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Results: 1 - 15 of 479
View Leah Gazan Profile
NDP (MB)
Thank you so much, Chair.
I'd like to start out by commending Madame Oko for her strength and sharing the story about caring about her parents. I also looked after my parents when they were both sick many years ago and I know the toll it takes in trying to make sure that your parents have care that allows them to live in dignity. Thank you so much for sharing your story.
Madame Majowski, thank you as well for your tremendous knowledge and work. My first question is to you.
For years, advocates in the disability community, including seniors, have advocated for better supports for disabled persons so that they can live with dignity. Unfortunately, in my opinion, I don't think the rights of disabled persons were a priority for this government or previous governments before the pandemic or during the pandemic.
Today, the day before the House rises and we're adjourning for summer—we have a potential election in the fall—finally this government introduced legislation to create a Canada disability benefit, known as Bill C-35, something that I hope sees the light of day, but I'm not very hopeful. To me, this piece of legislation should have been a top priority if we look at some of the statistics that we've witnessed during the pandemic.
I'm wondering if you can speak about how both persons with disabilities and disabled seniors in particular have been disproportionately impacted during the pandemic.
Kathy Majowski
View Kathy Majowski Profile
Kathy Majowski
2021-06-22 16:17
Yes, absolutely.
I'm going to speak a little bit from my day job role.
I am a registered nurse and I work in the core area of Winnipeg. We see on a daily basis how underserved our older adults are. Those are my clients. Those are the people I support. We know that people fare better in our system with supports from family, friends and others advocating for them, but there's a large swath of individuals, both those who are disabled and older adults, who don't have those folks advocating for them, and they're really left to their own devices, so they're missing out on core services and finances and sometimes funding being available to them because they're not able to navigate the system and they don't have the community supports they need to be able to do that.
That's where our program actually comes in and tries to fill in the gaps, but it's not enough and it hasn't been enough for years. For people with disabilities who also live in poverty or for people with disabilities who are over 55 or 65, the communities are not set up to support them. There are actually more barriers than supports in place. They're regularly hearing “no”. A lifetime of hearing “no” or “you don't qualify” or “you're not eligible” gets to be very disheartening.
In the last year, with the pandemic, many of the services that had been in place consistently for these folks disappeared. Now we have individuals who are still living in poverty, who still have disabilities, who are still older adults at higher risk if they do contract COVID, but they are without access to technology and without access to phones. Some of the services are available only with technology. Our province has a wonderful counselling program that it launched and funded really early on in the pandemic, having recognized that mental health concerns are very real concerns. Many of our clients have no ability to access it. Either they don't have the skills to use technology or they don't have the funding to do it. We see that those gaps are significant, and they've widened with the decrease in services.
Julie Kelndorfer
View Julie Kelndorfer Profile
Julie Kelndorfer
2021-06-15 16:00
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon. My name is Julie Kelndorfer, and I'm the director of government and community relations for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. I'm also one of the 90,000 Canadians who live with MS in Canada, a country with one of the highest rates of MS in the world.
I'm pleased to present to your committee on Bill C-265, an act to amend the Employment Insurance Act, regarding illness, injury or quarantine, and illustrate the important perspective of Canadians living with MS.
Today's trying times resemble what it's like to live with MS every single day. Every day people with MS wake up to adversity and do everything in their power to persevere: the woman with progressive MS who struggles to button her shirt in the morning yet is determined to dance at her granddaughter's wedding, the high school athlete who ignores the tingling and numbness in his legs to rally his team to victory, the lawyer with blurred vision and foggy thoughts, the father struggling to say his child's name, the avid cyclist feeling her balance go.
Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world. Canadians know that MS can be harsh, unfair, overwhelming, a disease that always takes away and never gives back, and always threatens to take again. MS impacts all Canadians, not only affected individuals but also their families.
Let me start with a story. Imagine this for a moment. A 29-year old university graduate, wife and mother to a one-year-old son, who is starting out her career in the non-profit sector, walks into her doctor's office one day and walks out not knowing the journey that lies before her. Why? It is because she has just been diagnosed with MS. That woman was me 17 years ago.
How would you react if you were told that you have an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system affecting your brain and spinal cord, and they can't say what lies ahead? They tell you that you're one of 12 diagnosed with MS every day and that it happens to women three times more than men. The problem is that no one can tell you what, when and how severe will be the symptoms like those I have experienced: fatigue, pain, numbness, spasms, tremors, vertigo, weakness, to name a few. They can't tell you where they will happen. It depends on what part of the brain and spinal cord are affected, and this can vary greatly from person to person and from time to time in the same person.
