OCAP | Raise the Rates
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty is a direct action anti-poverty organization that fights for more shelter beds, social housing, and a raise in social assistance rates.
poverty, homelessness, housing, social assistance, ontario works, odsp, anti-poverty. ocap. ontario coalition against poverty, shelters,
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Response to the Ford Governments Changes to Social Assistance

The Provincial Conservative government of Doug Ford announced three significant changes to social assistance today:

  1. They are cutting in half the 3% increase in social assistance rates scheduled to come into effect in September this year. Progressive changes to regulations scheduled to be implemented this fall have also been “paused,” and will likely be canceled.
  2. The 3 year basic income pilot program, which started last year, is now being canceled and “wound down.”
  3. A series of sweeping changes to social assistance are currently under review and will be announced within the next 100 days.

We have three things to say in response:

  1. The scheduled 3% increase passed by the Liberals was woefully inadequate, but it would have marked the second time in almost a quarter century that social assistance income would have risen above the rate of inflation. Instead, the 1.5% cut will yet again plunge social assistance below the rate of inflation, making social assistance recipients even poorer.
  2. We have been critical of the Basic Income pilot project, but canceling the pilot a year after it was underway demonstrates a reckless disregard for the lives of nearly 4000 people on the pilot who planned their lives on the assurance of having a set income for 3 years, and who must now scramble.
  3. The sweeping changes to social assistance that are being ominously hinted at are likely to be the same brand of ruthless right-wing reforms we saw under Mike Harris. We can expect dramatic restructuring of social assistance that cuts supports, forces those on social assistance, including disabled people, into the most exploitative jobs, and increases punitive surveillance and “fraud” crackdowns of the poorest people in this province.

Clearly, this is the war on the poor component of the Doug Ford agenda of neoliberal austerity. The Tories are forging a punishing regime of social abandonment that creates misery and utter desperation. It is the cutting edge of their attack and a compelling reason why we must unite and build a movement to defeat this Government and all it stands for.

What if Doug Ford wins?

We’re not suggesting in OCAP that the outcome of the impending Ontario election is settled or that any result is inevitable. However, we do feel that the possibility of a majority Tory government, led by Doug Ford, is serious enough that it would be wise to consider now what that would mean and how unions and social movements might respond to such an outcome.

We would be the first to agree that an austerity agenda has been at work during the years the Liberal party has been in government and that it will continue regardless of who wins the next election. However, a Ford government would be a hard right regime that could be expected to escalate the attack on workers and communities considerably.

There are obviously some comparisons to be made to the Harris Tory regime that held power from 1995 to 2003.  There was considerable resistance during those years but there are lessons that must drawn as well. When the Tories first took power, there was a kind of stunned demobilization that lost us time and momentum and, when the Days of Action strikes and mass protests got underway, as impressive as they were, there were serious limitations in how they were conducted. The object of the whole mobilization was never made clear. Was it all about trying to put moral pressure on the Tories or to create a social force that could actually stop them? At the same time, the events were sporadic and no plan to escalate to province wide shutdown was ever developed.

OCAP is proposing that organizations and union and community activists who think we should be ready for Ford, should meet, discuss and plan a fitting response should he take the election.  There will certainly be protests against the regressive measures his government would take but we are suggesting that we need a movement ready to fight fire with fire. The response to his attacks should be a working class common front that is ready to create a level of economic and political disruption powerful enough to force the Tories to retreat or to drive them from office. Ford would attack worker’s rights, the social infrastructure and the environment, fan the flames of racism and trample on Indigenous rights. The potential for a winning social mobilization against him is enormous but only if a lead is given.

We’re hoping that, we can bring together the basis for a kind of caucus for a real fightback that could influence union and community action and the course of the struggle. Please let us know if your organization or you, as an individual activist, would be interested in being part of this by emailing ocap@tao.ca.

October 17: The Time is Now – March to Raise Social Assistance Rates


Rally & March to the Ministry of Community & Social Services
Tuesday, October 17 | 12 Noon | Toronto City Hall (Queen/Bay)
[Lunch Provided | Accessibility van on-site]
Join us at City Hall at noon, march will leave shortly thereafter.

On October 17, the International Day for the Elimination of Poverty, the Raise the Rates Coalition is calling everyone out on the streets for a march to demand an immediate raise to social assistance rates and an end to the punitive system of surveillance and degradation that shrouds the provision of income support.

After 14 years of Liberal rule, poor people in Ontario are worse off now than they were in the mid-nineties. Nearly a million unemployed and under-employed people are forced to eke out an existence on sub-poverty social assistance rates that forces on us the impossible choice between food, shelter, and caring for our families.

The record is telling. After refusing to reverse the Mike Harris cuts of the mid-1990s, the Liberals announced a “Poverty Reduction Strategy,” in 2008 which, after 5 years, failed miserably at meeting its targets. In 2014, they followed it up with another 5 year strategy to meet the same targets, but this time with no timelines attached. Meanwhile they initiated a ceaseless merry-go-round of social assistance reform commissions, reports, studies, consultations and, this year, a 3-year Basic Income Pilot, with even more studies, and consultations to follow. It’s clear that the only strategy being employed is one of deferring action, while dangling the promise of poverty reduction.

In addition to allowing inflation to eat into the meagre income of people on social assistance, the Liberals have cut millions of dollars in benefits. The elimination of the Community Start-up and Maintenance Benefit in 2013 alone resulted in a claw-back of at-least $275 million over the last 4 years. Left in the wake of that crucial benefit, used by thousands to meet emergency housing and health-related needs, is a mess of municipal funds – such as the Housing Stabilization Fund in Toronto – that have drastically reduced access to emergency funds and fueled homelessness.

History demonstrates that gains can only be won by poor people with political agitation and a threat to undo the status quo. Waiting for the Liberals to “reduce,” let alone end, poverty is more futile than rearranging the deck chair on the Titanic. We are willing to wait no longer and on October 17, we will build a fight that will win an immediate raise to social assistance. Join us!