You are currently browsing the monthly archive for November 2008.

Ontario’s Government has shown that they understand the will of individuals and families to help save for the future and have completely exempted the Registered Disability Savings Plan from affecting qualification for individuals receiving social assistance from the province.  This means people in Ontario can invest in an RDSP and withdraw from the plan without impacting their eligibility for social assistance or any of their social assistance payments.

“This is about making it easier for families to save for their children with disabilities,” said Minister of Community and Social Services Madeleine Meilleur. “We are making sure that people can put money in an RDSP without it affecting their eligibility for disability support.”

Al Etmanski, President and Co-Founder of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network, was quoted in the Ministry of Community and Social Services Press Release that detailed the full exemption.

“The message from the Ontario government is clear. It trusts families to help their relative with a disability and has opened the door for them to secure the future for their loved one. In twenty years, we’ll look back on this as a watershed moment for people with disabilities.” 

The Ontario Government also took the opportunity to raise the amount Ontarians can receive as a gift or payment from a trust from $5,000 to $6,000 a year.

Way to go Ontario!

For the full press release please visit:


Quebec is the first province/territory to not fully exempt the Registered Disability Savings Plan.  Quebec has amended the Individual and Family Assistance Regulations to include the Registered Disability Savings Plan as an exempt asset, but has only partially exempted any income coming out of the plan.  

So, if you reside in Quebec and you set up an RDSP, it can grow to an unlimited amount without affecting your Disability Benefits.  Unfortunately, payments from the plan have been only partially exempted from affecting provincial disability benefits.  You are allowed to withdraw $300 in income a month for an indvidual adult, and $340 in income a month for a couple, and your disability benefits will not be affected.  Anything above this threshold will be considered income and may disqualify or cause funds to be clawed-back from current benefits.

Section 111 – (29) lifetime payments made for the benefit of an adult from a registered disability savings plan, up to a maximum of $300 per month for an independent adult or a family composed of only one adult and $340 per month for a family composed of 2 adults;

To view the Regulations you can visit:

Al Etmanski, President and Co-Founder of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network did an Op-Ed piece for the Vancouver Sun which came out today.  The piece provides a really good overview of the RDSP and also outlines why this is such an important plan for people with disabilities.

Only in Canada: World’s first RDSP puts trust in families  

By Al Etmanski, President and Co-Founder of PLAN

In the midst of the global economic crisis, some of Canada’s most financially vulnerable citizens have just won a lottery of future possibilities.

Except that luck had nothing to do with it. It took a combination of desperation and vision, research and persuasion — not to mention partnership building between a small non-profit, some big financial institutions, and two levels of government.

The result? The world’s first Registered Disability Savings Plan, an innovative policy that’s already attracting international attention, even thought it’s not available until Monday, Dec. 1.

Similar to a Registered Educational Savings Plan, the RDSP is designed specifically for people living with a disability. It allows anyone already eligible for a disability tax credit to invest savings tax-free until withdrawal, up to a lifetime limit of $200,000. Friends and family members can also contribute to the RDSP of a loved one.

Given that Canadians living with a disability are disproportionately poor, receiving, for the most part, less than $10,000 a year in provincial disability support payments, this is already a big step forward. But it gets better. As an incentive for people to set up an RDSP and contribute to the plan, the government has also created the Canada Disability Savings Grant and the Canada Disability Savings Bond.

Through the disability grant, the government will provide up to $3 in matching funds for every $1 invested, to a maximum of $3,500 a year. The disability bond provides $1,000 annually to the plans of the most vulnerable — low-income families unable to contribute anything themselves.

What does that mean to my family and the half a million others across the country who have a son or daughter with a disability? It means the difference, potentially, between mere survival and a genuinely good life.

Most parents do whatever they can to provide the conditions and resources necessary for their children to grow up as healthy as possible, to have access to education and meaningful work, to live in their own homes, to be part of a community that loves and nurtures them.

For parents of children with a disability, the aspirations are the same, but the obstacles are higher. Social isolation, compromised earning capacity, and the challenges of living independently make the stakes even higher. Hoping that our children will outlive us, we also worry about how they’ll manage, and who will look after them, once we’re gone.