I left the doctor's office that day, went into my car, called my husband and cried, telling him that, whatever happened, I didn't want to live in long-term care. Why was that my reaction? It was because that was what I knew of MS at that time. My aunt had passed away when she was in her fifties with a progressive form of the disease. She could no longer move on her own and speak except to nod her head. She lived in a long-term care facility with individuals two and three decades older than her, and I was scared that was going to be me.
I didn't realize there were others living with this disease who didn't have the progressive form like my aunt. They had what I had been diagnosed with, relapsing-remitting MS. This type of MS is characterized by unpredictable but clearly defined relapses during which new symptoms appear or existing ones get worse. In the period between relapses, recovery is complete or nearly complete to pre-relapse function—remission. Of people diagnosed with MS, 85% have this type, which is also referred to as an episodic disability.
When I was diagnosed I worried about our family's financial security. My son was just a year old when I was diagnosed. We were just starting up. We had a mortgage, a car payment, student loans and other expenses. What would happen if I had a relapse and couldn't work full time and needed to work part time while recovering? Were there financial supports that could help me?
What I learned and continue to learn more about every day, however, is that the current disability income and employment support programs were not designed with episodic disability in mind. Many support programs in Canada are designed to support persons with disabilities and are built with a binary switch—either you can work or you cannot work. There are not many people with episodic disabilities.
Employment is a key factor in maintaining adequate income and reducing poverty. Research shows that people with MS have disproportionately high employment rates, given their educational and vocational histories, yet many people living with MS who want to work struggle to do so.
Often the problem is one of flexibility, accommodation and a lack of understanding of episodic disability. It is critical that we move past the notion of work as a binary switch of you can work, which means no assistance, versus you can’t work, which means assistance. With more than 60% of people living with MS eventually reaching unemployment, it’s clear that more needs to be done to support those who live with episodic disabilities.
Unfortunately, the EI sickness benefit, which was designed to address these very issues, has been virtually unchanged since the 1970s. To put this into context, it was set up at a time when smoking on planes was legal, bell-bottoms were king and universal medicare was just getting on its feet. The program provides insured employees up to 15 weeks of financial assistance if they can’t work for medical reasons, provided they’ve qualified with over 600 hours already worked. While it is an important safety net, it also has outdated design flaws, most notably that rigid “on or off” switch that doesn’t work for those who need a gradual workforce reintegration or those who live with episodic disabilities.
For the 13 million Canadians identified in a 2015 report from the Institute for Research on Public Policy called “Leaving Some Behind: What Happens When Workers Get Sick” as not having short-term disability insurance, this means that at the end of 15 weeks they can either be recovered or receive nothing. The 2019 EI round table report noted that three of the four major parties recognized in their 2018 platforms that it’s time to extend the benefit from 15 weeks to more. We were so pleased to see the inclusion of the extension of EI sickness benefits in the [Technical difficulty—Editor] more Canadians supported by this benefit.
In 2019, this committee had a report called the HUMA committee report on episodic disabilities. That was the last time I was before this committee as a witness. It stated explicitly that Employment and Social Development Canada should take these important steps to better support people with episodic disabilities.
Having MS creates a life of uncertainty and unpredictability, but what should and can be certain and predictable are the supports that people with MS and episodic disabilities have. Now, in 2021, with the impacts of the pandemic ravaging our economy and the livelihoods of Canadians, the time for action has come. The MS Society, on behalf of Canadians who live with MS and the tens of thousands more who are part of our MS community, ask this committee to support the extension of the employment insurance sickness benefit.
Thank you so much for this opportunity to speak.
Julie Kelndorfer
View Julie Kelndorfer Profile
Julie Kelndorfer
2021-06-15 16:33
It's interesting. The MS Society over the last few years has really looked at the extension piece and has worked with a lot of different organizations, the Canadian Cancer Society being one, and the Canadian Labour Congress and others, employers included, and round tables.
Back in 2015, we worked with the Institute for Research on Public Policy, and it really was a look at the entire span of leave when people are sick. They noted that, at any time, 6% of our working population has illness or a sickness, and we really aren't supported, as a Canadian population of workers, to have the supports to remain attached to the workforce. I think this is a really big issue.
