Food bank criticizes Ford government changes to social assistance

Saul Bowman
August 3, 2018

Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod said Tuesday the government is scrapping the "basic income" project of the previous Liberal government.

The province's first steps will be to cancel the previous government's plan to raise Ontario Disability Support Program and Ontario Works rates by three per cent and raise them by 1.5 per cent instead, said MacLeod, adding the decision was made "on compassionate grounds".

The basic income pilot project was introduced in April 2017 and was tested in Hamilton, Brantford, Brant County, Lindsay and Thunder Bay and the surrounding area.

By the numbers: About 4,000 people in Ontario, Canada began getting monthly stipends last October to boost them to at least 75 percent of the poverty line.

"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. That translates to a minimum annual income of $17,000 in Canadian dollars (about $13,000 US) for single people, $24,000 for married couples.

In a weird turn of events Thursday, Doug Ford's government said its promise to keep the basic income pilot was "fake news".

Sherry Mendowegan has been able to pursue post-secondary education as a result of participating in the Ontario basic income pilot program.

On Wednesday, when asked about breaking that promise, Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod told the legislature "we made a tough decision that is going to be right for the people, but it was a hard decision to make". Did they quit their jobs because they got basic income?

When pressed on why the program was being cancelled, MacLeod responded only that it was not going to be sustainable.

MacLeod said the government will provide "more details at a later date" about how it will end the Ontario basic income pilot project. Earlier this week, she said it would continue in August, but Thursday said payouts would extend into September.

Losing the program is going to make those plans more hard, she said.

Those who previously received Ontario Works social assistance program would likely rolled back into the program, she said. "It's knowing that no matter what else happens in life, you've got something that helps you deal with that".

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