Despite the continued roll-out of enforcement measures under the Accessible Canada Act, the enactment of accessibility standards through Accessibility Standards Canada, the continuation of the Disability Inclusion Action Plan, and the landmark passing of legislation allowing for further development of the Canadian Disability Benefit, disability is only mentioned four times in the 2023 Fall Economic Statement and seven times in the accompanying Annexes. Of these mentions, disability is only directly discussed twice: in relation to childcare and the need for barrier-free housing – with no accompanying commitments or specific funding.
In the main statement, disability is only specifically discussed once in a brief add-on to the discussion of child care agreements with the provinces and territories, identifying a commitment to develop and fund an inclusion plan to support children with disabilities. Of the other three mentions, one is in a list of marginalized groups benefitting from more affordable housing, one is in relation to Veterans’ benefits, and one is concerning potential additional funding for students with a disability – albeit, alongside any dependents they might have.
While disability is mentioned more frequently in the Annexes, there is again little specific consideration to the disability community’s unique needs, barriers, and disproportionate financial burdens. In Annex 1: Details of Economic and Fiscal Projections, disability is mentioned twice to clarify its inclusion in aggregate measures such as the Child Disability Benefit and “Pensions and other accounts.” While in Annex 4: Statement on Gender, Diversity, and Inclusion, disability is mentioned 5 additional times, with 4 of these mentions being lists of marginalized groups and/or intersecting identity factors. Two mentions worth noting are the brief consideration of persons with disabilities’ need for barrier-free housing, and the inclusion of Indigenous persons with disabilities amongst other intersecting identity factors experienced by Indigenous persons.
With projections lasting into 2028-2029 and funding being promised for 2025-2026, the future of critical measures such as the Canadian Disability Benefit are deeply uncertain.
At A Glance
Mention #1: Building More Affordable Housing
Disability is not specifically considered in this section, and is only briefly mentioned amongst a list of other marginalized groups benefitting from affordable housing investments. (22)
Mention #2: Supporting A Strong Middle Class
Disability is only mentioned in relation to Veterans’ Benefits being indexed to inflation to help Canadians keep up with the cost of living. (33)
Mention #3: Federal Investments to Support Canadians With the Cost of Living
In a number of hypothetical examples designed to show how federal benefits aim to make life more affordable for Canadians, disability is briefly mentioned in the case of a low-income student in Nova Scotia, where they could receive additional funding for specialized student grants and equipment if they have a disability. (34)
Mention #4: Delivering Affordable, High-Quality Early Learning and Child Care
The first explicit mention of disability is in only one brief sentence in the supplementary discussion around receiving affordable, high-quality early learning and child care: “Agreements with provinces and territories also include a commitment to develop and fund an inclusion plan to support children with disabilities.” (34)
Mention A1: The Child Disability Benefit is included as a footnote in Annex 1’s Table A1.6: The Expense Outlook to clarify its inclusion in the Canada Child Benefit. (82)
Mention A2: In Annex 1’s Table A1.7: The Budgetary Balance, Non-Budgetary Transactions, and Financial Source/Requirement, the discussion of the “Pensions and other accounts” line includes disability benefits alongside other benefits such as health care, dental plans, and veterans’ benefits. (87).
Mention A3: In the opening section of Annex 4’s Statement on Gender Diversity and Inclusion, disability is included alongside other groups disproportionately impacted by the higher cost of living. (107)
Mention A4: Under Annex 4’s subsection on Canada’s Housing Action Plan, disability is more meaningfully considered alongside seniors, those on fixed incomes, and women escaping intimate-partner violence. This discussion has the most in-depth discussion of disabled people’s unique needs: “Persons with disabilities also face unique challenges: according to the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability, 15.9 per cent of persons with disabilities were living in households in core housing need.” (107)
Mention A5: Continued in Annex 4’s subsection on Canada’s Housing Action Plan, disability is listed amongst other intersecting factors experienced by Indigenous persons who will benefit from the Urban, Rural, and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy. (109)
Mention A6: Again found in Annex 4’s subsection on Canada’s Housing Action Plan, persons with disabilities are included amongst groups benefitting from the Apprenticeship Service and the Union Training and Innovation Program’s promotion of inclusion and accessibility. (109)
Mention A7: The final mention of disability is in a list of low-income and vulnerable populations who would benefit from cracking down on junk fees. (110).
