Ford government slashes income assistance hikes

Ford government announces social assistance overhaul

Ford government announces social assistance overhaul

The province's newly installed Conservative government announced this week that it will be cutting the trial short, breaking an election promise to keep it around.

On Tuesday, Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod announced a review of the entire slate of income assistance programs provided by Ontario.

"The Liberals presided over a disjointed, patchwork system, with no interest at all in whether these programs delivered results", she said.

In the March budget the Liberals announced they would raise income assistance rates by three per cent. MacLeod said that will be reduced to a 1.5 per cent increase.

"Social assistance will always be about compassion for people in need, but it must also be about lifting people up and helping them get their lives back on track through more jobs, more opportunities and more hope".

About 247,000 people are on Ontario Works (which is aimed at people who could be employed but aren't) and about 372,000 are on the Ontario Disability Support Program (for people who have disabilities that prevent them from working).

Ontario Premier Doug Ford's platform was undefined throughout the entire campaign, but one theme was abundantly clear: he was going to limit government services to put more money in Ontarians' pockets because "you can spend your money better than the government can".

The decision was made as part of a commitment to reform the province's social assistance system.

Ford government announces social assistance overhaul
Ontario scraps 'basic income' experiment

The basic income pilot project, which launched last year and was set to run for three years, provided payments to 4,000 low-income people in communities including Hamilton, Brantford, Thunder Bay and Lindsay.

"I knew it was coming every month", she said. Under the program, single participants received up to $16,989 annually and couples could get up to $24,027.

How did the program work?

"And cancelling the unfinished and promising basic income pilot project is a waste and a shame".

"What we have seen is that the program is not doing what it was meant to do", Ms. MacLeod said.

"I live with a person with a disability day-to-day and I'm involved in it through advocacy and it's still hard for me to understand the varying life situations of people in Ontario", she said.

The benefits of universal basic income have recently become a point of focus for many governments and advocacy groups.

Mike Schreiner, Guelph MPP and Green Party leader, considers the increase to be a cut to the social assistance rate.

If the effect on private consumption isn't convincing enough, PROOF research by Tarasuk and others has examined how poverty and food insecurity are associated with many other adverse health consequences that increase government expenditures for health care, a serious economic concern in Ontario and elsewhere.

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