Once again Finance Minister Flaherty has proven himself to be a friend of people with disabilities and their families.  His establishment of the RDSP – a world's first – has not only, shifted financial resources directly into the bank accounts of people with disabilities but also, shaken the old welfare model which kept our sons and daughters poor.  In the post-RDSP era, Provinces and Territories now accept the RDSP as an allowable asset no matter how large.  And there is NO claw-back of government benefits when RDSP funds are used. A major advance in reducing poverty among people with disabilities.

In today's Budget (March 4th) Minister Flaherty has fixed some of the growing pains and inevitable glitches of introducing something so new. For one, he is allowing RRSP's to be transferred into an RDSP, tax free.  For another, he is allowing families to carry forward their matching Disability Savings Grants and the $1000 a year Disability Savings Bond for 10 years.  This is particularly important for those who have wanted to contribute to their family member's RDSP but have not been able to because their family member has been deemed 'legally incompetent'.  In such situations families would have to resort to an adult guardianship order which is considered by most of us to be an affront to the actual capability of our son or daughter.  Adult Guardianship is a costly, intrusive and crude way of supporting someone who is vulnerable.  British Columbia is the only province where this has not been a problem.  British Columbia has Representation Agreements which include an enhanced test of capability – that is the existence of caring and trusting relationships is accepted as a key criterion of capability.

Flaherty is not able to fix the Adult Guardianship system in Canada because it is a Provincial matter. But his Budget encourages the provinces to streamline their procedures.  And to look to British Columbia on how to do it!  In the interim Flaherty acknowledges the concerns of parents and until a solution is established he has preserved the individual's entitlements for 10 years.

That should be long enough to streamline adult guardianship across Canada!  Advocates start your engines.  Let's organize a federal-provincial meeting to discuss how provincial guardianship systems can quickly accommodate our wishes.

How wonderful to have a Finance Minister willing to address complex issues outside his mandate and equally, to exert his leadership to provincial Governments.  We often lament the cautiousness of our politicians.  Clearly Jim Flaherty follows a different code. For that I salute him. And I suspect so do thousands of other Canadians.  If you agree please send him a note.  We are quick to criticize but often forget to compliment. You can reach Minister Flaherty at:   jflaherty@fin.gc.ca

For more highlights of Budget 2010 affecting people with disabilities see: www.plan.ca or www.rdsp.com

To read the Budget directly: http://www.budget.gc.ca/2010/plan/chap3d-eng.html

If you would like to learn more about alternatives to adult legal guardianship have a look at Chapter Four of my revised book, Safe and Secure RDSP edition available free at any London Drugs location in BC or by contacting PLAN directly.

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