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This article was published 27/8/2019 (547 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitobans with disabilities can expect their finances to improve if the NDP, Liberals or Green party form the next government, based on promises made Tuesday during a leaders' debate on accessibility issues.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew, Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont and Green party Leader James Beddome all vowed to implement a minimum-income program in some form.
Former Progressive Conservative families minister Heather Stefanson participated in place of party leader Brian Pallister.
The Disability Matters Vote debate at the Norwood Hotel — exactly two weeks before Manitobans head to the polls — was packed. CBC Manitoba radio host Marcy Markusa moderated the event.
Lamont opened by talking about being a father to a son with high-functioning autism.
"The one (thing) that struck me was that I did not ever want anyone to think of my son as being 'less than'… and that applies to every single person with a disability. No one should ever think that you are 'less than,'" he said.
Disability Matters Vote is a non-partisan public awareness campaign that aims to bring attention to barriers that Manitobans with disabilities face every day. The key issues raised at the debate included a "dignified" income for Manitobans with severe disabilities, timely support services, accessible infrastructure across the province, fair wages for support workers and employment for people with disabilities.
"Sometimes, exceptional people have exceptional needs and that’s what this campaign is all about realizing — building a Manitoba that is there for all of us," Kinew said. The NDP leader promised to transform Employment and Income Assistance into a basic income model and end clawbacks so Manitobans with disabilities on EIA who also work don’t suffer financially.
Meanwhile, Lamont said the Liberals would implement a universal basic income for all Manitobans and completely review EIA. A basic income would be about $18,000 to $19,000 per year, he said. Taking aim at the NDP and PC parties, Lamont added his party would adjust the province's basic-needs budget for the first time in 27 years. In fact, the basic-needs budget was updated in 2007.
Beddome said the Green party would implement a universal basic income that would be in addition to EIA. A single adult on EIA would receive an additional $7,000 annually, he said.
"The vision is to get away from our current shame-based system," he said.
Stefanson promised a review of EIA to create "a more dignified, alternative income program" for people with disabilities. She said that if re-elected, the PCs will adjust the basic-needs budget to recognize the cost of living.
"There's much more work to be done," she said, adding the Accessibility for Manitobans Act will come into force before 2021.
The participants all agreed wait times for support services need to be posted online, stricter enforcement mechanisms for building accessibility requirements are necessary and that Manitobans with disabilities need to be promoted as assets to the workforce.
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.