Monday, September 22, 2008

Canadian Federal Election Disability-Related Issues

This is a search on the Internet for mention of disability-related issues by the various candidates for the upcoming Canadian federal election. It was inspired by a similar post on some listservs regarding the US federal election. I've highlighted the disability-related parts of the quotes. [Note: Partway through doing this, I found CACL's Party Policy Platforms website. My blog entry here complements their information.]

Conservatives (Stephen Harper):
"I am mindful of the circumstances facing many people with disabilities and their families, and do recognize that many live on low and modest incomes. The Canada Pension Plan was designed to provide a basic level of earnings replacement in the event of the retirement, disability or death of a contributor. ...
The maximum benefit payable in 2007 is $1053.77/month. In 2006, the average monthly benefit paid was about $760.00. There is also a benefit payable to children under the age of 18, and if at school full-time, for children between the ages of 18 and 25. In 2007, the Disabled Contributor's Child's Benefit is $204.68 per month, per child."

"Prime Minister Stephen Harper closed out three days of campaigning in Quebec yesterday by promising income-splitting for families where one spouse is staying at home to care for a family member with a disability.
In a restaurant in the Eastern Townships town of Farnham, Harper also said he would improve the Registered Disability Savings Program to make it easier for persons with disabilities to be able to receive the unused retirement savings of a deceased family member.
The Conservatives said that, according to Health Canada, there are more than one million Canadians who are providing care for relatives who have mental or physical disabilities. Three-quarters of those caregivers are women."

"Losing access to day-care services such as special needs programs is very much a possibility with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's pledge to tear up federal-provincial funding agreements next year, argues Sharon Hope Irwin, director of SpeciaLink, the national centre for child care inclusion.
Harper instead plans to move forward with $1,200 annual grants for each child under age six and $250 million in tax credits for employers and non-profit agencies to provide new spaces. Most premiers have said they have concerns with Harper's plan, although Pat Binns of P.E.I. and New Brunswick's Bernard Lord approve of the grant system."

"Mr. Harper has suffered from asthma since childhood. Even today, it can hamper his performance, bothering him for weeks at a time, and then abating. When Mr. Harper was young, asthma limited his ability to play team sports, especially his beloved hockey (although he has never been comfortable playing on a team).
He compensated by taking up track and field in high school. One person who has watched him suspects asthma might contribute to a tendency Mr. Harper has to fade in the final stretch of a long campaign."

Liberals (Stéphane Dion):
"Liberal leader Stéphane Dion disclosed today that his fractured English is the result of a hearing problem.
'I have a difficulty to isolate sounds,' he told reporters at a campaign stop outside Montreal.
'If I am at a cocktail party and everybody speaks at the same time, I will have difficulty. And it may affect my ability, then, to catch the music of the beautiful language of English.'
He said he didn't know the name of the problem but had been tested by a hearing specialist.
'It's the case that I hear everything when the sound is isolated but when it's confused with other sound, then it's completely confused. My mother had the same problem.'"

[Note: this condition sounds an awful lot like Central Auditory Processing Disorder, and it can indeed make learning a second language more difficult.]

"making the Disability Tax Credit refundable, ensuring that low-income individuals who are disabled are able to directly benefit from this tax credit. ...
change the CPP disability requirements to ensure that those with episodic illnesses – such as Multiple-sclerosis and some mental illnesses – do not jeopardize their ability to collect CPP or QPP disability benefits if they work when they are able to. ...
help provinces use internet technology to provide health care in both official languages as well as deaf language interpretation; ...
work with the Mental Health Commission to develop and launch a public awareness campaign to reduce the stigma of mental illness. ...
When the drug costs of an illness become too much for a family to bear, the federal government should be there to help. This need becomes even more pressing with an aging population. That’s why a Liberal government will create a new plan for catastrophic drug coverage to cover this cost. ...
A Liberal government will honour the original goal of Medicare: to keep Canadians well, not just to patch us up once we got sick. The ever-increasing costs of our health care demonstrate that it is not sustainable for us just to fund a “sickness care” system. The sustainability of our cherished health care system will require Canadians to make healthy choices and use the system wisely.
A Liberal government will reinstate the popular Canadian Health Network website to provide up-to-date, authoritative information on healthy living and disease prevention. We will also support work to develop a comprehensive set of evidence-based clinical guidelines, such as for breast cancer diagnosis, which can be disseminated to health professionals and to all Canadians on the site. That way, new research and best practices can be available to all Canadians no matter where they live. ...

