in HRDC training measures, the evaluation identified several specific problems related to the Canada Employment Centres (CECs):

This finding by HRDC's evaluation team confirms the evidence of CECs' operations that was provided to this Committee by representatives from the disability community.

F. Positive Features

Our witnesses have also pointed out some of the positive features of HRDC's activities since the beginning of the Strategy. In particular, initiatives have contributed to increasing awareness of issues, rights, services and barriers. Attitudes have changed both within the disability community and the general public. Partnerships have been formed that will make future accomplishments easier.

MOVING FORWARD

A. The Challenge Ahead

The value in studying the National Strategy for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities lies in using it as a guidepost for tomorrow. The federal government is in the process of implementing the Canada Health and Social Transfer as well as refocusing the employment programs that it funds. What lessons have we learned from the National Strategy that we can apply? How can we develop the "Grand Design" for the future?

To begin with, we accept that the key to the future for people with disabilities lies in slicing through the Gordian knot that has tied the provision of disability-related supports and services to eligibility for income programs. This is the unanimous conclusion of disability policy analysts, the national organizations representing people with disabilities as well as the premier's councils and commissions that advise provincial governments. They have argued that until this knot is cut, the problem of ensuring full participation for people with disabilities will not be resolved.

B. Disability-related Supports and Services

Disability-related supports and services represent the extra cost of disability. Non-disabled people do not have to get access to wheelchairs, adapted computers, and cars, or use attendants to help with the activities of daily living. Yet, a myriad of these supports/services, technical aids/devices are the sine qua non for a child with a disability to go to school, for a youth with a disability to attend community college or university, for an adult to hold a job and for a senior to maintain an independent lifestyle. Someone has to pay for these. Should it be the individual with a disability? The family of a person with a disability? A voluntary organization? Federal, provincial or municipal governments? Private insurers or workers' compensation? Currently, the cost of disability is paid by all of them in a fragmented fashion. This means that children cannot use the school-provided supports and services at home, let alone take them along when they move to university. New community college graduates must leave supports behind when they move to a job; people who retire must leave behind aids and devices provided on the job. This is because supports and services are linked to sectors like education, social services, health or recreation instead of to individuals.

People with disabilities with low levels of skills or low income from employment frequently end up on social assistance because of their requirements for disability-related supports. Someone with a disability may be ineligible for social assistance because of assets or income and yet still not have enough money to afford the disability-related services and supports required. This creates an incentive to abandon the labour market and apply for social assistance just to gain access to the disability-related services and supports for daily living.

The delivery of disability-related supports and services within the public sector falls, by and large, within provincial jurisdiction. The federal government pays for some of the cost through the Canada Assistance Plan, Established Programs Financing, and the tax system (the Disability Expense Credit and the Medical Expense Credit).

Given the testimony that we have heard about the importance of supports and services to people with disabilities, we are interested in a comprehensive national program to ensure access to disability-related supports and services such as that proposed by the Roeher Institute. The Canadian Association of Community Living advocated in favour of this program and cited it as the model that is currently being tested in the Prince Edward Island strategic initiative announced in the 1994 federal budget. The aim of this program, to provide supports and technical aids required for participation in the social and economic mainstream, was ultimately expected to reduce dependence on social assistance. In the proposal, eligibility resulted only from the presence of a disability-related need without asset or income testing and imposed no restriction by age, employability or the cause or nature of disability. The Roeher model further argues that such a system could be funded by redirecting moneys from current programs and would involve no incremental costs. It could be delivered by the provinces with federal funding.20

20 Roeher Institute, The Canadian Disability Resource Program: Offsetting Costs of Disability and Assuring Access to Disability-Related Supports, Toronto, 1994.

At the same time, we are aware that people with disabilities have been pressing for reform of the tax system so that it can better take disability-related costs into account and meet the need for horizontal equity (treating likes alike for tax purposes). During the previous Parliament, this Committee itself issued a report which recommended that the tax system be reformed by broadening the application of the Disability Tax Credit and also by making it refundable.21

21 House of Commons, Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Disabled Persons, As True as Taxes: Disability and the Income Tax System, Ottawa, 1993.
During our hearings this autumn, we were quickly made aware that reform to the tax system remains very high on the agenda of people with disabilities. The HRDC evaluation of the National Strategy also mentions the tax system as an area where cost-effective action could assist in meeting individuals' requirements for disability-related supports and services.22
22 "Evaluation of HRDC Initiatives," p. 104.

C. The Disability Income System

Witnesses also told us about the difficulties that they encountered with the income system for people with disabilities. It too is fragmented and involves many public and private measures and jurisdictions. Basic income support is provided through social assistance (delivered provincially/territorially/municipally but funded through the Canada Assistance Plan). Several provinces have disability contingent income benefits, or top-ups, that are paid for by the province. In addition, there are benefits for children with disabilities, and for people in vocational rehabilitation programs as well as rent and housing supplements. Again the funding is a mixture of federal/provincial or provincial only. Individually-purchased automobile insurance is another private or provincial program to provide basic income. A series of earnings replacement benefits and compensation programs are also in place including workers' compensation, the Canada and Quebec Pension Plan disability benefits, unemployment insurance (sickness), and private long-term disability insurance.

