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More MS news articles for November 2002

Commons vote rejects Finance Department restrictions on disabled tax credit

Nov. 20, 2002
Bruce Cheadle
Canadian Press

A Finance department proposal to tighten up eligibility for the federal disability tax credit was rejected Wednesday by a unanimous vote in the House of Commons that included the Liberal front bench.

The vote effectively kills a series of measures announced Aug. 30 that were designed to restrict access to the tax credit, which is worth up to a maximum of $989 annually. NDP Leader Alexa McDonough, whose party introduced the motion in the House, said the vote sends a clear message: "Withdraw the draconian changes (and) absolutely stop harassing . . . Canadians living with disabilities."

McDonough said Finance Minister John Manley could not have helped but get that message from his own cabinet colleagues who voted with the opposition to scrub the government's plan.

Manley, through a spokeswoman, agreed.

"It's clear we're going to withdraw the current proposals," said Jennifer Sloan. "I think it's a demonstration of the minister listening."

The fight over the disability tax credit has been brewing for months.

Last year, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency sent letters to more than 100,000 disabled people demanding they re-apply for the credit. The New Democrats say 45,000 people have lost the credit as a result of a flawed form and overly restrictive criteria. Doctors and the disabled community agree.

Liberal backbencher Carolyn Bennett, a medical doctor, sits on a Commons sub-committee that issued a report in March calling for more compassionate treatment in an overhaul of the disability tax system.

She was among many parliamentarians incensed when the Finance department instead proposed to further curtail eligibility.

Bennett said Wednesday the government must go back to the drawing board for a better approach "to how the Income Tax Act is interpreted and how we make sure the spirit and policy intent of the act is respected for persons with disabilities."

"We want those interpretation responsibilities back to Parliament," she said.

Manley's office said new proposals for revamping the tax credit in light of several recent court decisions likely will come in the next federal budget, expected in February.

Manley, who voted with his colleagues on another matter moments before the NDP motion, was not in the Commons for the disability vote.

"You just don't expect the minister to stand in the House and vote against his own proposal, do you?" said Sloan.

© Copyright 2002, Canadian Press