You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2008.

We at PLAN would like to wish you and your families all the best for 2009. 

Looking back… 2008 was year of many accoplishments for us.  We are pleased that our many years of work have paid off:

– the RDSP is now available to people with disabilities and families across Canada

– most provinces have made the RDSP an exempt asset for the purposed of determining eligibility for disability benefits

– most provinces have exempted income that people will receive from their RDSPs so that they will not be penalized when they receive payments from their plans

– the federal goverment has extended the dead line for 2008 contributions to March 2, 2009.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have assisted us in 2008.  Without your support we would not have been successful.

Looking forward… our goal is to make sure that the 500,000 families who have relatives that qualify for the RDSP have good information.  Families’ aspirations for a good life for their loved ones is our ultimate goal: nothing less will do.

We know that this is a bold vision but we think it is worth it.  We also know that success will depend on our collaborative efforts.  Here are a couple ways that you can help:

1. Spread the word about

We are on target for over 100,000 visits to this blog in 2009 – but we need to reach 500,ooo people.  So we need your assistance.  As you make your 2009 resolutions, we ask that one of them be to spread the word.  If you have access to a website or blog, link it to  If you have family or friends who are working to secure a good life for a loved one with a disability, send them the link.

2.  Make a charitable donation to PLAN

Time has run out for 2008 charitable contributions but its the perfect time to begin to plan for 2009.   As a small, family-lead organization, PLAN’s effectiveness depends on our many friends and allies who support our work. 

If you want more information about us, visit our website at  If you decide to support our work, you can do so online at our PLAN donations page.

See you in 2009!


Canada’s Registered Disability Savings Plan is the first tool of its kind in the world.  People with disabilities, families and policy makers around the world have been watching its implementation.  In the United States, Senators Dodd and Casey have each introduced bills to create mechanisms to assist people with disabilities to save for the future. 

Because the election of Barack Obama and the meltdown of the economy dominated US news headlines in 2008, it is not surprising that we didn’t hear much about Bills S.2741 and S.2743 that were introduced to the US Congress in March of 2008.  Both Bills are proposals to create tax incented savings plans for people with disabilities.  They are broadly modelled on Canada’s RDSP but neither proposes government contributions that match the Canada Disability Savings Grants or Bonds or permit the RDSPs flexibility around contributions and payments. 

Both have been referred to the Senate Finace Committee.  For more information:

S.2741 The Disability Savings Act of 2008 (Sen. Christopher Dodd [D-CT])
S.2743 Financial Security Accounts for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2008 (Sen. Robert Casey [D-PA])

December 23, 2008


Minister Flaherty announces extension for 2008 contributions


At an event to mark the national availability of the RDSP through BMO, Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty today announced that any contributions made by March 2nd, 2009 will be considered 2008 contributions, and will be matched by 2008 Grants.  This is great news for people and their families who have been desperate to get their plans open and contributions made to access the 2008 Grant and Bond.


Federal Government Update


Minister Flaherty was joined by Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Canada, Tom Flynn, Executive Vice President at BMO and Jack Styan, Executive Director of PLAN.


Federal Government News Release


Listen to the statements made at the December 23rd press conference:

            Honorable Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance

            Honorable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

            Jack Styan, Executive Director of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network.

To find out about the RDSP, whether you qualify, and where you can sign up, visit .

Now that it looks like the Bank of Montreal will become the first national bank in Canada to offer the RDSP, and will most likely start offering RDSPs on December 22nd, many people are wondering whether their is any opportunity to receive the Grant and Bond retroactively (until June 2009).  With the shortened time period (December 22nd to December 31st) to get your RDSP set up and your contributions in for 2008 (to leverage the 2008 Grant and Bond), this idea of the retroactive 2008 Grant and Bond has been proposed by a number of people interested in the RDSP.  

So what is the likelihood?

From what we have heard, the likelihood is not that great (although, you never know).  With the limited number of Financial Institutions offering the plan, and the desire of many people not to miss out on the 2008 Grant and Bond, it seems to make sense.  Where it starts to get tricky is when we start to look at exactly what would need to happen in order for this type of change to occur.  Allowing for a retroactive Grant and Bond would require a change in Regulations, which is not a quick or easy process and would require either pass through Cabinet or Ministerial amendment.  Financial Institutions would also have to modify some of their systems to account for this change in policy.  This is not to say that it won’t happen, but that it may be a longshot.

There have been some efforts to push for this retroactive Grant and Bond, and there still seems to be a little steam behind these initiatives, but for the time being you should assume that this retroactivity will not be available.  We will make sure to track this discussion and update everyone as soon as we find out anything.

If you want more information on how to set up an RDSP with BMO you can call their BMO Investment Centre at 1-800-665-7700.

Good news for everyone wanting to take advantage of the Grant and Bond for 2008!  

