Conservative MP leading the fight for better ‘safety net’ for workers with episodic diseases
Disclosure: Wyatt Claypool is a third-year Policy Studies and History student at Mount Royal University, where he serves as the President for its Campus Conservatives. He is also a Conservative board member for Signal Hill.
In November 2018, prominent Conservative MP David Yurdiga put forth a private members’ motion, M-192, in Canada’s parliament to change the standards in which financial disability aid is given.
Following his wife’s multiple sclerosis diagnosis in 2004, Yurdiga renewed discussions on workplace safety nets for those afflicted with episodic diseases. Their daughter has epilepsy, which is also an episodic disease.
“There are so many gaps in the system, both in policy and legislation that doesn’t address [this],” says Yurdiga.
“Patients are no longer “disabled” if they [don’t] need assistance for an extended period. It only sees those in need, as always needing aid, or not.”
77,000 Canadians suffer from multiple sclerosis, 60 percent of which remain unemployed, according to the Conference Board of Canada.
Having recently attended the Burgers to Beat MS event in his riding of Fort McMurray-Cold Lake, he has continued his humble demonstration of support for his most heartfelt cause.
“How the government looks at it is either you’re disabled, or you’re not,” states Yurdiga. “The system only sees those in need, as always needing aid, or not.”
In a blog by the MS Society, they write, “Our systems within Canada were set up in a way that includes a very narrow definition of disability and doesn’t allow for Canadians with episodic disabilities to fit within it.”
The “binary switch” illustrates the issue is not black and white.
Yurdiga states, “The Multiple Sclerosis Society walked us through the system [and] were a vast support network.”
Since last year, David and his wife Kathy have been pushing m-192, having worked closely with the Multiple Sclerosis Society, who have helped raise awareness on Yurdiga’s motion.
Eleven recommendations provided by the HUMA Committee report
On March 22nd, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities released a report including testimonies from a variety of witnesses and new data on episodic disabilities.
As part of the HUMA Committee Report, 11 recommendations were provided. Reform to Employment Insurance sickness benefits, income support, and better incentives to offset costs to employers are amongst those recommendations.
“Once [my motion was] tabled, it was [met with] unanimous consent,” says Yurdiga. “It went to committee rapid and then we had the witnesses, and then we create a report that was tabled in parliament, and the government’s going to respond to the report. The report [was] called the answer to improving the lives of Canadians living with episodic disabilities.”
“I felt really good about the motion because everybody was on [our] side. Nobody is questioning the motives behind it, and I think [people will] respond [in a] positive manner.”
M-192 has three general points regarding the treatment of those with episodic disabilities. They read: “1) the needs of people with episodic disabilities are addressed in government policies that support people with disabilities more broadly, 2) their rights are protected and 3) they have equitable access to relevant programs.” These were so common sense that they have been unanimously supported as David said.
The previously mentioned recommendations that were made similarly uncontroversial and well-taken additions to David’s motion. These include such measures as seen in recommendation 4, which “[Allow] workers to claim benefits in smaller units (hours or days) rather than weeks” which is a sensible way of supporting those with episodic disabilities who still work but only needs a small periods of time off to recover from an episode, which will require small amounts of financial support.
Every recommendation only made fine-print changes of the current disability aid laws that had previously locked out those suffering from episodic diseases. Most notably, recommendation 5 removes the language of “prolonged” and “severe” from current disability aid standards that caused many with conditions like MS from being granted the aid they deserve.
Due to his continued advocacy, parliament has taken significant steps in protecting the most vulnerable in Canadian society. There is no doubt that David will have a sense of relief as those in similar positions to his wife can be supported in living with an episodic disability as independent, productive citizens.
Hopefully, people like David Yurdiga and his wife Kathy inspire further legislative and charitable efforts to ensure no Canadian in need ever slips through the cracks.