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New study compares support for disabled across three provinces

September 23, 2011 @ 01:15PM

Most people will agree that a fundamental role of government is to provide a safety net for people who are disabled and have no source of income. However, in a groundbreaking comparative study released today by The School of Public Policy, Prof. Ron Kneebone reveals a disparity between the support provided by BC, Alberta, and Ontario to disabled residents, and argues that BC is failing to provide for basic needs.

Kneebone’s analysis begins with a discussion on the definition of poverty and notes that while there are many such definitions there is no official measure of poverty. Kneebone introduces two additional measures of income adequacy – the income required to meet very basic needs and the amount the federal government provides to poor seniors – and includes these in his comparison to levels of income support provided to persons with disabilities.

Kneebone shows that as a result of recent increases in payments to people with disabilities, Alberta provides an amount that ranks it first amongst the three provinces, and is roughly equivalent to the amount the federal government provides to poor seniors.

While not as “generous” as Alberta, Ontario also provides an amount that could meet basic human needs, barely.

Surprisingly, British Columbia does not. According to Kneebone “the level of support provided to disabled persons in BC is disturbing; it falls slightly below that measure of income required to meet basic needs.”

The study also concludes that the cost of increasing support levels to people with disabilities is relatively small.

The paper’s final observation is that Canadians seem to accept the level of income support provided to poor seniors as a reasonable level to offer someone unable to work and with no other source of income.

“We think that this seems to be a level of income support most Canadians would support as appropriate for persons with disabilities,” Kneebone writes. “Others may (and likely will) disagree with that assessment and advocate for a still higher level of income that would take support closer to another established low-income measure.”

The paper can be found at