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One step closer: Tri-Cities MP's disability benefit bill sent to senate

Bonita Zarrillo's third reading of the bill to provide financial security to disabled Canadians received unanimous support in Ottawa this week.
Port Moody—Coquitlam MP Bonita Zarrillo stands up to speak in the Chamber during Question Period on Jan. 31, 2023.

For a third time in less than eight months, a federal bill reintroduced by a Tri-Cities' politician received unanimous support from everyone in the House of Commons.

Port Moody—Coquitlam MP Bonita Zarrillo smiled with gratitude after witnessing no objections in Ottawa this week for the third reading of the Canada Disability Benefit Act.

That was 321 votes to zero on the official count.

Now, Bill C-22 goes to the Senate for the final stage of the legislative process. If approved, it would provide financial stability for disabled Canadians.

Zarrillo is the federal NDP's critic for disability inclusion. Since being appointed to the portfolio, she has advocated that the benefit be put into law.

Since June last year, Zarrillo has said life has become unaffordable for people living with a disability, citing struggles like the rising cost of food, rent and inflation overall.

"Throughout the study of this bill, we heard from people about their experience living with a disability. Their message was clear," she added in a statement.

"Income support to allow people living with a disability to make ends meet is necessary. New Democrats will continue to fight for a livable income to be included in the bill so that no one is left behind."

As yet though, there's still no exact financial figure a person with disabilities can qualify for as the Benefit Act is non-binding.

However, Zarrillo said, the Canada Disability Benefit Act currently includes a clause forcing government to consider the official poverty line when determining how much will be distributed.

"Close to a million people living with a disability suffer in poverty in this country — it doesn’t have to be this way," she said.

The Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (LDAC) said, as of 2017, one in five people 15 years and older have identified as a resident living with some form of disability.

In the federal government's 2021 budget, a three-year, $11.9-million investment was unveiled to bring about consultations on how to improve the eligibility process for existing programs and benefits.

According to the platform, Canadians with a disability on low incomes aged 18 to 64 would receive a "direct monthly payment" when the benefit is implemented.

Zarrillo's bill must now pass through the Senate in identical form if it's to become law.

If approved, Bill C-22 would then go to royal assent through the Governor General or a special ceremony in the Senate chamber.