As it functions, the disability income system of today forces many people with disabilities to make a difficult decision: Do they classify themselves as permanently unable to hold a job? To receive social assistance or pensions, most income programs classify persons with disabilities as "permanently unemployable." If someone accepts this classification, he or she is assured of an income, usually at a level which is somewhat higher than basic social assistance for non-disabled persons. People with disabilities, therefore, must trade off training and employment opportunities for security of income and access to disability-related supports and services. Demonstrating any ability to earn entails the risk that benefits will be completely lost. This barrier to measures to increase the employability of people with disabilities traps them into passive income support with the result that they are marginalized as potential contributors to the economy and to society. Both the human and financial costs of the disability-income system are significant.

The disability income system has been long-recognized as a problem. As a result of recommendations in Obstacles, the federal and provincial ministers of social services undertook a joint federal and provincial study with a mandate to determine the feasibility of establishing and operating a national disability benefit program. Their task force submitted its first report in 1983 and set out not only the problems but also various options for dealing with it. The ministers then asked the task force to develop and to provide the cost for specific models (three earnings-replacement insurance models and three guaranteed income support models were prepared in 1985).

During the past few years, the disability income system has also been studied with a view to reintegrating workers with disabilities. This has become an issue because private and public sector employers in all regions of the country continue to experience significant and escalating costs associated with injuries and/or disabilities incurred on and off the job. Some estimates place the burden on the Canadian economy in billions of dollars annually. The federal government alone, for example, spends well in excess of $300 million per year on workers' compensation benefits and administration, lost productivity due to illness and injury, wage replacement, additional supervisory time, and disability insurance and other disability-related employee benefits. A recent pilot project put in place in the federal system is looking at ways to deal with human, financial and social consequences of injury, illness and disability. It is a comprehensive workplace-based program that focuses on preventing disability, on rehabilitation and on the prompt and safe return to work. Employees without access to such a disability management program rely on the traditional passive system of private and public sector safety nets for financial support. Few of these systems include a disability cost management component.

D. The Nearer Future

We know that solving the income security issue and sorting out the provision of disability-related supports and services will involve a longer term study and perspective, but at the same time, we are aware that events that affect people with disabilities are already in motion.

Combining CAP and EPF into the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST) has raised justifiable concerns on the part of the disability community who rely on funding from these sources to provide both income assistance and disability-related supports/services to participate in the economy and in society. For people with disabilities, supports and services are seen as the cornerstone of their ability to participate as citizens. They fear that measures to meet Canada's fiscal problems will have a negative impact. As Lucie Lemieux-Brassard of the Conféderation des organismes provinciaux des personnes handicapées told us: "We've reached a point here. We don't even talk about being second-class citizens. We're talking about being the fifth and up to the tenth-class citizenship . . . nobody cares about establishing criteria, or minimum quality of services to make sure that we do have a minimal quality of life. It doesn't matter where we live." During our hearings, the witnesses spoke about these in some detail. They argued that the CHST would:

Representatives of the disability community - premier's councils, provincial advisory commissions as well as national organizations - argued strongly that agreements between the federal government and the provinces/territories to implement the CHST should contain a statement of "ideal values" and objectives or, in fact, national standards to set out certain ways in which the new transfer will function. The Premier's Advisory Council on the Status of Disabled Persons from New Brunswick, the Alberta Premier's Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities and the Nova Scotia Disabled Persons Commission, all provincial advisory bodies, set forward their recommendations that these standards/objectives should include:

Other organizations of disabled persons that appeared before us supported these conditions and, in addition, argued that the federal government should maintain an ongoing power to intervene in CHST programs through persuasion. They argued in favour of financial incentives to ensure equitable treatment of people with disabilities such as a notional allocation or earmarking of CHST funding for disability income and supports/services programs. They further argued that taxpayers ought to have an idea of where federal dollars that were transferred through the vehicle of the CHST were being spent. The representatives of the disability community endorsed the proposal of the Canadian Association of Community Living that this information be made available in the form of a "social audit" which would establish a mechanism for the promotion of federal/provincial cooperation and national cohesion in social services. As envisaged, it could be an independent mechanism that provides a public analysis and reporting of social security outcomes. It would then provide information that could be used in the development and evaluation of social programs under the new federal/provincial transfer arrangements.

The disability community also felt that the CHST should be clearly designated as an interim policy as specified in Bill C-76. Federal/provincial/territorial governments could then continue to develop longer term means of dealing with people with disabilities and put in place comprehensive systems that address income security issues, the provision of disability-related supports/services, and the tax system as a means to achieve both these ends.

