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Kenora, Ontario: Call for Living Wage for Disabled
Miner and News
Jon Thompson

February 18, 2011
View the Original Article

During the Week of Action Against Poverty, Kenora Association for Community Living (KACL) executive director, James Retson is calling on Canada to commit to a living wage for the nation's disabled — and is hoping to make it an election issue.

"The government should have a guaranteed annual income, at least equal to the level provided by old age security and income supplement," he said, citing both Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Human Resources. Skills and Social Development and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities and Senate reports suggesting the Tax Act be amended to ensure the disabled aren't living in poverty.

Meeting that demand would ensure persons with disabilities $14,033 annually, up from $10,050.

In Ontario, those on disability are cut off if the value in their bank account exceeds $5,000. Retson suggested the Registered Disability Savings Plan, which offers three dollars to every one invested, could provide long term planning and ensure "retirement" for those on disability. By his calculations, the government could have "substantial savings" if it not only ensured the minimum income but allowed people bank their matured investment without the $5,000 cutoff. Investing $1,000 annually would mature to $20,000 and by the age of 49, the disabled would be able to live comfortably.

"The real benefit of this is unlike ODSP, you wouldn't lose that if you have the money in your bank account. Essentially, government plans aren't about getting people out of poverty so much as managing people inside poverty."

Retson pointed to a report from left-leaning think tank the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, citing the richest one per cent of Canadians had an average income of over $400,000, amounting to 13.8 per cent of the income in Canada. The richest 0.1 per cent are making $1.85 million.

"What is the attitude of the public," he asked. "A lot of people are not convinced that the disabled or poor are 'deserving.'"