A person with disabilities responds to the 2022 Canadian Budget

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by Gryph

Second verse …. same as the first

I remember, as a young lad, being absolutely captivated by nursery rhymes, memory games, and the silly ditties we learned. You remember, yes: Old MacDonald; Row, row, row your boat; Twinkle, twinkle, little star? They were easy to learn, seemed to flow naturally, and could be modified as we grew older. It wasn’t until I hit my teens that I began to question the role of those tunes; any “creativity” was limited by the structure of the original melody. Sigh …. I sometimes miss the (false) Halcyon days of my childhood.

Well, that’s enough traipsing down memory lane.

Those memories were prompted by this weeks Federal Budget 2022 announcement by Min. C. Freeland – and the ensuing “analysis” by pundits, politicos, and panels filled to the brim with lettered Professionals©, none of which seemed to have anything substantive to add to the conversation or the intestinal fortitude to call out the glaring omissions in said Budget. Specifically, I refer to federal Liberal platform mainstays that go all the way back to 2015 regarding the unique circumstances of Persons with Disabilities (PWD). The Liberals have weathered, somewhat successfully, three elections in 2015, ’19, and ’21 with “firm direction, vision, and policies” planned for PWD. Almost seven years later?

WE ARE STILL WAITING!!!!

We’ve heard these “ditties” over and over …. and over …. and over. Old MacDonald has no livestock left, the dinghy PWD have been consigned to capsized many years ago, and thousands of stars—both real and metaphorical—have died in those seven years. Is it any wonder that my first iteration writing this read like a Georgian pirate summoning a Curse Demon? (Side note: it appears that the curses I learned studying French, Russian, and German in high school, plus Marm’s occasional breaks into Yiddish or Polish have stayed with me these many decades later.) I’ve managed to move on from my initial rage response to something more analytical, calculated, and tinged with equal parts regret and adamantium-like resolve.

Barely a mention

Out of over 300 pages (PDF), PWD were awarded two (if stretched) total pages, spread over several nonsense paragraphs in two chapters: 4.3 – Workforce / Economy, and 8.1 – Diverse and Inclusive Canada. The first mention deals exclusively with PWD only as our demographic intersects with workers in Canada; no mention is made of those hundreds of thousands that are unable to work. The second mention highlights the social impact of the Special Olympics and announces more funds for that venture. (Note: it should not be ignored that Min C Qualtrough, the Minister of Disability Inclusion, is a former medal-earning athlete from that program. It is my belief that this fact informs and directs her awareness of, engagement with, and decision making surrounding PWD). We didn’t even rate any clever graphs, tables or diagrams in this 300+ page paperweight.

There was zero mention of the sub-poverty income that many PWD live in – over 50% of the millions of PWD – as highlighted in the 2017 Demographic Report. While dental care for children <12 was announced (a Fed NDP demand), there was zero mention of dental, vision, hearing or pharmaceutical aid for PWD; this is a particularly jarring omission given that the vast majority of PWD suffer from impaired vision or hearing, pharmaceutical needs, and / or require mobility aids. That’s right …. Tommy and Marsha will have pearly chompers, while PWD continue to struggle just to make it out the door. Lastly, there was absolutely no mention of the “promised” Canada Disability Benefit that has been floated about since 2015, was a campaign carrot for the past two elections, and was forced to be recently addressed in Parliament in response to a petition sponsored by Mike Morrice (GPC); to add insult to injury, the “official response” was given my Min Qualtrough’s Parliamentary Secretary. Oi frackin’ veh!! I could make several comments about PWD – that aren’t also athletes – don’t tend to rank with Min Qualtrough …. but I won’t.

To say that this Budget is disappointing would be an understatement, Untertreibung, euphémisme, преуменьшение, 轻描淡写 …. sorry, got carried away there. It is insulting, it is demeaning, it is dismissive. It removes PWD from Canadian society, given that this Budget was very clear on highlighting the needs of various demographics across cultures, income brackets, and other identities. The darkly ironic nature of this exclusion is that PWD cross ALL other demographic boundaries; disability has no respect for age, cultural background, melanin concentration, gender identity, or any other indicator used for the aforementioned tables and graphs. Prior to the Age of COVID, PWD already accounted for 20-25% of Canada’s population. EVERY REPUTABLE ANALYSIS of the effects of Long COVID predicts that percentage to increase in the future. I have to wonder if 25% isn’t enough to warrant full inclusion in our society, if any increase will matter. If history is any indication, it won’t.

To be completely honest, I didn’t have high hopes for this Budget 2022, given the dark history that Min Qualtrough has with the PWD community. I had hoped that as this was Min Freeland’s project, we would finally get something substantive. I would even have accepted assurances that the promised Disability Benefit was a “top priority” with a summary of what has been accomplished on that file. But, nothing? Nothing other than PWD workers and athletes, that is. Any hope I had for the current Federal Government actually caring about PWD has been diminished to the flickering light of an oil lamp on its last wick. I have no more wicks to give.

Normally, gentle reader, I would close on of my pieces with a few questions prompted by my analysis and summary. But, today, in this moment, my questions are the same as they’ve been for over two years:

When will PWD matter enough?

When will PWD earn the right not to be ignored, discarded, and forgotten?

When will PWD be given equal opportunity to engage in Canadian society?

When will PWD be given equal footing with whichever demographic happens to be the flavour of the week?

How many more PWD need to suffer and die before our “leaders” actually hear our pleas?

I have no words of comfort, no substantial hope for the future, no hidden wisdom to share. I have only 30+ years of battling the same invisibility as all other PWD and my oath to keep fighting to offer.

Be as well are you are able, Gentle Reader.

Gryph

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