Letter to Hon. Ernie Eves
Minister of Finance
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE
c/o Marg Thomas
1929 Bayview Avenue, Toronto ON M4G 3E8
Tel: (Voice direct) 416-480-7686 Fax: 416-480-7014 Voice mail: 416-480-7012
TTY: Care of Deborah Thynn 416 964-0023 ex. 251
December 10, 1998
The Hon. Ernie Eves,
Minister of Finance,
7th Floor Frost Bldg S,
7 Queen's Park Crescent,
Toronto, Ont. M7A 1Y7
Dear Mr. Eves,
RE: BILL 81
We recently had an opportunity to review bill 81 which contains, among other things, the tax deductions for disability-related expenses incurred by employers. We are writing to raise two urgent concerns regarding this matter - one procedural, the other substantive.
First, despite the fact that the Premier promised to work with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, and the recent purportedly comprehensive disability announcement by the Citizenship Minister when bill 83 was tabled, we were not consulted about the content of the disability-component nor were we even informed when the separate tax bill, Bill 81, was tabled. This is particularly shocking since the Minister of Citizenship and the Premier have given the public the impression that the proposed tax incentive, mentioned in last spring's budget but without supporting legislation, is an important component of their "strategy" related to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. What is even more disturbing is that this tax legislation was introduced on the same day as the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, albeit buried in a larger piece of legislation. Yet no mention of the fact that the disability tax provisions were being placed before the Legislature was made in the public relations material that the Minister of Citizenship sent out to announce bill 83.
We have now learned that on Dec. 9, 1998, the Legislature passed a time allocation motion that would significantly restrict debate on this tax legislation, which directly affects persons with disabilities. The tax bill would then proceed to third reading with no opportunity for public hearings. Once again people with disabilities have been entirely left out of the process. If this tax provision is such an important measure then it is unacceptable to freeze out one and a half million people with disabilities whose lives will be most affected.
Second, we are writing because even in the short time that we have had to review bill 81, this tax measure, we have identified a number of areas of serious concern that we strongly believe need to be dealt with in the context of a public consultation process, before the bill proceeds to third reading. Among those concerns are:
- 1. The fact that the disability tax incentive is strictly time- limited to only apply to expenditures incurred only in the first year of employment.
This type of provision creates three problems. Firstly, it creates a tax incentive for employers to hire a person on a short-term contract and then terminate them at the end of the that year when they can no longer receive a deduction for an accommodation. This will perpetuate the situation that people with disabilities have often found themselves in. It has the clear potential to create rather than remove barriers. The only way which a tax incentive can work is if there is a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act in place to ensure that employers must continue to remove workplace barriers. bill 83 will not do that.
Second, the tax bill's one-year limitation does not take into account the need which a person with a disability can experience in the workplace for changes in accommodation. This can result from a change in the person's disability or a change in their job responsibilities or location. It can also result from changes in technology and other aspects of the overall workplace. For example, if someone requires adaptive technology to carry out their job and the company decides to replace the computer system, new accommodations may be necessary. The tax incentive you propose would not cover this, particularly if this need arises after the first year on the job. Again, without a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act the employer may decide to forgo the additional expense for the employee with a disability. This in the end may affect the person's ability to do the job or to be promoted.
Thirdly, your tax bill does not apply to a large sector of people with disabilities - those who acquire a disability after they begin employment. If they get a disability on the job, for example, they get no benefit under your bill. The same goes if the employee has an accident unrelated to work or develops a chronic disability such as multiple sclerosis, once they have already started on a job.
- The fact that there is a limited, specific list of items that can be deducted
- The fact that even within this specific list of accommodations deductions for some expenditures can be made only if the employee has a particular type of disability.
It is a cruel irony for your government on the one hand to take the position that they want to remove barriers facing people with disabilities, and that this tax incentive is an important component of government strategy, while at the same time totally ignoring the one broad-based umbrella disability organization that the Premier had promised in writing to work with. .... we ask that Bill 81 not proceed to second reading until the public including persons with disabilities have had a chance to learn of its importance to them. We ask that there be public hearings on this bill, so that persons with disabilities can have an opportunity to have input. We repeat our request that the Premier agree to meet with us, with this important issue to be added to the agenda concerning Bill 83 over which we have been seeking without success to meet with him.
M. David Lepofsky, C.M.
Co-Chair Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee
cc: Hon. Premier Mike Harris Isabel Bassett, MPP
Dalton McGuinty, MPP
Howard Hampton, MPP
Marion Boyd, MPP
Gilles Morin, MPP
Frances Lankin, MPP
Dwight Duncan, MPP
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