DABC’s Response to 2023 BC Budget

March 1, 2023

The BC Budget for the 2023/2024 fiscal year was announced at the legislative assembly in Victoria on February 28, 2023. Helaine Boyd, Disability Alliance BC (DABC)’s Executive Director, was invited to attend the announcement and review the budget materials.

On reviewing the 2023 Budget, DABC is relieved to see an increase in the shelter rate for people on income assistance and disability assistance; an increase that has been long overdue. The shelter rate, which hasn’t changed since 2007, will increase from $375 per month to $500 per month for single individuals. For a single person on PWD (the disability assistance program for people designated as Persons With Disabilities), this means their rate will go from $1,358 to $1,483 per month.

We also know that people living in subsidized housing won’t see this rate increase at all – it will just be for those who are renting or otherwise paying for housing or shelter costs.

Undoubtedly, rent prices have increased by much more than $125 since 2007, so while we recognize that this shelter rate increase is a step in the right direction, it fails to meaningfully address systemic poverty in our province.

The poverty line for the majority of the province is roughly $2100 per month for a single individual[1], and so this rate increase still will not meet the poverty line. This will continue to have further impacts on the quality of life, health and well being of low-income people with disabilities.

Alongside the shelter rate increase, DABC is pleased to see that there are also increases to most income and disability assistance supplements, including diet supplements (increased by 50%) and the monthly nutritional supplement (increased from $165 to $180 per month). All of these increases under income and disability assistance will come into effect in July 2023.

DABC recognizes that the BC Government has also included other forms of support in this budget to combat rising costs through another upcoming installment of the BC Affordability Credit, the new Renter’s Tax Credit and increases to the BC Family Credit and Climate Action Tax Credit. DABC has confirmed with the BC Government that income received from these credits will not claw back a person’s income or disability assistance payments.

But these types of credits are not sustainable and they are not reliable sources of monthly income. These are credits that maybe happen every quarter or once a year, which means addressing daily living costs and planning for the future remains incredibly difficult. The BC Government’s choice to invest in credits like this also inadvertently creates barriers for people who do not file their taxes, particularly people with no fixed address, no technological means to register with the CRA, or difficulties accessing government-issued identification. We hope that the BC Government can find a way to increase access to these benefits and credits to the people who most need them.

DABC understands that this slight increase in PWD rates will have an effect on people who receive Canada Pension Plan Disability (CPPD). Prior to this rate increase announcement, the maximum amount a single person on CPPD could receive is $1,457.45. If someone were to receive the maximum amount of CPPD, this would make them ineligible to apply for PWD, as they would not meet the income testing threshold of receiving income that is less than $1,358. With this new rate increase bringing the PWD rate for single individuals to $1,483, it looks like people receiving the maximum CPPD amount may now be eligible to apply for PWD (if they have no other sources of income which bring them above this $1,483 threshold). This is good news for people with disabilities who cannot work because it will mean that they can access the benefits and supports associated with the PWD system, like extended health care and medical supplements.

DABC notes that earnings exemptions have increased in this BC Budget 2023 announcement, bringing the annual earnings exemption limit from $15,000 per year to $16,200 per year for a single individual. If a person on PWD is able to utilize their whole earnings exemption limit, they can then receive a total income of over $33,000 per year. However, many people on PWD cannot work, and for those who cannot work, the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction’s practice is to require PWD clients to apply for CPPD. Once they are approved for CPPD, their PWD gets clawed back dollar for dollar. In comparison to the supports provided to people on PWD who can work, the treatment of clawing back CPPD payments by the Ministry is extremely unfair for people with disabilities who cannot work. DABC continues to advocate for the exemption of CPPD payments.