These were among the concerns that inspired the establishment of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Networks (PLAN) 20 years ago. A not-for-profit charity created by and for families, PLAN focuses on ensuring a safe and secure future for our relatives with a disability. It was the pursuit of such futures that fuelled our search for a mechanism that would help provide some long term financial security for our relatives. Most of us are realistic. We don’t expect our sons and daughters to live a life of extravagance. Neither do we expect government to provide everything. In fact, PLAN declines government funding and is built on a model that is sustained by families themselves. Our parent members have always lived up to our responsibilities and will continue to do so.

To read the rest of the article visit:

Exciting days as we prepare for the launch of the RDSP.  Today Alberta came out and annouced that they will be fully exempting the RDSP as an asset and income for people receiving provincial financial assistance programs.  This means that BC, Newfoundland, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and Yukon have all come out and fully exempted the RDSP.  We are hopeful that the rest of the provinces will come out and announce their treatment of the RDSP in the next few days.  

Alberta was an interesting case as they decided to work cross-ministry and include Seniors within the exemption of the RDSP.  This opens it up to a really large group of people who will benefit and was a really interesting addition to the announcement.  

The Alberta government will ensure Albertans with disabilities who have a federal Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) will not have their provincial benefits affected.  

The RDSP is a new federal program that will help parents and others save to ensure the long-term financial security of a child with a severe disability.  

“This will encourage families with children with disabilities to plan for their future needs, as well as help Albertans with disabilities to save money to supplement their income and maximize their independence,” said Mary Anne Jablonski, Minister of Seniors and Community Supports.”

If you would like to read more about the announcement you can visit:

Vickie Cammack, Co-Founder of PLAN and current Executive Director of PLAN Institute was honoured yesterday as one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women at a ceremony in Toronto.  The award recognizes remarkable Canadian women in eight different categories of excellence and was presented by the Women’s Executive Network (WXN). Vickie was also among a select group of recipients to be profiled in the Globe and Mail.

“Vickie is being honoured for her inspiration and demonstrable solutions related to social networks, social innovation, citizenship and disability. Vickie describes her work as ‘creating a revolution of belonging. She is a co-founder of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network, a successful author and inspirational speaker. Her focussed and strategic approach to developing social networks is being used around the world. A recognised social entrepreneur Vickie’s most recent initiative, to extend the impact of her work, is the creation of Tyze, a groundbreaking online personal network service.”

To read the entire article visit:

Reminder: if you are new to this blog and want a detailed description of the RDSP please click on the header under “RDSP FactSheet” or “RDSP Information Bulletin”.

“Which financial institutions are offering the RDSP?”  With the launch of the RDSP on December 1st most people are trying to figure out which financial institutions will be offering the RDSP.  From what we have heard, there is most likely only going to be a few financial institutions who are able to issue the RDSP in December, one of which is expected to be one of the large national banks.  In the next year, it is expected that there will be 14-16 financial institutions issuing the RDSP, to be most likely followed by more.  As for which financial institutions these are and whether they will be up and running on December 1st is still unknown.  We will posting a list at as soon as this information becomes public.  

With a limited amount of issuers expected to be up and running in December, and the desire of many people to capitalize on the Grant and Bond for 2008, it is going to be essential that people setting up an RDSP know what questions to ask before setting up a plan.  With limited options available it will be important that individuals do not get locked into something that is restrictive and inflexible.  With this in mind we had Dennis Mullins, a financial planner from Ontario, write an article on things to look out for when buying an RDSP.

Things to keep in mind when setting up a Registered Disability Savings Plan, by Dennis Mullins

Since there should be a few institutions offering RDSP plans before the end of 2008 it is useful to cover what to look for in an RDSP Plan.  One important difference between an RDSP and the more familiar RRSP is the fact that, while people may have multiple RRSPs, there can be only one RDSP plan per beneficiary.   You will be able to transfer the RDSP from one institution to another, but it is important to get the best plan possible for your loved one.   Here are some questions to ask.

1.       What are my investment options? You want the widest range possible of investment options to best suit your investment tolerance and time horizon. If the time horizon is short, you may want to stick to fixed income investments like GIC’s and bonds. If the RDSP plan is expected to grow over several decades, a balanced portfolio which includes some equities may offer the best long term performance.

2.       What is the investment transparency?  You should expect regular reports and these should show where your money is invested and what the returns are.

3.       What are the administrative fees?  There may be fees to purchase the investment, ongoing administrative fees and fees to take the money out. Of particular importance are transfer fees. What will the fee be to transfer your RDSP to another institution if you are not satisfied with your existing plan? This will be particularly important in the first few years if only a few plans are available in 2008 but a wider variety of plans appear in 2009-2010.

