QUEEN'S PARK — NDP MPPs delivered a report Wednesday to Doug Ford and the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services highlighting the daily challenges of Ontarians who live on social assistance in their own words, part of the NDP's ongoing efforts to urge the Ford government to double social assistance rates.
The report is the result of a social assistance roundtable discussion NDP MPPs hosted in October with social assistance recipients, service providers and advocates across the province. It highlights the strain that inadequate rates of Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) place on the individual recipient and on society, costing Ontario millions of dollars in health care and social services costs and putting undue strain on social service programs like community food banks.
"Every day in Ontario, there are about 900,000 people who are forced to make impossible decisions while living on social assistance — choices nobody in Ontario should ever have to make, like, do I pay my rent or buy groceries? Pay for medication or buy new shoes for my child?" said Monique Taylor, NDP critic for Children, Community and Social Services."
Despite record levels of inflation and rates frozen since 2018, this year, the Ford government only provided a meager, five-per cent increase to ODSP.
"The abysmally low rates of OW and ODSP mean hundreds of thousands of Ontarians are legislated to live in deep poverty; to struggle to find housing and pay the bills, to see their mental and physical health erode and to contend daily with isolation and stress," said Chandra Pasma, NDP critic for Poverty and Homelessness Reduction.
Lise Vaugeois, NDP critic for Persons with Disabilities and Accessibility, stated: "The testimonials in this report are a clear message to Doug Ford that we are begging him not to ignore: Enough is enough; it's time to double social assistance rates."
The NDP has been urging the Ford government to raise OW and ODSP rates for months, as cost of living soars. In September, Taylor, Pasma and Vaugeois and MPPs Jessica Bell (University—Rosedale) and Joel Harden (Ottawa Centre), participated in an advocacy initiative to bring urgent focus to the paltry rates. For two weeks, the MPPs ate only what they could buy with up to about $95 for two weeks, an average of $47.60 per week—an approximated two-week grocery budget for social assistance recipients, though many recipients must live on less.
"Every Ontarian deserves to live a life of dignity," Bell stressed.
Harden emphasized: "The NDP will not stop fighting until the Ford government doubles social assistance rates, ensuring that everyone in our province has access to a good quality of life, including the ability to afford decent housing, nutritious food and other necessities."