DABC notes that there has been no specific announcements to supporting further implementation of the Accessible BC Act in this budget. By September 1, 2023, 750 public sector organizations will be required under Part 3 of the Accessible BC Act to create an accessibility committee, accessibility plan and public feedback mechanism. There is currently no funding specifically allocated to support public sector organizations in covering the costs to implement accessibility initiatives that arise from their accessibility plans. Without funding for this, the implementation of the Accessibility BC Act will fall short of bringing meaningful change for people with disabilities in our province.

DABC notes further related announcements in the budget:

  • $45 million allocated to public libraries to support accessibility, inclusion, and reconciliation and to respond to rising costs and growing demand for services
  • Renters Tax Credit: up to $400 annually to renters starting in 2024
  • Starting April 1, 2023, prescription birth control will be free in British Columbia. 
  • Beginning Aug. 1, 2023, students and graduates who make less than $40,000 won’t be required to make payments on their outstanding loans.
  • Increased funding to hire more staff for the Human Rights Tribunal

After years and years of advocating for increased funding to support people with disabilities, DABC views this increase as incremental, but it does not represent a top tier investment in people with disabilities. Many people with disabilities, not just PWD recipients, have higher daily living expenses, such as extra healthcare costs including medical equipment, caregiving and home support, education and employment costs including assistive technology. We will continue to advocate for a more dignified level of income support that will make more significant progress in lifting people out of poverty in BC. 

[1] This figure is calculated from Statistics Canada’s market basket measure (MBM) for 2021. The MBM is considered to be Canada’s poverty line. Statistic’s Canada presents the MBM for a family of four, so to calculate for a single individual, it is suggested to be half the amount presented on this website here: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1110006601

Online session: Tax Tips for small business owners and self-employed individuals

Tax season is here! DABC is hosting a session presented by Liaison Officers from the Canada Revenue Agency about tax tips related to small businesses or self-employed individuals. The session will cover: business tax deductions, common tax errors, helpful tools and services offered by the CRA and general bookkeeping.

Register in advance for this session: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_WwcY5kX9TpWC_XwLRHoCqw

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. We hope to see you there!

Download the poster: Poster_LO-seminars_National

Article: DABC Supports Challenge to Mental Health Act

This article was written by Andrew Robb, and originally appeared in the edition of DABC’s Transition magazine, Dying for Health Care: Navigating An Ableist System (Fall/Winter 2022). Read the issue here.

If you’re interested in contributing to Transition as an individual or an organization, please email transition@disabilityalliancebc.org

On June 23, 2022, the Supreme Court of Canada released a decision finding that the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) has public interest standing to challenge parts of BC’s Mental Health Act (MHA) because it violates Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Attorney General of BC had argued that CCD was not entitled to public interest standing, unless there was an individual co-plaintiff who had been directly affected by the MHA.

This decision is part of CCD’s ongoing challenge to laws regarding involuntary psychiatric treatment. CCD says the MHA violates the Charter and the courts should force the government to change it.

BC is the only place in Canada where patients with involuntary status, including people detained in psychiatric facilities, are “deemed” to consent to all forms of psychiatric treatment, without safeguards.

For example, under the MHA, a patient can be forcibly administered psychotropic medications and electroconvulsive therapy, without consent from the patient or their legal guardians or family members.

The issue before the Supreme Court of Canada was a procedural question about whether CCD would be allowed to bring the case forward at all, without an individual co-plaintiff. The Supreme Court of Canada did not consider whether the MHA violates the Charter. That issue will now be decided by the BC Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision is very important to CCD and people in BC who are detained under the MHA. It means CCD’s legal challenge to the MHA can continue, but the legal process takes a long time; it may be years before the courts make a final decision about whether the MHA must be changed. The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision will also set a precedent that will be helpful to other groups who want to challenge discriminatory and other unconstitutional laws in court.

CCD is a national organization of people with disabilities working for an accessible and inclusive Canada. Disability Alliance BC is a member organization.

DABC staff assisted the CCD committee that works with CCD’s pro bono lawyers. We are proud to play a role in this important case.

Andrew Robb is staff lawyer with DABC’s Disability Law Clinic.