The PC government is making changes to Social Assistance that may potentially be a good thing for the province’s coffers, but not for people who need help.
It passed Bill 47, which repeals most of Bill 148 and freezes the minimum wage to $14 until 2020. Prior to that, the basic income pilot project was arbitrarily chopped despite campaign promises not to cut it.
Many are now apprehensive at the announced changes to Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), including the trimming the increase to assistance rates from three per cent to half the amount.
Lisa MacLeod, the social services minister, is in favour of the changes which she argues are compassionate. Others like Diane Dyson, an anti-poverty activist, are against it, citing fears that life will become harder for the vulnerable.
One of the changes being made is raising the monthly earning threshold to $300 before clawing back government support payments, which does give some breathing space to those working part-time.
However, this limit falls short of the previous Liberal government’s proposal of a $400 threshold.
The cuts tighten the belt for people who are barely getting by on $721 a month, which is still not enough to cover rent — let alone the costs of food, clothes, and other basic needs.
Doug Ford’s government is also planning to redefine what counts as disability for recipients of ODSP, and how they are going to do that remains to be seen. There are fears it will become even harder for people with disabilities to receive the help they need.
People with disabilities are especially vulnerable, they need all the help they can get. It remains to be seen what will happen to them if they don’t meet the new requirements.
Ford claims to be a politician that’s for the people, yet his actions seem to be waging a war on the working class and those vulnerable. With all the cancellations and changes that now cut costs, surely there must have some surplus of funds to go around, where some of that money helps those who actually need it.
The amount of assistance people get from OW and ODSP should be increased so they can they can look for a job while being able to take care of themselves. Jobs don’t just fall out of the sky for people, it is hard to get work since most jobs require a certain amount of experience.
Social assistance should be tailored to meet individual needs, instead of a one size fits all strategy, which clearly doesn’t work. A paltry $721 a month with an income threshold of $300 is not going to help anyone very much.