Breaking It Down
Chapter 1: Building more affordable housing
“Affordable and community housing play critical roles by providing the most vulnerable Canadians with a place to call home. People experiencing or at risk of homelessness, women and children fleeing violence, seniors, Black and racialized people, Indigenous people, and persons with disabilities, are among those who benefit the most from affordable housing investments. The federal government has been taking action to make investments that build and repair these types of homes.” (22)
The Affordable Housing Fund will repair/renew 129,000 homes and build 31,500 more. $1 Billion has been committed over three years starting in 2025-2026 to support non-profit, co-op, and public housing providers to build over 7,000 homes by 2028.
However, there is no mention about accessible housing – only making the programs themselves more accessible, “with faster approvals and other improvements to meet the needs of vulnerable populations.”
Chapter 2: Supporting a Strong Middle Class
Despite opening the section with language around strengthening social safety nets and building economies where everyone has a real and fair chance for success and listing a number of social security programs, there is no mention of the Canadian Disability Benefit.
The only mention of disability is in the brief discussion of Veteran’s benefits: “Veterans’ benefits, such as the Disability Pension and the Pain and Suffering Compensation, are also indexed to inflation.” (33)
Disability is mentioned in a hypothetical scenario designed to share available support programs: “A low-income student in Nova Scotia could receive more than $5,800 in additional support in 2023 thanks to increased Canada Student Grants and interest-free Canada Student Loans, the Grocery Rebate, and pollution price rebates. If they have a disability or dependants, they could receive an additional $12,800 in specialized student grants, plus an extra $640 per dependant, and up to $20,000 towards devices that support their learning.” (34)
Disability is again briefly mentioned in the discussion of affordable, high-quality early learning and child care: “Agreements with provinces and territories also include a commitment to develop and fund an inclusion plan to support children with disabilities.” (34)
Annex 1: Outlook for Expenses
Disability is briefly mentioned in a footnote to table A1.6: The Expense Outlook – covering projections in billions of dollars between 2022-2023 and 2028-2029.
In the following section, Major Transfers to Persons, the Canadian Disability Benefit is nowhere to be found among major transfers such as Employment Insurance (EI), the Canada Child Benefit, and Old Age Security. (82)
Disability is once again mentioned in the discussion of Table A1.7: The Budgetary Balance, Non-Budgetary Transactions, and Financial Source/Requirement. This discussion merely explains what financial sources are included in the forecast horizon: “Pensions and other accounts include a variety of employee future benefit plans, such as health care and dental plans, disability, and other benefits for veterans and others, as well as the activities of the Government of Canada’s employee pension plans, and those of federally appointed judges and Members of Parliament.” (87)
Annex 2: Statement on Gender, Diversity, and Inclusion
Near the end of the statement, disability is lumped in with other marginalized groups – and given no unique consideration throughout the statement: “We know that Canadians are continuing to face real challenges with the higher cost of living, including in accessing affordable housing. Vulnerable Canadians—including seniors, persons with disabilities, 2SLGBTQI+, Indigenous, Black, and racialized people—face these challenges in disproportionate, unique ways.” (107)
Disability is more meaningfully mentioned in the Annex’s discussion of Canada’s Housing Action Plan: “Investing in housing is crucial to meeting the needs of all Canadians—but housing challenges are even more pressing for some. This includes seniors, who represent 17 per cent of those in unaffordable housing, many of whom are on fixed incomes; women escaping intimate-partner violence; and persons with disabilities, who may require barrier-free homes… Persons with disabilities also face unique challenges: according to the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability, 15.9 per cent of persons with disabilities were living in households in core housing need.” (107)
In a breakdown of measures related to the Plan, Indigenous persons with disabilities are mentioned – an appreciated consideration given the disproportionate rates of disability Indigenous people face: “Continuing to work towards the co-development and launch of the Urban, Rural, and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy will directly benefit Indigenous people living in urban, rural, and northern communities, especially Indigenous persons with disabilities, women and girls, and 2SLGBTQI+ people who are at particular risk of violence when experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity.” (109)
In a following discussion of how housing investments support the construction sector, persons with disabilities are again briefly mentioned alongside other marginalized groups: “For example, federal investments such as the Apprenticeship Service and the Union Training and Innovation Program have promoted inclusion and accessibility for women, persons with disabilities, Black and racialized people, and Indigenous people.” (109)
In the discussion of supporting a strong middle class, disability is again briefly mentioned alongside other marginalized groups in relation to cracking down on junk fees: “Low-income and vulnerable populations, including Indigenous people, recent immigrants, persons with disabilities, and seniors, will disproportionately benefit, since higher fees may result in spending a greater portion of their income.” (110)