In order to reach the goal of having the healthiest possible Canadians, we need to be able to properly measure health outcomes. From asbestos related diseases, to the effects of pollution, learning disabilities to brain tumours, we need better data than is currently available. A Liberal government will work with provinces and territories to begin the process of a pan-Canadian profile of infectious and chronic diseases, mental illness and injuries.
We will also expand the Canadian Health Measures Survey, to provide much needed information to help evaluate the risk factors for, and extent of, major health concerns such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, exposure to infectious diseases, and exposure to environmental contaminants."

NDP (Jack Leyton):
"After consultation with communities and workers, the federal government will invest in community economic development for communities being negatively affected by the crisis in the asbestos industry and develop a Just Transition Program to help mitigate the effect on workers now employed in the asbestos industry, including but not limited to measures such as:early retirement, retraining and other bridging measures to accommodate re-entry to the workforce;inclusion of workers not employed directly in the asbestos industry but whose jobs still depend on the industry; and broadening disability compensation to include all victims of asbestos related diseases in Canada."

"I believe the same core principles provide the same core protections of every citizen of this country irrespective of sex, race, religion, disability or sexual orientation. I am gratified and proud that most of my fellow citizens agree."

“Right now, disabled veterans and their families are struggling financially with claw backs to their disability pensions through SISIP. Many widows cannot access assistance for home care through VIP because of restrictive criteria, and our older veterans have to fight tooth and nail to receive a disability pension for hearing loss. This is no way to treat those who have served our country. The federal government must act on these issues – and act now.”

"Today in Canada half of the homeless in our cities are people with disabilities, and so are 40% of those who must go to food banks to eat.
Successive Liberal and Conservative governments have paid only lip service to the growing concerns and needs of the disability community. They have failed in developing and implementing a long term action plan that would address the lack of support, the growing poverty and the high unemployment of this community. They have failed in ending the shameful exclusion of five million of our fellow Canadians.
Measures that have been taken so far were piecemeal and largely tax related. Only a small minority of Canadians with disabilities were able to take advantage of these tax credits. ...

On December 13 2006, after four years of negotiations, and with the international participation of civil society and NGOs, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the first international covenant on the rights and dignity of people with disabilities. This covenant fills an important gap in international law, by providing universal legally binding standards which create a global framework for inclusion.
Congratulations to the Canadians with disabilities and to Canadian Disabilities groups who have played a leading role in the drafting of this new international covenant on the rights and dignity of people with disabilities!
The Convention shall enter into force in March 2007, once twenty countries have ratified it.
Each country which ratifies the Convention accepts its legal obligations under the treaty and must adopt implementing legislation, and report regularly on its progress.
We all know that the government of Canada should be the first government to officially endorse the Convention."

Green (Elizabeth May):
"In our vision of Canada, ability or disability, economic, racial, or cultural backgrounds do not preclude individuals from contributing to and benefiting from a prosperous Canada."

"This article contains the results of a survey about how canadians treat the mentally ill, in particular, how they react upon hearing news that someone was diagnosed with a mental illness. I find the attitudes the survey unveils in this treatment to be very disturbing news about the state of empathy and compassion and the level of ignorance about what a mental illness or a shadow syndrome is, and their inability to assess the severity of it. Over 50% of canadians will suffer from depression at some point within their life span according to the canadian mental health association. Not all of them will be diagnosed or treated by a longshot, due to the stigma associated with it."

"Today is the United Nations’ day designated to celebrate persons with disabilities. We are usually aware of the constraints persons with disabilities have but rarely do we think of the contributions that the same group of people make to our community and country. Any of us can, in an instant, join this group, now estimated at 10 to 12 percent of the global population.
In spite of physical or mental problems, most disabled persons are actively involved both at work and in their community. Many hold responsible jobs and others make significant contributions to their communities as volunteers.
The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
Each of us can make a difference in creating a healthy and inclusive society. Observance of the Day provides opportunities for participation by all interested communities - governmental, non-governmental and the private sector - to focus upon catalytic and innovative measures to further implement international norms and standards related to persons with disabilities. Schools, universities and similar institutions can make particular contributions with regard to promoting greater interest and awareness among interested parties of the social, cultural, economic, civil and political rights of persons with disabilities.
As leader of the Green Party and Chair of the Federal Council, we would like to offer our congratulations to all persons with disabilities and especially those in leadership roles who are making all of us better individuals and Canada a better and more inclusive society."

Note also that issues relating to poverty, health care and diversity (eg gay rights) are likely to impact on disabled people or reflect how well the government is likely to treat us, and so should probably also be taken into account when deciding how disability-friendly each party is.



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