The disability community remains convinced that real growth in the Canadian economy and savings in government spending will best come from comprehensive reform of social security systems. Dollars are better used to encourage full participation, not dependence.

RECOMMENDATIONS

We recommend that:

1. With regard to people with disabilities, the federal government should continue to provide visible leadership in developing policies and programs in areas that fall within its jurisdiction and assist the provinces/territories in areas where jurisdiction is shared. People with disabilities should be involved in assisting to set priorities as well as advising on policy and evaluating the success or failure of programs. Specifically, we recommend that:

a. The government of Canada should designate a Secretary of State with a formal and specific mandate to coordinate federal activities related to disability.

b. The federal government should continue the National Strategy for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities under the direction of the Secretary of State. This continuation of the National Strategy should have:

1. a clear vision and focus;

2. a renewed mandate that includes all disability-related programs in all departments;

3. a clear relationship with the central policy units of participating departments;

4. an effective coordination mechanism; and

5. an emphasis on intergovernmental collaboration.

c. This Secretary of State should prepare an annual report (in all accessible formats) on disability-related matters to be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Disabled Persons.

d. The federal government under the direction of the Secretary of State should undertake Phase Two of the comprehensive review and amendment of federal legislation and regulations begun during the previous Parliament by Bill C-78. This review should propose legislative action, as required, to remove barriers for people with disabilities.

e. All memoranda to cabinet and other relevant cabinet documents should immediately include a mandatory section that assesses the impact of any proposed measure on persons with disabilities.

2. In implementing the Canada Health and Social Transfer and its successors, the federal government should negotiate with the provinces to ensure protection for people with disabilities. These protections should include:

a. minimum national standards and a minimum amount of funding for disability-related income programs and supports and services to ensure consistent outcomes;23

23 The Official Opposition, represented by the Member from Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead, does not agree with this part of recommendation no. 2, since the Bloc Québécois thinks that the federal government cannot impose national standards in an area of provincial jurisdiction.

b. for those denied assistance an independent appeal mechanism that involves people with disabilities;

c. an adequate cash component to provide a sufficient incentive for the provinces to undertake negotiations;24

24 The Member of Parliament for Edmonton South West and the Member for Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead do not concur with this part of recommendation no. 2.

d. provisions for a "social audit" to provide all Canadians with comprehensive information about expenditures of funds through the Canada Health and Social Transfer and its successors in order to ascertain whether there has been adequate funding provided for people with disabilities.

3. The federal government should ensure that all employability measures which receive federal funding make adequate and comprehensive provision for the requirements of people with disabilities. Specifically:

a. all employability measures funded through the Employment Insurance system should make provision for disability-related accommodations and supports/services. Additional funding for employability measures and supports/services should be provided for people with disabilities who are ineligible for benefits under Bill C-111;

b. the Department of Human Resources Development should ensure that people with disabilities are provided with adequate, appropriate and accessible information about all employability programs;

c. local delivery mechanisms for employment and training (i.e. Canada Employment Centres, their successors and self-serve operations) should be fully accessible to people with disabilities. Local operations should be required to maintain standards based on outcomes established in consultation with the local community of people with disabilities.

4. The Department of Finance and the Department of National Revenue should give a sensitive, realistic, and broad interpretation to the Disability Tax Credit for all income tax returns filed for 1995 as well as for any prior tax returns where applicable. The recent restrictive interpretation should be rejected by the Minister of Finance.

5. The federal government should undertake a review of all measures included in the tax system that have an impact on people with disabilities. This review should include exploring creative uses of the tax system for:

a. assuring that likes are treated alike (horizontal equity) through tax treatment of disability-related supports and providing better ways of taking into account both the actual cost of a disabling condition and the specific expenses of people with disabilities;

b. assisting in redistributing the cost of disability (vertical equity) in the treatment of people with disabilities with low incomes;

c. removing disincentives to employment.

6. The federal government should ensure that the next Census of Canada collects statistics regarding disability comparable to those contained in the Health and Activity Limitation Survey of 1991.

7. The federal government should take as a priority the establishment of a national standard for motor coach accessibility and ensure that by the year 2000, all new inter-city buses purchased for use in Canada are accessible to people with disabilities.

8. The federal government in collaboration with the provinces/territories, the disability community, other voluntary organizations and business, should undertake a comprehensive review of disability policies and programs in Canada. It should encompass the findings of reports and studies produced since the Obstacles report in 1981. Specifically, this review should include long-term options to:

a. rationalize the funding and delivery of disability-related supports and services,

b. rationalize the disability income system and the means to separate it from the provision of supports and services,

c. remove the provision of income benefits for people with disabilities from the welfare system, and

d. eliminate disincentives to employment.

9. Until the completion of the review set out in Recommendation no. 8, the Vocational Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons Program should be maintained at its current funding level.