Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for using her private member's hour to put forward Motion No. 173. Dedicating November as an awareness month would bring much-needed attention to this terrible disease, which inflicts millions around the globe.
Everyone in this chamber knows someone who has either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is not something that is happening to other people in some far-off place; it is happening right here in our own communities. We know how the disease negatively impacts their quality of life, and in far too many circumstances it can lead to serious medical conditions.
While we still do not have a cure, in most cases people are able to treat and manage their diabetes. Due to the generosity of Canadians, millions of dollars in research have helped scientists and doctors make significant medical breakthroughs. Their discoveries have resulted in new and innovative therapies for the prevention and treatment of diabetes. It is my sincere hope that one day we can develop a cure and alleviate entirely the suffering of those who struggle with this disease.
While some progress has been made, the number of people across the world suffering from diabetes has quadrupled in the past 30 years. In many respects, we are failing to reverse this trend. Even though preventative measures such as having a healthy diet and staying active are good deterrents, there are still no guarantees.
For those who have diabetes, the insulin and the specialty diets people must eat can get very expensive. There are significant costs people must absorb, and that is why I found it disturbing when the Liberal government started to deny diabetics from claiming the disability tax credit. While proclaiming a diabetes awareness month is good and all, when rubber hits the road, the government has unfairly treated thousands of Canadians who suffer from diabetes.
I want to share the story of a young lady who came to my office in Brandon. Kelsey Levandoski contacted me after the Liberals denied her claim for the disability tax credit. Kelsey was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 8, and she knows first-hand the challenges of living day to day with her diagnosis. She reached out to seek help and to try to convince the government to fix the mess it created.
Kelsey was frustrated to see her claim be denied, but she was also thinking about others who found themselves in the same situation. In fact, she mentioned that she was worried about those with lower incomes. She was concerned about how they would be able to manage after this very ill-thought-out decision.
While she estimates that managing type 1 diabetes could cost up to $1,500 a month, through her health coverage at work, she is still spending $300 out of her pocket. She must purchase syringes, insulin, glucose meters and test strips to manage the disease. After totalling that up for the entire year, that is a tremendous cost for a person to absorb.
Kelsey followed the regulations and after consulting with her doctor, she met the criterion of 14 hours per week laid out by the Canada Revenue Agency. For some unknown reason, and after dodging a multitude of questions, the Liberals still have not given us any reason for why they denied her and many others.
If the Liberals thought they could get away with it, they were sadly mistaken. While they attempted to dodge responsibility and pretend there was nothing to see here, they were quickly called out. It was soon afterwards that despite their denials, they had indeed changed how the CRA applied the eligibility criteria.
Even the Senate committee on social affairs studied this issue and tabled a report with 16 recommendations calling on the government to simplify the application process and clarify the eligibility criteria. I sympathize with and understand the frustration of many Canadians when the Canada Revenue Agency does not provide any justification for why they were denied.
While the Senate report was issued over a year ago, still nothing has been done. It begs the question: What will it take to get the Liberals to start acting on the recommendations?
The Liberals completely ignored the concerns of Diabetes Canada and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and they are continuing to drag their feet. They have given the cold shoulder to those who are clearly eligible to claim the disability tax credit.
While we succeeded in overturning CRA's decision for Kelsey, it is unfathomable that the Government of Canada would treat people like this. I thank Kelsey for bringing this issue to my attention. The total sum may not seem like a lot of money to some, but to her and many others, it certainly is.
I was taken aback by those who reached out to my office to express their anger at the Liberals over this decision. I was also very moved that Kelsey's father took the time out of his busy schedule to come to my office to let me know that he appreciated all that we did for his daughter. I never thought we would ever see the day when the government thought it was okay to give million-dollar handouts to big corporations and yet think it would be okay to target those who lived with diabetes.
While I will always go to bat for my constituents, I want this issue resolved and fixed immediately. Just yesterday, there was a media report that the disability advisory committee was demanding CRA explain why there was a 53% spike in rejections for various individuals claiming the disability tax credit. According to the committee, it has documentation that says the number of rejected claims for disability tax credits rose by 53%.
To fix this injustice once and for all and to ensure the Liberals never treat diabetics like this ever again, my friend, the Conservative member from Calgary Shepard, introduced the fairness for persons with disabilities act. His legislation would amend the Income Tax Act to reduce the number of hours necessary to be eligible for the disability tax credit and to expand the activities that could be used to calculate that time.
These common sense changes would improve the existing law, as it would say, in black and white, that people who managed their illness at least three times a week, for a total duration averaging not less than 10 hours a week, would be eligible for the disability tax credit. Furthermore, it would list that the intake of medical food and medical formula could be used to calculate the total time needed to manage the disease.
The bill would be enshrined into law so that someone like Kelsey would never have to worry again about a future Liberal government denying her ability to claim this tax credit. It would assist thousands of Canadians who suffer from diabetes and stop politicians stripping them from accessing this tax credit.
That is where we find ourselves.
I hope the hon. Liberal member moving this motion is taking her own government to task in how it has treated diabetics. If the Liberals will not listen to me, Kelsey or even Diabetes Canada and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, I implore them to at least listen to their own caucus members.
A diabetes awareness month is a start, but it is not the end. It will not immediately help those who need it and it certainly will not get the Minister of National Revenue to do something about it. However, I am in support of diabetes awareness month being put in place.
I want my Liberal colleagues to go into caucus tomorrow morning and get their government to expedite the changes for which my friend from Calgary Shepard has called. They should stand up for their constituents, stand up for what is right and stop reading the talking points the Prime Minister wants them to articulate.
Treating diabetics with respect and allowing them to claim the disability tax credit is not a partisan issue. Let us pass this motion and hopefully by next week, we can stand in the House and tell Kelsey and all Canadians who suffer with diabetes that we have heeded their call.
In the short time we have left before Parliament ends, we should rise to the occasion and not take no for an answer. Canadians are watching and they expect results.