Disability sign, white wheelchair graphic on blue background

Working-age Canadians living with disabilities will receive a new federal benefit to supplement provincial and territorial support payments after the Canada Disability Benefit Act received royal assent last week.

The act implements the Canada disability benefit (CDB), which is meant to reduce poverty and improve financial security among working-age people with disabilities.

However, much about the CDB’s structure remains unknown. Key details such as the amount of the benefit, eligibility requirements and payment period will be established later through regulation.

In a release, the government said it would “engage with persons with disabilities and stakeholders in the development of regulations to design and deliver the CDB.”

The effective date of the new law will be no later than one year from June 22, the day the act, formerly Bill C-22, received royal assent.

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough tabled Bill C-22 on June 2, 2022, meaning that people with disabilities and their advisors have been waiting more than a year for the bill to work through Parliament.

Ron Malis, a financial advisor with Reegan Financial in Toronto, said that passage of Bill C-22 is “a step in the right direction,” but the government is only at “halftime” in terms of delivering on its promise.

“There are no details about who qualifies, and what happens if you work [and earn income],” or how the benefit will interact with existing provincial support programs, said Malis, who serves clients with disabilities and their families.

The House of Commons rejected a Senate amendment to Bill C-22 that would have prevented provinces and insurance companies from clawing back the CDB.

Qualtrough said the government would continue to work with provinces and the insurance industry to ensure recipients did not have their benefits clawed back.

“Since day one, we have been clear that [the CDB] is supplemental income, meant to be in addition to provincial and territorial income supports and other forms of income,” Qualtrough said in the House on June 14. “It is not replacement income. It is not employment income or employment earnings.”

Other Senate amendments to Bill C-22 accepted by the House included a right for Canadians denied the disability benefit to appeal the decision, and the establishment of stronger timelines for the rollout of the benefit.

The Liberal government promised in the 2020 throne speech to introduce a disability benefit modelled on the guaranteed income supplement, and money to investigate creating such a benefit was earmarked in the 2021 federal budget.

The Liberals’ 2021 federal election campaign platform then included a promise to create a disability benefit, structured as a monthly payment, for people with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 64.

A previous version of the Canada Disability Benefit Act, Bill C-35, was introduced in Parliament on June 22, 2021, but died when the 2021 election was called.