The Bank of Montreal, which has branches across the country, will be offering RDSPs to Canadians in December.  Starting December 22nd, people will be able to set up a plan with BMO and begin saving for their future.  Bank of Montreal will then become the first national bank to offer the plans in Canada. 

To find out more and contact BMO to set up an RDSP, you can call the BMO Investment Centre at 1-800-665-7700.

For continuing information regarding the plans we will be updating

To find out about the RDSP, whether you qualify, and where you can sign up, visit .

As we follow the ongoing saga of the RDSP, I find it useful to provide some important tips for preparing to set up an RDSP and what you should be aware of when you do.

As we have mentioned before on this blog, and as is mentioned in far greater detail on, in order to be eligible for the RDSP you will have to follow 4 Key Steps.  These Steps are:

1)  Make sure you are eligible and apply for the Disability Tax Credit.

2)  Have a valid Social Insurance Number.

3)  File a 2006 and 2007 tax return (the amount of Grant and Bond will be determined by your income reported on your tax return from two years prior).  If you want to receive a Grant and Bond for 2008, you will need to have filed your tax return for 2006.

4) If your setting up an RDSP for a child, make sure you apply for the Canada Child Tax Benefit.

With the only a few financial institutions likely to be ready to issue the RDSP in December (although we have heard there may be a national bank offering the RDSP before the end of the month), it will be essential that people are prepared.  If you are planning to capitalize on the Grant and Bond for 2008 (I realize this is going to be pretty tight for most people), and a financial institution is able to offer you a plan, make sure you have that 2006 tax return filed.

To find out about the RDSP, whether you qualify, and where you can sign up, visit .

Guest post by Al Etmanski, President and Co-Founder of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN)

And Now there are Two!

Only when difference has its home, when the need for belonging in all its murderous intensity has been assuaged, can our common identity begin to find its voice. –   Michael Ignatieff – The Needs of Strangers

Canadians with disabilities and their families now have two political champions, Jim Flaherty and Michael Ignatieff. On the surface they are unlikely allies but in practice they share a profound understanding that Canada is strengthened when everyone participates, when everyone contributes, when everyone belongs. 

We have been well served by Finance Minister Flaherty’s lived experience of the issues – he has a son with a disability. I have written elsewhere about the profound impact his masterpiece, the RDSP will have on the financial and social well being of people with disabilities and the peace of mind it brings to their families (see article).

I had personal experience of Minister Flaherty’s intuitive grasp of our issues at a recent global conference on Social Role Valorization the current expression of the philosophy of normalization.  As I escorted him into the plenary session he asked what the conference was really about.  I mentioned that normalization thinking had sparked a transformation in how we treat and support people with disabilities.  How it had revealed the devastating effects of segregation and led to the integration, inclusion and acceptance of our sons and daughters.  He nodded in deep recognition and proceeded to speak without notes for 10 minutes, revealing his grasp of how inspiration and new ways of thinking propel and inform change.  He spoke from the heart, expressing gratitude for the audience’s role in creating a coherent framework for a more caring community focused on our common identity.  His written speech, which is pretty good, Minister Flaherty Address.  His actual speech was stirring and touched the audience’s heart. 

Now the Canadian disability community has another champion – Michael Ignatieff, the new leader of the Opposition Liberal Party. I was introduced to Ignatieff through his first book, The Needs of Strangers  (see excerpt).  It remains a clarion call for rethinking how we care for each other.  With passion and insight he sets a framework for our responsibility to the other, particularly the ‘strangers’ who live among us and for setting the conditions of ‘human flourishing’ for everyone.  This wasn’t rhetoric – it was an impassioned exploration of the language of the good with the intention of returning philosophy to its proper place as a guide to being human.

I devoured his Booker nominated novel Scar Tissue about a mother in the final stages of dementia being cared for by her adult son.  It contains eloquent and impassioned reflections on the essence of being human, what constitutes personhood, and about our deep connection with others– even when consciousness, awareness and capability may be in question. 

In 2001 Sam Sullivan, former Mayor of Vancouver introduced me to him.  Sam and I along with others had created a global dialogue on citizenship as seen through the experiences of people with disabilities ( ).  Ignatieff proceeded to use some of our thinking in his Massey lecture series and its companion book, The Rights Revolution (see here).  By then he was teaching at Harvard, so we invited him to a Dialogue on Citizenship and noted human rights activist, Catherine Frazee and an audience of five hundred at Ryerson (view here).  I was impressed by his immersion in the topic, his preparation, his generosity (no speakers fee) and his curiosity.  My lasting image is of him sitting cross-legged on the floor of  a room at the Delta Chelsea after the event, among wheelchairs, guide dogs and an impressive cross section of disability leaders.

