By Patrick Tohill, Government Relations Director at JDRF Canada
We’ve got some exciting updates with respect to our campaign around the Disability Tax Credit and the Registered Disability Savings Plan. A senate committee tasked with studying these issues is urging the government to take a more compassionate approach in terms of the way these programs work for people living with disabilities in Canada.
Their report is called Breaking Down Barriers: A critical analysis of the Disability Tax Credit and the Registered Disability Savings Plan. The senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology has made 16 recommendations aimed at fixing some of the long-standing problems that prevent Canadians with disabilities (including chronic diseases such as type 1 diabetes), from accessing the DTC and RDSP.
JDRF has welcomed the report and is broadly supportive of the recommendations. Parents of type 1 children as well as adults living with the disease who’ve invested in RDSPs will be pleased with the senators’ recommendation that the period of time between when contributions to RDSPs are made and when they can be withdrawn be reduced from 10 years to five.
Also included within the Senate’s recommendations are two or three ideas that stem from JDRF’s testimony back in February. For example, the report recommends that investments and government contributions to RDSPs not be clawed back if the person was eligible for DTC when the investments were made, as well as that all eligibility criteria for the DTC be reviewed. The report specifically mentions the 14 hour per week rule which JDRF has recommended be reduced to 10 hours, though we’d be happy to see it nixed completely.
One particular amendment we’d like to see in terms of eligibility criteria concerns the exclusion of carbohydrate calculation, which makes absolutely no sense. As anyone with type 1 will tell you, you simply cannot calculate insulin dosage, something that’s included as an eligible activity in the 14 hours, without first calculating the number of carbohydrates you’re consuming.
Unfortunately, the Canada Revenue Agency wrongly considers carbohydrate calculation to fall under the category of a dietary restriction and has deemed it to be excluded under the Act. As a result, an application that mentions 280 minutes a week spent determining insulin dosage will be approved and an application mentioning 280 minutes a week calculating carbs will be denied.
JDRF has joined with Diabetes Canada in preparing a joint submission on carb calculation which we’ve submitted to the Disability Advisory Committee, the CRA and the Finance department.
Several of our recommendations around the DTC have also made their way into a Private Member’s Bill, Bill C-399, introduced by Tom Kmiec, MP for Calgary—Shepard in March. The Fairness for Canadians with Disabilities Act would “increase accessibility for disability tax credit for Canadians living with diabetes as well as those with rare disorders”.