4.       What are the ongoing management fees?  A management fee of 2% will greatly reduce your return if the investment is making 3-4% a year.  

A RDSP is still an investment so treating it like your other investments makes common sense.  

If you have any questions on this article you can e-mail Dennis at 

Congratulations!  Yet another province has come out fully in favour of the Registered Disability Savings Plan. Yesterday, in the Speech from the Throne, the Manitoba Government indicated that they would be exempting the RDSP.

Manitobans with disabilities will have their eligibility for provincial supports expanded, by exempting federal Registered Disability Savings Plans from eligibility assessments. (click here for Throne Speech)

Today, at a noon press conference, the Government of Manitoba announced that they will fully support the launch of the RDSP in December and will be exempting the RDSP as an asset and income for those receiving Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) from the province.  Manitoba has now become the fifth province/territory to fully exempt the RDSP, including British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon, and Saskatchewan.  Manitoba residents will now be able to fully benefit from the plan without fear of having their Disability Benefits clawed back by asset and income tested Disability Benefits.  The Manitoba Government should be applauded for its move to help people with disabilities across the province save for their future financial well-being.

Manitoba went further and announced that they will also be reviewing trust policy to better harmonize it with the treatment of the RDSP and gifts to any Manitoban with a disability up to $500 a month.  We hope that other Governments across Canada come out fully in support of the RDSP and also follow Manitoba’s example in reviewing the treatment of trusts to harmonize with the RDSP and allowing families to help out their relative with up to $500 a month in gifts.

Excellent news!

To read more about this important announcement please visit:

I’m sure many of you watched or read the Speech from the Throne which was delivered today by the Governor General of Canada, Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, on behalf of the 40th Canadian Parliament.  There were several interesting points that came up within the text, but in particular the following passage on helping Canadians with disabilities participate.

Canada is built on the promise of opportunity, the chance to work hard, raise a family and make a better life. Today, it is more important than ever to deliver on this promise, and ensure that all Canadians share in the promise of this land, regardless of cultural background, gender, age, disability or official language.  This Government will break down barriers that prevent Canadians from reaching their potential.

Many working-age Canadians are faced with the dual pressure of holding down a job and caring for their family. Increasing numbers of Canadians are taking care of elderly parents while also raising young children. Our Government is committed to supporting working families and helping make ends meet.

Our Government will improve the Universal Child Care Benefit and take measures to increase access to maternity and parental benefits under Employment Insurance.

We will act to help families caring for loved ones with disabilities and to assist Canadians buying their first home.

Some Canadians face other barriers to participation in the economy and society, whether in the form of homelessness or debilitating illness. Our Government will extend the Homelessness Partnering Strategy and help more Canadians find affordable housing. It will take creative measures to tackle major heart, lung and neurological diseases and to build on the work of the Mental Health Commission.

To see the text in its entirety visit:


Reminder: if you are new to this blog and want a detailed description of the RDSP please click on the header under “RDSP FactSheet” or “RDSP Information Bulletin”

In order to be eligible to set up a Registered Disability Savings Plan you must receive or be eligible for the Disability Tax Credit.  The Disability Tax Credit can be applied for by filling out Form T2201 and submitting it to the Canadian Revenue Agency.  This form consists of two parts, one that must be completed by the individual, parent or guardian (on the persons behalf), and two which must be completed by a qualified practioner. 

Sometimes applying for Credits and rebates can be a frustrating and time-consuming experience.  In an effort to help you maximize your chances of receiving the Disability Tax Credit and becoming eligible for the RDSP, we have asked Doug Lagasse of Ken Lagasse Inc., Chartered Accountants to provide a guest post on the challenges of applying for the Disability Tax Credit and what you can do to increase your chances.

The Grey List
Facing the Challenges of Qualifying for Disability Tax Credits, by Doug Lagasse

The application process for Disability Tax Credits (DTC) should be simple and straightforward but like many other things in life, reality can trump expectations.  In the case of DTC applications, the best way to overcome the challenges of qualifying is to know that there are grey areas in the application process and to understand how they apply to your situation.  This article is not about what types of medical conditions qualify for a DTC, but rather to enhance your awareness of the application process and your chances of qualifying.

In many cases, where the disability is severe and is unquestionably what the tax department calls a ‘marked restriction on daily living activities’, the challenges of qualifying will be less extreme. 

