In This Issue 1 Employment insurance is worth protecting
Trains and residents in Pointe-Saint-Charles
Supporting public transit for our cities
2 Protecting your pension
Tyrone Benskin MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT // JEANNE-LE BER
The Disability Tax Credit
In the community
Parliamentary Bulletin • Winter/Spring 2013 A Message from Tyrone Benskin Dear friends, Among the great pleasures I have in being your representative in Ottawa are speaking to issues that are of concern to you and celebrating the great work being done by so many in our community. In Ottawa, under Official Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair, my colleagues and I continue to bring major issues to the forefront on your behalf, such as the changes to your EI system, the defense of social housing (NDP Bill C-400), and the questions surrounding the Champlain Bridge. Unfortunately we will soon be hit by even more drastic cuts in the upcoming 2013 budget from this Conservative Government. And as always, we will fight vigorously for you and your families. At home, I and my team continue to work with the many dedicated organizations in our community, taking those issues back to Ottawa on your behalf. We also continue to work with you individually on immigration and other federal matters, and we will continue to keep you informed on the issues that matter to you, whether they are affairs here at home or events abroad that affect how you and
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your Canada are reflected internationally. On a more celebratory note, I must say that some of the most exciting moments during February’s constituency week were awarding Diamond Jubilee Medals to many of our neighbours who have contributed so profoundly to our community. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank all of you who have responded so positively to our newsletters and communiqués, and who take the time to respond to our mini-surveys. Your participation helps us better understand the issues that are important to you. I trust you will find the articles in this issue informative. As always, if you have thoughts or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact me or my staff, either in the riding or in Ottawa. As a party the NDP has always been committed to people first; as your MP I am committed to making that a reality. Until next time,
Tyrone Benskin Official Opposition Deputy Critic for Official Languages
Employment Insurance is Worth Protecting In the last issue, I told you about the Harper government’s attacks on workers and the employment insurance system. Unfortunately, since then the attacks have gotten worse.
$57 billion has been siphoned from the EI fund to pay for corporate tax giveaways. As a result, 6 in 10 Canadians have been disqualified from their benefits—and still Harper continues to cut.
It’s crucial to remember that EI is not a gift. It’s a system that Canadians pay into throughout their working lives. And EI strengthens our workforce by helping jobless Canadians continue on career paths that take advantage of their education, training and experience.
The Conservatives have now set quotas for how much money agents have to save by kicking people off EI. Minister Finley denied it in the House, but documents obtained by Le Devoir showed that she wasn’t telling the truth—the quotas are very real.
Starting under the Liberals,
that the government is sen ding agents without notice to disturb people in their homes—all the while being unable to answer people’s phone calls due to a lack of staff! It’s absurd, and threatening.
A growing grass-roots movement is protesting these unacceptable measures throughout Québec, and the NDP is in solidarity. We are pressing the government daily in the House to cancel these devastating changes and maintain workers’ fair access to the decent benefits they’ve paid for. At the same time, we learned Find out more: ndp.ca/EI
Trains and Residents in Pointe-Saint-Charles
Supporting Public Transit For Our Cities
A recent report from the federal Transportation Safety Board (TSB) on the freight train derailment in PointeSaint-Charles on September 24, 2011 concluded that the accident was caused by excessive speed and ambiguous speed limit signals in the area.
Year after year, Canadian transit ridership breaks new records, but cities are struggling to keep up. The result: longer commutes, less reliable transit service, and gridlock that costs our Canadian economy a whopping $10 billion each year.
CN must take this report’s findings to heart. It was sheer luck that no CN workers or residents were injured and that no dangerous goods were spilled. These issues are all the more urgent since the derailment took place in the heart of Pointe-Saint-Charles, a residential area in which CN continues to run, switch, subdivide, and store trains.
Numerous residents have expressed their worry at the risks of these operations, especially the transportation of dangerous goods and the high noise levels. I’ve called on CN to ensure that its train operations are conducted with the greatest prudence and consideration for Pointe-Saint-Charles residents. The Conservative government must also act. However, last year, 80% of the TSB’s recommendations to the government went unanswered. Instead of acting, Conservatives preferred to continue with drastic cuts that endanger the safety of our transportation systems.
Protecting Your Pension Have you been asking yourself how—or if—you’ll be able to retire? I’ve spoken to many of our friends and neighbours who are asking themselves the same question. Seniors are struggling to pay their bills and buy their medications, and more and more of them are having to turn to food banks just to get by. But
Conservatives have responded by raising the age for Old Age Security (OAS) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) from 65 to 67 years old. Beyond being just plain cruel, it threatens to worsen seniors’ health and social conditions, and in the end will cost taxpayers more, not less. The NDP has a better way.
Despite the evidence, the Conservative government continues to disengage from funding transit. The Conservatives voted down a motion by my colleague Olivia Chow for stable, predictable federal funding for infrastructure, including public transit, across Canada. As a result, Canada will remain the only G8 country without a federal transit strategy.
The Disability Tax Credit (DTC) is a non-refundable tax credit of as much as $1,380 per year applied against any income tax you owe. If it’s more advantageous—e.g. if the disabled person has no revenue and pays no income tax—the credit can be transferred to a spouse or family member. If you are eligible, you can claim the DTC retro-
Tyrone Benskin, MP
actively going back up to ten years! You could be eligible if you are always or nearly always unable to perform a normal task of daily living, such as walking, hearing, seeing, speaking, eating, dressing, or bathing, or need an excessive amount of time to do so; if you almost always have significant difficulty perceiving instructions, thinking, or remembering (e.g. dementia, Alzheimer’s disease); if you live with mental health problems that require constant monitoring or nearly always prevent you from leaving your house; if you have major problems with bowel or blad-
This isn’t about whether Canada can afford to invest in transit. It’s about whether we can afford not to. In particular, my colleagues and I are supporting the many voices at the provincial, municipal, and community level calling for federal funding for a rapid and efficient mass transit system to be included in the plans for the new Champlain Bridge. We need a project that’s adapted to the realities of the 21st century. Among other things, the health of Jeanne-Le Ber residents depends on it.