EI is a piece in a suite of benefits and support programs that need to be better coordinated. That was one of the pieces around this report and in other reports that have come along. We have participated with the Conference Board of Canada on a couple of them, particularly regarding MS in the workplace, and for people with episodic disabilities and diseases like cancer. Also, long-haul COVID is an interesting one that is new to our discussions and has a lot of resemblances to the episodic disabilities, such as the wave Chantal was speaking of. I've experienced that, too, with MS, and others have too.
I do think that it is old, and it needs to be updated to address the current realities of our workplace and the situation for Canadians who get an illness.
Julie Kelndorfer
View Julie Kelndorfer Profile
Julie Kelndorfer
2021-06-15 16:52
Thank you for the question and thank you for highlighting that very important report of this committee around episodic disabilities. It was, I think, 20 years in the making when it came to the HUMA committee.
Many of the conditions and diseases that are considered episodic, including cancer [Technical difficulty—Editor], have all been, I would say, amplified during COVID, so I think the recommendations in that report are needed now more than ever.
I think the labour force attachment consideration is key. People want to work, but they struggle to work. How can we, as a society, ensure that they can remain connected to their workplace for as long as possible? We would be supportive of anything that would support that.
I think that in the discussion around employment insurance, there are lots of other pieces around the sickness benefit. Extension is a piece, but I think there are other pieces, including the increase in the benefit. It's not just the extension, which is very important, but there are other pieces that will be supportive of maintaining that workforce attachment, which will help all Canadians who are able to access it, because there is also an access piece.
If I can make just two more points, I think there is also a piece around women. Women have been disproportionately affected by COVID. They also are disproportionately affected in terms of accessing the EI sickness benefit from the get-go because of their precarious, part-time and different labour force attachment.
The other piece that Mrs. Renaud spoke about—the short-term to long-term disability—has been an ongoing issue for many years for many different diseases. I think that's a piece I would surely like to see change.
View Rosemarie Falk Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you, Ms. Kelndorfer.
What are some of the benefits that someone would experience who has the opportunity for that labour force attachment?
Julie Kelndorfer
View Julie Kelndorfer Profile
Julie Kelndorfer
2021-06-15 16:55
Work provides a number of important considerations. For people with MS, for example, being able to work makes them able to continue with their benefits in terms of their disease-modifying therapies, which actually have been shown in study after study to reduce disability. Of course, reducing disability would benefit all. Thank you.
View Randeep Sarai Profile
Lib. (BC)
Do you see that there are different issues with seniors who have disabilities or language barriers? Do you think there should be any specific recommendations to flush those cases out as well?
View Randeep Sarai Profile
Lib. (BC)
In a case of disability, such as a hearing or speaking disability or language disability, are you suggesting that the bank or Service Canada also provide an interpreter or assistance in their language or means of communication?
Marie-Noël Campbell
View Marie-Noël Campbell Profile
Marie-Noël Campbell
2021-05-25 12:46
Yes, that would be helpful.
Thank you.
AnaBela Taborda
View AnaBela Taborda Profile
AnaBela Taborda
2021-05-20 14:54
Thank you. That's quite okay.
Good afternoon. My name is AnaBela Taborda. I am branch manager of IC Savings Credit Union and chair of the Little Portugal on Dundas BIA, or business improvement area, in Toronto, in Davenport riding. Thank you for inviting me to take part in this call.
Little Portugal on Dundas BIA represents a collection of approximately 325 small and independent businesses along Dundas Street West in Davenport. We are one of over 80 such organizations in Toronto whose entire focus is on the success and growth of our local economies.
Toronto's BIAs represent a diverse range of organizations with priorities that are defined by local business stakeholders. All funds raised by BIAs are reinvested back into their local communities. Over $1.4 billion have been paid in taxes by BIA members, and together we employ over 551,000 individuals. That’s a massive contribution, and a huge responsibility for individual business owners.
In my role as branch manager of IC Savings, a financial institution in Little Portugal, I witnessed the struggle of many small businesses during this pandemic and how the COVID-19 economic response plan and the initiatives put in place by the federal government provided financial help, without which it would have been virtually impossible for our small and independent businesses to survive. We had very few closures in our BIA, thanks to these programs and the ongoing work of our local MP, Julie Dzerowicz, in tirelessly advocating on our behalf and connecting with our membership to help guide them through the available options. Thank you.
Further, I also want to thank the federal government for increasing Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine supply, which is vital to the recovery of our citizens and small businesses.