Jim Flaherty and Michael Ignatieff are not as different as we might expect. They may not describe it similarly but they both recognize our human fragility and seek to transform both our attitudes and our practices of caring. Perhaps it is through the doorway of disability where their and our political differences, in fact all our differences, will have their home – the place where we acknowledge our boundaries and then surpass them.

by Al Etmanski, President and Co-Founder of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN)

To find out about the RDSP, whether you qualify, and where you can sign up, visit .  

In  a formal announcement today, the Government of New Brunswick decided to exempt the Registered Disability Savings Plan.  

“RDSPs will allow families to invest in the long-term financial needs of their children with disabilities,” Minister Mary Schryer said. “This will make it easier for families to save for their children who have disabilities, while also ensuring that these savings do not affect their child’s eligibility for disability supports.”

Although not a complete exemption, the NB Government will fully exempt RDSP assets when calculating clients’ eligibility for income-tested programs such as social assistance and social housing benefits. Clients will be eligible to receive up to $800 a month from an RDSP, in addition to their social assistance.  The $800 a month, as outlined by the Ministry of Social Development, will be based on the Low Income Cut-Off (determined by Statistics Canada), and will fluctuate depending on this measure.

To read the entire press release visit:

For those of you keeping track, this means that we have 9 provinces who have come out in favour of the Registered Disability Savings Plan.  This includes full exemptions from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Newfoundland, Yukon, and partial exemptions from Quebec and New Brunswick.  

To find out about the RDSP, whether you qualify, and where you can sign up, visit

On December 3rd PLAN and PLAN Institute gathered with friends, partners, and supporters to celebrate a historic milestone.   After years of hard work, advocacy, and partnership, the Registered Disability Savings Plan became a reality on December 1st.  During the celebration there were speeches by Al Etmanski, President and Co-Founder of PLAN, MLA Claude Richmond, Jack Styan, Executive Director of PLAN, Vickie Cammack, Executive Director of PLAN Institute, and Rob and Kathy Bromley, PLAN Lifetime members. 

These speeches spoke to the power of the RDSP and the work that has gone into implementing the plan.  We also had some families come up and speak about how they see themselves using the RDSP when it becomes available.

PLAN Executive Director Jack Styan explaining the impact of the RDSP for Canadian families

PLAN President Al Etmanski and MLA Claude Richmond discussing social finance and the innovation of an RDSP

PLAN Lifetime Members Rob and Cathy Bromley sharing the meaning of the RDSP for their family

At the celebration the BC Government announced that they will be publishing 40,000 copies of the book Safe and Secure – RDSP Edition to disseminate free to individuals and families across the province to help people plan for the future and understand things like the RDSP, trusts, wills and estates, supported decision-making, etc…  These books will be available to families sometime in the new year.

The Registered Disability Savings Plan is now an official Canadian Registered Plan and can be issued by Financial institutions across Canada.  The RDSP promises to be a life-changing future planning tool for hundreds of thousands of Canadians with a disability, and we are excited that this has become a reality.  We see the RDSP as an opportunity for families and individuals across Canada to greatly increase their future financial security and quality of life.

Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN) is also excited to announce the launch of our new website .  This website is the go-to website for any information relating to the RDSP, including financial updates, provincial treatments, details and analysis, stories, the new RDSP Calculator, and much more.

National and Provincial Update

The Provincial Governments of British Columbia, Newfoundland, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Yukon have all fully exempted the RDSP from affecting Disability Benefits as an asset or income.  This is a very exciting development as it means that Canadians in all of these provinces will be able to fully benefit from the RDSP.  Quebec and New Brunswick have exempted the RDSP as an asset, but only partially exempted the income coming out of the plan ($300 per month exempt – QB, and $800 a month – NB).  Visit for more detail.

Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Northwest Territories and Nunavut have yet to announce the treatment of the RDSP for those receiving Disability Benefits, but are expected to announce in the next few months.  Keep checking this blog and our new website for updates on these provinces/territories.

Financial Update

Currently, Fédération des médecins omnipraticiens du Québec (Quebec Federation of General Practitioners) is the only financial institution that has signed an agreement with the Federal Government to offer the RDSP.  FMOQ has indicated that it will offer the RDSP to its members (general practitioners) and their patients, and anyone referred to them by financial institutions who do not offer the plan (Québec residents only).  To learn more visit:  

Currently no other national or regional financial institutions are issuing the RDSP.  A few other financial institutions are expected to be ready to issue the RDSP in the next few months.  Please check or this blog for updates on financial institutions.

We would like to thank the Federal Government of Canada, the Provincial Governments who have come out in support of the RDSP, and the large number of people across Canada who have advocated and supported the plan throughout its development and implementation.  We believe this plan has the potential to change lives of hundreds of thousands of people across Canada.

If you are interested in setting up an RDSP, visit for details on the plan, instructions on how to set up the plan and other helpful tools and links.  

For ongoing updates and to support PLAN in our ongoing advocacy work, sign up for free and receive RDSP related materials and information at

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