This grey list is not theoretical but based on years of experience. Each topic was chosen because these were some of the repeated issues that have affected numerous applications. It is offered in the spirit that “getting it right the first time” is more important than ever.  Recent federal government initiatives that support further tax reduction possibilities (potential income splitting) and the life enhancing new Registered Disability Savings Plan are dependent on a successful DTC application. 


The effects of a prolonged medical condition that are experienced by each individual are unique and it is the effects of the condition that CRA will look at when reviewing an application.  The grey area here is, “When does a disability become severe enough to qualify for a DTC?”  How do good days and bad days matter? Does ability to work matter? How about likelihood of improvement?  What matters most, is that the description of the effects of a condition are clearly stated.

Doctors Role

Does your doctor, however well-intentioned, have a good understanding of what the tax department requires to successfully qualify a DTC applicant?  Do you?  The DTC application form (T2201) has changed numerous times in the last five years — once quite dramatically. Is your doctor up to date?  Most doctors are extremely busy and that can’t be good for their enthusiasm of completing forms.  If the application form is vague, missing information or is contradictory, the tax department will likely respond by sending a questionnaire to the doctor asking for clarification in some areas.  This should be avoided.  The modern trend of 10 minute appointments does not help doctors to fully understand the effects of a patient’s condition.  Be sure your doctor understands your condition, knows how long you have been affected and that they have all of your medical records. 

Loving the Tax Department

Each tax centre has a tendency to have different management guidelines and protocols.  As well, each officer who reviews the applications has a unique understanding of the intent of the legislation. Obviously, what that means is that the same application may be treated differently depending on whose desk it lands.  To avoid gambling with your application, make sure to pay close attention to your application process, so that the decision for them is easy to make and it is the one you want! Then you can love them too.


Regretfully, even though a medical condition may normally qualify an applicant, DTC applications can be denied because of a technicality in the application process. Certainly, CRA allows for objections that can go as far as court challenges and usually this means your doctor would be involved. However, a way to look at it sideways is to re-apply in a succeeding year. Although it is now an uphill battle, this is allowed. CRA will be aware that you have previously been turned down and they will look very closely at your application and ask, “What is different this time?”  In this scenario diligence in understanding what went wrong in the first place, will go a long way.   Professional help is likely crucial. 

The Financial Results

A successful DTC application is the most important goal, but stay focused on maximizing financial results as well.  Canada has a self assessing tax system and you must tell the tax department what to do or they may not take action. In this case, the grey area is assessing all the options of properly transferring the DTC credits (and refunds) to a family member if they cannot be used completely by the person with the disability.

Grey Advice

Like a mouse asking a cat for the best place to hide, it may not always be in your best interest to depend solely on advice from the tax department.   Calling the toll free line and asking for advice can be hit or miss.  It is not that they intend to mislead you, but different interpretations can come into play.  In other words, getting the correct answers not only depends on your questions, but whether the officer from CRA knows the right questions to ask you about your situation.  

Being Successful

The DTC is an important document.  The most productive approach is to treat it as your responsibility, not your doctors.  Always get a copy of your DTC application from your doctor or representative.  The chances of success are improved by including supporting documentation with your application.  You or your representative (not your doctor) should submit your application.   

Remember, the tax department has no choice but to focus on the details.  Since a DTC application is most often a one-time application, it can mean significant value year after year, so your interests are best served with a similar focus.  Leave as little to chance as possible.  

For more information on how to apply and receive the Disability Tax Credit you can contact Doug Lagasse at 604-629-1919 or visit

Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN) is delighted to have been selected as a finalist from 245 entries across 43 different countries in Ashoka’s global competition. The competition has been created to highlight outstanding demonstrations of innovation, social impact, and sustainability from across the globe.  PLAN was selected for our work on the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP).  

To win, PLAN’s entry must get more votes than the other contestants. Your vote will help.

To VOTE and support the continued policy efforts of PLAN follow the 5 steps below:

1) Register and create your profile (here)

2) Receive confirmation e-mail from Ashoka with username and password

3) Continue to the competition page (here) and click on “Vote for Winners”.

4) Click on “login” and enter your user name and password

5) Scroll down to “List of Finalists” and select “Registered Disability Savings Plan, Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network”, along with two other entries (for a summary of entries click (here)

Vote by November 24th !  

3 winners will be announced and will have their social innovation highlighted by the By supporting PLAN’s work on the RDSP you can help raise the awareness of the RDSP around the world.

Thank you for your continued efforts to support PLAN and our policy work.

Subscribe by email

Facebook Page