To modernize transit, what cities need is long-term, pre- http://petition.ndp.ca/transit We’ll return the retirement age to 65, strengthen public pensions, increase the GIS, protect pension plans so workers don’t lose everything if the company they work for goes bankrupt, and bring in a range of measures to lower the cost of medications.
matically registered for the GIS as soon as they become eligible. Right now, people have to apply on their own, and red tape means that some 135,000 seniors aren’t getting the GIS payments they have a right to. Laurin’s bill is another great example of the NDP’s commitment to the people who’ve My colleague Laurin Liu, MP built this country — our for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, has seniors. just tabled a private member’s bill that will see seniors auto-
Disability Tax Credit In our community, thousands of people with disabilities, as well as their spouses and family members who care for them, have never been made aware that they are eligible for an important tax credit that often includes a significant refund.
dictable funding from the federal government. Only then can they build more reliable amd modern transit services that meet citizens’ needs.
Important der function; or if you continually need life-sustaining therapy (e.g. chemotherapy, dialysis). To gain access to this tax credit, you need to fill out a request form and have your disability attested to by a doctor or another qualified professional.
During our recent information session on the Disability Tax Credit, a number of you expressed dismay over the unannounced changes to how you receive your tax forms. At your request, I raised your concerns in the House on February 28.
There are also several other tax credits that people with disabilities can access. Let us help you find them.
The government’s decision to stop automatically mailing out tax forms will disproportionately affect groups who often lack Internet access, such as seniors, disabled people, and people with low incomes.
For all the details on the DTC and other credits, please contact my office or consult my website at tyronebenskin. ndp.ca/disability-tax-credit .
You can still have forms sent to you by mail by calling 1-800959-8281. If necessary, you can also contact my riding office for more help.
Photo: Dave Huehn
1 The Auberge communautaire du Sud-Ouest celebrated its 25th anniversary in December. 2 Christmas Mass at Formosa Christian Church in Verdun. 3 The Christmastime distribution of groceries at the Église St-Charles food bank in Pointe-St-Charles. 4 Presenting certificates to police officers François Paquette and Simon Rivard, decorated for bravery for risking their lives to save a woman from drowning in Verdun in 2009. 5 The Burgundy Awards Gala honoured the perseverance and success of students in the Sud-Ouest. 6 Visit to the offices of Habitat for Humanity in St-Henri, with Charmaine Borg, MP for Terrebonne—Blainville. 7 Presenting the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal to Giovanni Iuliani for his services to the art of circus. Mr. Iuliani is best known for playing the clown Patapouf for more than 50 years. 8 Tyrone takes a citizen’s question during the information session on the Disability Tax Credit, organized with fellow MPs Hélène LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard) and Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, BC).
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In the Community When children do not con-
form to common ideas of what boys or girls are like, or insist that they belong to a different gender than expected, parents can often feel at a loss as to how to respond. Famijeunes in St-Henri offers a free, bilingual support group for parents of transgender and “gender-creative” children, to give them resources and help them better understand, accept, and support their children as they discover themselves. A supervised play area adapted to the children’s needs is available for them and their siblings during the meetings. Congratulations to Famijeunes for supporting these children and their families! 2nd Monday of each month, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. 3904, rue Notre-Dame O. (Place-St-Henri metro) email@example.com 514-585-6706 RUBBERBANDance, a St-
Henri-based dance company, has been shaking up the Montreal dance scene with its intriguing and innovative mix of ballet, contemporary dance, and breakdance. It has appeared on such prestigious stages as Usine C and Place des Arts, and in the USA, Europe, and Japan. Its 10th anniversary was recently crowned by receiving the Canadian Dance Assembly’s Aga Khan Museum International Award at the first-
ever national I Love Dance Awards. Congratulations and best wishes to RUBBERBANDance, which incarnates the boiling creativity of the SudOuest and reminds us that artistic innovation is at the very heart of our identity. rubberbandance.com The Victor Hugo Residents
Association is considering expanding to bring together the residents of the whole area east of Little Burgundy and north of Griffintown, a neighbourhood that currently doesn’t have a specific community organization. The area in question is the rectangle bounded by SaintAntoine, Guy, Notre-Dame, and University streets. If you live in this area and would like to get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org . residentsvh.wordpress.com Exciting things are happen-
ing on Verdun’s Promenade Wellington. On March 12, the borough and its partners released “Orientation CentreVille,” an action plan to create an even more welcoming, attractive Wellington Street and stimulate Verdun’s small businesses. Then on March 23 and 24, Wellington Street was transformed into a sugar bush! Maple taffy on snow, a a gourmet sugar shack menu, DJs, animation, and prizes delighted young and old alike. ville.montreal.qc.ca/verdun promenadewellington.com
On Parliament Hill As chair of the All-Party Arts Caucus, on February 27 I had the honour of presiding a forum celebrating and strengthening cultural activities across the country. Major cultural organizations took part to impress upon MPs the profound and even healing effects that arts and culture can have on those who take part. Among the groups represented were Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, the Canadian Dance Assembly, Le Lab, BluePrintForLife, and the Art for Healing Foundation, whose headquarters are right here in Jeanne-Le Ber. At right, Earl Pinchuk and Gary Blair, co-founders of the Art for Healing Foundation, during the meeting.
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Tyrone Benskin Member of Parliament for Jeanne-Le Ber House of Commons Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6