Article from The Globe & Mail written by Michael J. Prince

Michael J. Prince is Lansdowne Professor of social policy at the University of Victoria.


More than 400,000 working-age adults with physical or mental disabilities are currently unemployed in Canada, despite being willing and able to participate in the labour force.

Strong federal leadership and intergovernmental co-operation are needed to ensure that more Canadians with disabilities have access to real work for real pay, and that their rights are protected by labour legislation and safety standards equal to that of other workers.

Many aspects of social policy were highlighted in the 2016 federal budget, but people with disabilities were not.

The federal contribution to the Labour Market Agreement for Persons with Disabilities (LMAPDs) has declined in real terms over the past decade.

For years, existing agreements have been renewed one year at a time, which undercuts long-term planning. To substantially improve labour-force participation of people with disabilities, larger federal transfers are essential. A case can be made for using the federal spending power in a purposeful and focused manner for these forgotten 400,000.

A new national policy framework should help enable people with disabilities to attain postsecondary education, to participate in training and vocational rehabilitation and to obtain and hold gainful employment in inclusive workplaces, on an equal basis with other people.

Greater attention is needed on workplace practices and the role of disability management, bolstered by federal investments through intergovernmental agreements, grants and tax measures.

In a recent study published by the Institute for Research on Public Policy, I propose a six-point action plan for both orders of government: (1) Renew the Canadian vision on disability and citizenship; (2) improve transition planning for youths with disabilities; (3) expand postsecondary education; (4) foster improvement in workplace practices; (5) enhance employment services and supports; and (6) modernize labour market agreements.

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