The Liberal Platform--Your Family. Your Future. Your Canada.

2011 CCD Election Challenge

4 April 2011

During every Federal Election, CCD provides a disability rights overview of Party Platforms to ensure that members of the public are aware of the different approaches to disability issues that are being put forward by Canada’s Federal Parties. On 3 April 2011, the Liberal Party of Canada released to Canadians its Election 2011 Platform, “Your Family. Your Future. Your Canada.”, using live video streaming over the internet. In this edition of the 2011 CCD Election Challenge, CCD will comment on (1) the specific disability promises made by the Liberals, (2) the general commitments made by the Party and (3) how they presented their Platform to the Canadian public.

CCD has challenged Canada’s parties to address: the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, poverty, labour market issues, and issues relating to access, inclusion and the citizenship of persons with disabilities. The Liberal Party of Canada made commitments in these areas, either in a measure aimed specifically for people with disabilities or in a more generic manner.

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Under the heading of “Equality of Opportunity for Canadians with Disabilities” the Liberal Party promised to “work with the provinces, territories, disabled Canadians and their organizations to develop an action plan for implementing the Convention, monitoring and reporting to the public on progress (Page 62).” Led by CCD and the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL), in February, over 100 disability organizations issued a call, in a nonpartisan way, for a CRPD Action Plan; obviously, Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals paid attention to the disability community, committing to the action plan in the Red Book.


The Liberal Platform promised to address poverty. As Canada Without Poverty commented, “This commitment represents a major step forward to securing strong federal leadership on poverty issues.” In the Platform, disability poverty was acknowledged. For example, the Platform made the following statement, “Too many Canadians with disabilities live in poverty, are unemployed or lack access to goods and services. More must be done to remove the barriers between them and equality of opportunity (Page 62).” The Platform also stated, “Too many Canadians with disabilities don’t enjoy the same standard of living as others (Page 54).” CCD had challenged the parties to make a commitment to a Refundable Disability Tax credit but this level of specificity was not in the Platform.

Income-The Platform committed to addressing the matter of equal pay for equal work, an issue that it identified as being of concern to Canadians with disabilities.

Pensions—Pension income was another topic that was given considerable attention by the Liberal Platform. The Liberal Platform did not forget people with disabilities when discussing pensions. The Platform stated, “We will boost the GIS benefit for low-income seniors by $700 million per year, strengthening an important tool in the effort to eliminate poverty among seniors, especially older women and seniors with disabilities (Page 32).” The issue raised by the Nortel employees on long-term disability was also addressed by the Platform. It stated, “A Liberal government will take additional steps to ensure that Canada’s pension regime protects society’s most vulnerable. We will ensure that those collecting long-term disability benefits are given greater protection in the event that the company providing the benefit goes bankrupt. We will also create a stranded pension agency. In the event that an employer goes bankrupt, this agency will give Canadian workers a chance to transfer their pensions into the Canada Pension Plan so that their assets can continue to grow through a secure investment vehicle, rather than having their pension simply placed in a low-return annuity (Page 32).” The Liberals also addressed veterans with disabilities, indicating they would examine “whether the disability award should continue to be a lump-sum payment (Page 84).”

Genetic Discrimination by Insurers and Employers—In the Platform, the Liberals committed to addressing genetic discrimination by insurance companies and employers. It states, “Today, even people without symptoms can be denied life, mortgage and disability insurance and even rejected for employment based on genetic testing that shows risk of future illness. A Liberal government will introduce measures, including possible legislative change, to prevent this discrimination (Page 37).”

Access to Justice

CCD has been working for many years to improve access to justice for people with disabilities. One of CCD’s main priorities has been the reinstatement of the Court Challenges Program (CCP), which assisted CCD, and other equality seeking groups, by funding Equality Rights test case litigation. The Liberal Platform committed to reinstating the CCP.

Access and Inclusion

The Liberal Party platform, in generic measures, touched on matters that are of concern to Canadians with disabilities.

Housing—The Liberal Party made a commitment to addressing the housing concerns of Canadians with disabilities in its Affordable Housing Framework. The Platform stated, “The new Framework will promote progress on the particular needs of people with disabilities, as well as Northern and Aboriginal communities. It will also recognize that affordable housing is one major piece of the larger puzzle for reducing poverty (Page 55).”

Information and Communication Technology (ICT)—There were many references to the digital world in the Liberal Platform, but the issue was not addressed using a disability lens. For example, the Platform stated, “Closing the Digital Divide. Research shows that Internet skills lead to real economic benefits, including lower prices for consumers and more competitive small business. A Liberal government will work with all partners to promote digital life skills and training, in particular for older Canadians and lower income families (Page 19).” While ICT holds a great deal of promise for people with disabilities, it is also creating many new barriers. These barriers were apparent during the online release of the Liberal Platform. There was no captioning on the streaming video. The PDF version of the platform had access barriers.

Transportation—The Liberal Platform included a sizeable section on transportation. Unfortunately, none of the many transportation concerns of people with disabilities were specifically addressed by the Platform.

Drug Costs—The Liberal Platform included measures on the cost of prescription medications. The Liberals made the commitment to “work with the provinces and territories to ensure that all Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast have a drug plan that covers the cost of prescription drugs for illnesses such as cancer, diabetes or arthritis that can be financially catastrophic to families (Page 38).” This is good news for Canadians with disabilities, who use prescription drugs.

Immigration—While the Platform addressed immigration, it did not make any commitment to resolve Canada’s discrimination against immigrants with disabilities.

Federalism—CCD has been calling for the Government of Canada to be a leader on disability issues. The Red Book signals that a Liberal Government would be prepared to exert Federal leadership. This could be good news for Canadians with disabilities. Historically, the Federal Government has been a leader in creating opportunities for people with disabilities. For example, the Federal Government has been a strong supporter of Independent Living in Canada.

Voting—The Liberal Platform indicates that a Liberal Government would instruct Elections Canada to begin addressing online voting. If done in an accessible manner, online voting could address a number of access concerns for the disability community, such as independently verifying one’s vote. The current paper ballot system presents a barrier to persons who are handicapped by print.

CCD Will Share A Disability Rights Analysis on Platforms

CCD eagerly awaits the full election platforms from the Conservatives, the NDP, the Bloc Quebecois and the Green Party. CCD will apply a disability lens to the Platforms of all the major Federal Parties and share its views with its members, the media and the general public.

Be An Informed Voter

CCD encourages all Canadians to become informed about the issues being debated during this election and to vote on Election Day.