We are encouraged by a number of proposed items within budget 2021's support for small business and we look forward to their implementation. We do have some concerns, however, as to the timing, duration and design for some of these initiatives. We are keenly aware that although the future is looking brighter, small business continues to suffer. Indeed, full recovery is still a long way off.
An example would be CEBA. Although it is stated that if a business repays their loans by December 31, 2022, up to a third of the value of their loans—meaning up to $20,000—will be forgiven, we know that even a deadline of December 31, 2022, may still be too soon for our individual business owners to manage.
Another example is the budget 2021 extension of the Canada emergency wage subsidy and the Canada emergency rent subsidy and lockdown support beyond June 2021 to September 25, 2021. We believe this should be extended further, because we must first take our small businesses to a livable state before we even consider setting upon any road to recovery.
Helping small and medium-sized businesses move into the digital age we applaud. The Little Portugal on Dundas BIA has been at the forefront of adoption of Toronto’s Digital Main Street program. We have benefited from having a digital service squad member fluent in Portuguese, since in some cases language was a barrier.
Language challenges aside, however, we cannot force people to adopt a digital program. The design of the Canada digital adoption program must be carefully engineered, understanding that many main street independent businesses are slow and unable to adopt for many legitimate reasons and that some will need support in their native language. The program must be adept at uncovering the barriers up front and addressing them directly before the digital training can take hold and be effective in practice. We know this is the case because of the number of current businesses we have worked with that needed additional hands-on assistance with all government relief programs, subsidies and initiatives, since only online access was available, and for obvious reasons.
But again, we do applaud this initiative.
In regard to new businesses, part of the recovery will be welcoming new businesses into our BIA. We need these new businesses to create new jobs and replace any that may have been lost. We need all levels of government to create ways and means of helping us attract new businesses and helping sustain them in their first years as the country emerges from the pandemic. Proof of revenue loss criteria for government subsidies or relief program applications, for example, must be revisited to be more sensitive to a start-up’s reality.
With regard to accessibility, approximately one in five Canadians, or about 6.2 million people aged 15 and over, report having a disability that limits them in their daily activities. That would include the ability to visit main street businesses.
The Accessible Canada Act was developed following the most inclusive and accessible consultations with the disability community in our country's history. More than 100 accessibility organizations and 6,000 Canadians took part in the consultations. What can be done and how can we prepare, as our population continues to age, to improve the accessibility of Canada’s main street businesses?
In closing, I’d like to say that as the government continues to develop COVID-19 recovery programs, we ask that our local MP representatives continue to actively engage us in the development of those programs. Our BIA boards and staff are highly skilled and adept at identifying potential challenges among our memberships and are only too happy to assist in any way we can.
Thank you.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
On an average basis each year, how many people who have a registered disability savings plan actually become ineligible over the course of a year? What are the impacts of removing the time limitation specifically, in terms of accrued benefits but also the government contributions to the registered disability savings plan?
Pierre Leblanc
View Pierre Leblanc Profile
Pierre Leblanc
2021-05-13 17:04
Sure. Thank you for the question.
I don't have statistics handy on how many individuals in a given year who were eligible for the disability tax credit no longer become eligible. What I'm looking for here is our estimate.... Trevor mentioned that some of these measures come from budget 2019, and this is one of them. In budget 2019, we estimated that the impact of the measure—the additional cost—would be about $110 million over five years, starting in 2019-20 and going until 2023-24. That was our estimate at the time.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
For quick follow-up, lead us through.... Currently, with the registered disability savings plan, if you cease to be eligible you have to pay back 10 years of grants and bond payments. How would the changes affect that same individual?
That includes estates, of course, as well.
Pierre Leblanc
View Pierre Leblanc Profile
Pierre Leblanc
2021-05-13 17:05
The main change of the measure would basically do two things. It would allow people to keep their RDSP open. Right now under the current rules, you essentially have a couple of years if you become DTC ineligible. It will allow those people to keep their plan open. It would also allow people to retain entitlement to the bonds and grants that they've already received.
Under the existing rules—the previous rules—you would have been required to pay those back in fairly short order, whereas this basically puts you roughly on par with those who retain DTC eligibility. Generally, the rule there is that, because of the 10-year rule, once someone turns 50, they can stop getting grants and bonds. Basically, when someone turns 60, they'd have to start receiving the amount. It provides that extension as well.
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