A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.
~Yoko Ono

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Update on Canada Disability Benefit Act

This past week, MPs unanimously passed the second reading of  Bill C-22, the Canada Disability Act.

This only happened thanks to a lot of work by the disability community in reaching out to MPs to stress the importance of the creation of the Canada Disability Benefit. We all need to be proud of this moment. 

The proposed legislation will now move to the Committee stage, where MPs on the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA) will study the Bill and hear from witnesses, people with disabilities, disability groups and others. 

NOTE: Moving forward in this post, I will be using the terms legislation, statute and Act (such as the Canada Disability Act) interchangeably. 

However, there is a lot more work to do before the Bill is passed into law. 

After being considered by the Committee, the Bill will return to the House of Commons for the Report stage and Third Reading debate before its final vote. Only then will it be sent to the Senate where it will go through all the same stages it went through in the House of Commons. 

Inclusion Canada is hoping that it is hoped that the legislation will be passed by Parliament by December 2022 and the Canadian Disability Benefit created quickly in 2023. Unfortunately, even that is far from the end of the story. This is no time to rest on our laurels.

The Devil in the Details
This is the current version of the draft legislation. If you read it carefully, you will see it doesn't tell us much other than a Benefit will be created. We are left wondering who will be eligible, how much individuals will actually receive or if it's a one-time payment or annual benefit, among other things. 

Here's the sticking point. 

Passing legislation can be quite a challenge depending on who/what it benefits and the political makeup of the House. Think minority government. But often, as this is this case, that is far from the end of the story.

Many, many moons ago, I discussed how legislation (in this case, the proposed Canada Disability Act), regulations and policy interact. I suggest you take a quick look at that before we move on to look at what happens after next, after the legislation is finally passed.

Passing legislation is far from the end of the story.

It is very rare for new legislation to come into effect right away. The date new legislation comes into effect can usually be found near the very end of the document. Occasionally, it sets a specified date when this will occur, but more often, it says it will come into effect when given royal assent

In Canada, legislation requires the approval of the Governor General or another designated representative of the Crown, aka King Charles. The real catch here is that doesn't happen until the government requests it, meaning legislation can sit around a very long time before it ever comes into effect. However, even that is often not the end of the story.

For most legislation (federal or provincial), the provincial or federal government will enact regulations under the statute. 

It works like this. 

Legislation passed by Parliament sets out broad legal and policy principles about a topic. It describes requirements and can include punishments for breaking the law. Regulations, rules, by-laws and some codes (subsidiary legislation) define and control how an authority operates to implement the law.

To put it another way, the legislation gives the broad outlines of what the government can and cannot do and/or what you and I as citizens are allowed and not allowed to do. The regulations fill in the some of the details that is missing from the legislation itself. Both statutes and regulations have the force of law BUT nothing in the regulations can be contrary to anything set out in the legislation. In other words, the legislation is the boss and the regulations are just the helpful assistants tasked with doing as they are told and filling in some of those nitty gritty details.

In this case, everything of note (such as who will be eligible, how much individuals will receive or if it's a one-time payment or annual benefit) have been left to the regulations. Regulations that haven't even been drafted yet and won't be in final form until sometime after the Act is passed. 

For this particular legislation, the statute, once it is passed, will be little more than an empty shell. What really matters, what we really care about and need to know with respect to the the Canada Disability Benefit will not be drafted until ... who knows? Not I.

        ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

If you're interested in learning more details as to how the legislative process works with the federal government, you can find it here. Otherwise, the link above should give you what you need to understand the interaction between legislation and regulations with respect to the Canada Disability Benefit.

* Clause 11 of the Act provides for regulations to be drafted respecting the eligibility criteria,
conditions to be met in order to receive or to continue to receive a benefit, the amount of the benefit, possible indexing for inflation, payment periods, the amount to be paid each period, appealing a decision and more. 

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