On Wednesday March 22nd , the Government of Canada announced the 2017 federal budget. You can read the complete budget at Budget 2017: Building a Strong Middle Class. We welcome the investments in housing and employment and look forward to working with all levels of government to create housing opportunities for Vulnerable Canadians with Developmental Disabilities. Below are some key highlights that align with our discussions. National Housing Strategy The Government has announced $11.2 billion over 11 years allocated for the implementation of an inclusive National Housing Strategy. The 11-year investment in a National Housing Strategy is significant given the length of the investment as it will allow for planned initiatives short term and long term. The investment also highlights the government’s commitment to flexibility and new ways of working. The NHS investment includes:
$2.1 billion/11 years to expand and extend the Homelessness Partnering Strategy.
$5 billion/11 years to develop a new National Housing Fund to address critical housing issues and prioritise vulnerable citizens such as seniors, Indigenous Peoples, survivors fleeing domestic violence, persons with disabilities, those dealing with mental health and addiction issues, and veterans.
$3.2 billion/11 years devoted to a renewed multilateral investment framework devoted to building new affordable housing and renovating and repairing existing units.
$202 million/11 years to make more federal lands available for affordable housing and to fund environmental remediation, renovations and retrofits to make the land suitable for housing
Support for innovations in affordable housing: To develop a stock of
affordable rental housing that delivers a better quality of life for residents,
CMHC will make up-front capital contributions available to affordable housing providers. This will encourage innovative approaches to housing development, such as energy efficiency retrofits to lower utility costs, and
accessibility modifications to expand the range of housing options available
to Canadians living with disabilities.
It should be noted that in addition to the $11.2B allocated to the NHS, the federal government announced its intention to protect the baseline funding for operating agreements, but with greater flexibility on how those funds can be used. This is significant as until now the commitment of the federal government was to let those agreements expire over the next ten years adding to municipal pressures.
Thank you for investing in housing and identifying the issues of vulnerability and persons with disabilities.
Reena hopes to see an equitable approach to delivery. We believe and data supports that, on any measure of vulnerability the developmentally disabled are unfortunately amongst the most vulnerable including those experiencing poverty, abuse, homelessness, health risk. We will be seeking a national effort to provide not just equal support but equitable support, linked to the unique needs of these citizens.
Employment - Giving Canadians Living With Disabilities An Opportunity To Succeed - Budget pg 71
“Canadians living with disabilities have the same ambitions as all other Canadians—they want an opportunity to find good, well-paying jobs, make a contribution to their communities and the economy, and build a better life for themselves and their families. In the coming year, the Government will explore options to improve work opportunities and employment outcomes for persons with disabilities. This will include the development of new planned federal accessibility legislation, which will promote equality of opportunity and increase the inclusion and participation of Canadians who have disabilities or functional limitations by increasing accessibility and removing barriers in areas of federal jurisdiction. The Government sought input from Canadians on this planned legislation through consultations held between July 2016 and February 2017”
Employment and Skills Training: $2.7 Billion over 6 years
This investment is being made to upgrade Labour Market transfer payments to Provinces and Territories. The intent is to modernize jobs and training supports for job seekers, to upgrade skills, gain experience, and get counselling. This includes availability of EI funded training to those previously not eligible. Pilot measures are proposed related to providing student loans for adults returning to school.
Persons with developmental disabilities have the lowest participation rates in the labour market and are an under utilized portion of the workforce. We support an investment in work related training for high school and transitional aged youth like those provided through Reena’s Summer Employment Training Program (SET) and Channels and Pathways to employment.
Enabling Accessibility Fund – Budget pg 143
“The Enabling Accessibility Fund supports the construction and renovation of public spaces to make them more accessible, making it possible for Canadians with disabilities to participate more fully in their community and the economy. Since its creation in 2007, the program has provided funding to over 2,300 projects across the country, leading to significant improvements in the lives of Canadians.
However, more needs to be done to improve the safety and accessibility of community spaces and workplaces. Budget 2017 proposes to provide $77 million over 10 years to expand the activities of the Enabling Accessibility Fund. Eligible projects will include constructing and renovating infrastructure (e.g., adding ramps, automatic door openers and accessible washrooms), providing accessible information and communication technologies and retrofitting vehicles”
We support this investment as improving the safety and accessibility of community spaces will lead to a greater opportunity for inclusiveness of those with Developmental Disabilities.
The budget signals not only an investment in housing and homelessness, but a commitment to a policy direction that is much welcomed for engaging the disabled as full citizens.
As we go forward, here are some things to consider:
Much of the funding announced in the budget is ‘back loaded,’ meaning funding commitments may not kick in until several years from now. While this will undoubtedly raise some concerns, it also creates an opportunity to ensure that programs are thoughtfully designed and funding aligns well with efforts of other orders of government. Further, this provides an opportunity to build on our relationships at all levels of government.
We need to realign our relationship nationally with partnerships, specifically with A Way Home Canada and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, and press for the government to focus its investment on those most vulnerable. These potential partners are unaware and rarely speak to the issues of people with developmental disabilities.
It is promising that the federal budget highlights prevention and inclusion. For instance, the government’s intention to champion better outcomes for youth through education, training and employment, is an important strategy in our efforts for full citizenship and inclusion.
We need to commit ourselves to working with all partners and all levels of government, to ensure we leverage today’s investments, and those of the future, to make the shift toward a new approach. One that ensures everyone in Canada has access to safe, secure, suitable and affordable housing.