On June 22, 2023, Bill C-22 received Royal Assent and became law. This is great news, but the important work of figuring out the details of the Canada Disability Benefit (CDB) is just beginning.
We provided our last update at the end of June, when the House approved Bill C-22 and the Bill received Royal Assent and became law. The Bill still has not “come into force” however, and the CDB has not yet been rolled out. This is because details about the CDB, such as who qualifies, what the rate of the benefit will be, how the appeal process will work, and other details, still need to be determined. Once these details are determined, “regulations” will formalize and outline them in the legislation.
Royal Assent vs. Coming into Force
It’s not easy to understand the gap between the time when a Bill receives Royal Assent (and therefore becomes law) and when the law then “comes into force”. Sometimes there is no gap at all between these two points in time. However, the law that creates the CDB was intentionally designed to give the government time to figure out details before the law “comes into force”.
Royal Assent happens when elected representatives (Members of Parliament) and Senators have agreed on the Bill’s contents and have no modifications to make. This happened with Bill C-22 – the Bill that created the CDB – at the end of June, and Bill C-22 has now become law.
The text of Bill C-22 left a lot of decisions to be made *after* it became law. Those decisions/detailed rules on how the law should be carried out (officially called “regulations”) have to be made before the law “comes into force”. The law must come into force no later than June 22, 2024. People who qualify may begin to receive the CDB once it comes into force, or the “regulations” will set out a further deadline for when people can expect to receive the CDB.
Another way of thinking about the difference between Royal Assent and coming into force is that we are at the start of the assembly line for the CDB. Bureaucrats have been thinking about how to make the CDB for a while, but by passing the law to create the CDB this past June, the government has now “built” the conveyor belt of the assembly line. We know which components we want the CDB to include, and we have an idea of what we want the CDB to look like at the end of the assembly process, but the assembly process has just started. Once we “assemble” and finalize the details through the regulations that guide the law, the law will “come into force”.
What are the timelines for when decisions/regulations will be made and the law will come into force?
Since our June update, we received some more information about timelines, but there is still no concrete date for when the CDB will be paid to those who qualify. The only concrete date is that the CDB must come into force no later than June 22, 2024. The regulations will inform whether the CDB will be paid out right at the coming into force date or at some later date.
On July 24, 2023, the government announced what the “co-creation” timeline and process will look like. Click here to read the announcement. The government is going to design the regulations in two phases. We are in the first phase now. An information session was held towards the end of August to explain the process.
What happened at the August information session?
ISAC attended the August information session online with over 100 other organizations and interested parties. The session focused on answering questions about the process to develop the CDB and the “co-creation” timeline, and not about the details of the CDB itself (e.g., access, eligibility, appeal rights, rate, etc.).
According to government staff working on the CDB, the next part of the process is that “technical roundtables and bilateral meetings will be held to bring together the views of experts, stakeholders, and persons with disabilities on key areas under the regulations” starting in September 2023.
The government also plans to develop an online survey, and will share an email address/web portal where members of the public can continue to submit ideas. When the government staff working on the CDB release their survey and email address for feedback, we will promote it as well as any other opportunities for people with disabilities to take part in the process of designing this benefit.
After the government presented their vision for the regulatory process at the session, some organizations raised concerns that this seems like a standard regulatory process and not a collaborative “co-design” process. Government staff’s response was to take this feedback into account when planning the technical roundtable and bilateral meeting sessions.
As we said in our last update, the law says that the government must report on how the collaborative process is going within six months of the Bill’s passage, so we will likely hear more about how the process is going towards the end of this year.
We also noted in our last update that the law also says that the government must produce a progress report on how the development of the regulations is going within a year. We will be marking our calendars to watch for these progress reports towards the end of 2023 and towards the middle of 2024. We hope that the process to develop regulations will move quickly throughout this time and that the process will abide with the “Nothing about us, without us” approach.
The government said there will be two phases for regulation development. What does the regulation development process look like?
In the government’s press release on July 24, 2023, and at the August session, government staff said that after they have gathered input through technical roundtables and bilateral meetings they will publish proposed/draft regulations in the Canada Gazette – this publishing step is the standard practice for how regulation development processes work. When the draft CDB regulations are published, the public can see how the government plans to address the important questions we all want answered, such as eligibility, rate, appeals process, access etc.
The government’s July 24, 2023 press release about timelines says that the second phase starts after they publish the draft regulations in the Canada Gazette. After that, “Canadians will be able to review and provide comments on the proposed Regulations. The Government will then analyze the comments received and may make changes to the Regulations in response to the feedback received before finalizing them. The final Regulations will then be published in Part II of the Canada Gazette, at which time they will become official.”
The government’s press release also says that they will be discussing “optimizing benefit interaction” with provincial and territorial governments during the regulatory process. Provincial and territorial governments must not clawback their social assistance programs from people with disabilities who are eligible to receive the CDB. There are some major examples of federal benefits that already exist that do not allow for clawbacks by provinces and territories. The federal government must ensure clawbacks are prevented so that the CDB actually works for people who have disabilities living in poverty. Any failure to do so will keep people with disabilities trapped in poverty.
People with Disabilities NEED income support now. When will the Canada Disability Benefit be available?
As we noted in our past updates, there is no straightforward answer to this question. Our best estimate is that the Benefit will be available in one to two years time.
Some advocacy groups and people with disabilities have urged the federal government to provide a Disability Emergency Relief Benefit to provide more immediate support for people with disabilities who live in poverty.
There is also room to improve access to the existing Disability Tax Credit, and other federal and provincial benefits meant to support people with disabilities. We will continue advocating to improve current credits and benefits while the creation of the Canada Disability Benefit takes place.
What you can do right now:
- Write to the new Minister in charge of making sure the CDB is created – Minister Kamal Khera. On July 26, 2023, Minister Qualtrough was moved to a different Ministry, and Minister Kamal Khera was appointed as Minister of Diversity, Inclusion, and Persons with Disabilities. You can email Minister Khera at firstname.lastname@example.org and let her know your thoughts about getting the CDB created as soon as possible.
- Check out Disability Without Poverty’s Budget the Benefit campaign, which calls on the federal government to make sure that money is added to next year’s federal budget so that the Canada Disability Benefit can be made available as soon as possible. You can send a digital postcard to your MP through Disability Without Poverty’s website here.
- Sign House of Commons petitions calling for a “Disability Emergency Relief Benefit” also known as a DERB. The two main petitions we know of are linked here and here.
- Get involved in local advocacy campaigns that call for increasing Ontario Disability Support Program rates and changing unfair rules. The ODSP Action Coalition and the Disability Justice Network of Ontario are just two of many provincial organizations to check out.