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,
89
archive,category,category-raise-the-rates,category-89,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,select-theme-ver-4.5,menu-animation-underline,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.5.2,vc_responsive

Response to Ford’s Cancellation of the TCB Cuts

The Ford government has backed down from its plan to eliminate the Transition Child Benefit. The benefit, which provides food and clothing allowance for 32,000 of Ontario’s poorest children, was scheduled to be cut on November 1. Families surviving on social assistance and struggling to put food on the table were set to lose up to 30% of their income. The attempted cut was widely condemned by municipalities, faced a legal challenge, and triggered a community mobilization.

The government’s last minute decision to cancel the cut is a welcome reprieve, but it comes after months of subjecting poor families to brutal anxiety over their ability to take care of their children. The government is reportedly also cancelling its plan to increase the clawback of the earned income of people on social assistance, and is fuelling speculation about whether it will go through with its promised tightening of the definition of disability in January.

Ford is following a troubling pattern with changes to social assistance. Upon coming to power, the Conservatives immediately cut a planned increase in rates by half, cancelled a series of scheduled positive reforms, and announced a 100-day review of social assistance. The move sent chills through poor communities. The distressing months that followed were full of wild speculations about the extent of cuts that could be implemented.

More than 400 days later, the government still hasn’t revealed the results of its review. Instead, in late 2018, it signalled that social assistance would increasingly become more restrictive, but offered few details, and said changes would be implemented over an 18 month period. The move offered short-term relief to some, but prolonged the agony for most. A year later, he has suddenly cancelled two planned regressive changes, but has effectively shifted attention away from the fact that for the first time in years, people on social assistance will not receive any increase to their sub-poverty incomes this year.

Ford’s record makes clear he intends to gut income and social services further and create a climate of desperation where people scramble for the lowest paid jobs. But the populist premier’s approval ratings have plummeted and he has become a liability for the federal Conservatives vying for power. In this context, the rollback of some of the cuts to social assistance is evidence that his austerity measures can be beaten back. But given there won’t always be the spectre of a federal election in the background, we must build a serious social mobilization capable of haunting his administration and grinding its austerity measures to a halt. We are committed to doing so and fighting to raise social assistance rates, join us.

No Food For You: Ford’s Attack On Ontario’s Children

Thursday, September 26 | 6pm-8pm | CRC, 40 Oak Street
[Free event with meal, childminding, wheelchair access, and tokens]
Facebook Event

On November 1, Doug Ford’s government will eliminate food and clothing allowance for 32,000 of Ontario’s poorest children. The cut is a result of the cancellation of the Transition Child Benefit, which provides parents on social assistance up to $230 per month per child to take care of their kids. For a single parent with two kids on Ontario Works, the cut represents a loss of 30% of their already sub-poverty income.

Ford says he’s cutting the benefit because only people on social assistance get it. That’s like closing soup kitchens because only the poor use them. The cut is about scaling back Ontario’s social safety net and expanding the pool of workers in vulnerable situations who are forced to accept rock bottom wages and bad working conditions created by Ford’s corporate pals. It will also strip children seeking refuge in Canada of critical income support.

This government is prepared to subject Ontario’s poorest parents and children to hunger and destitution to further its goals. Ford’s viciousness will only escalate unless it met with serious opposition. Let’s build it, join us.

Speaker: Jackie Esmonde, Income Security Advocacy Centre

Jackie Esmonde is a staff lawyer at the Income Security Advocacy Centre, a member of OPSEU Local 5118, and a member of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

Townhall: Ford’s Attack on Social Assistance

Wednesday, December 5 | 6pm-8pm | St.Luke’s Church, 353 Sherbourne St.
Dinner Provided. Wheelchair Accessible Space
Facebook Event

The Ford government has announced its planned changes to social assistance. It is clear they intend to use social assistance as a weapon in their war on the poor. OCAP’s analysis of the announcement can be read here.

Join us to help make sense of the cuts being proposed, and to talk about how we’re going to fight back.

Response to Ford’s Social Assistance Reforms

Ford Government intensifies attack on Ontario’s poorest people

The social assistance reforms that the Ford Government announced today can well be described as the new Doug Ford Poor Laws. As expected, they’re making Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) significantly more restrictive and precarious.

The basic intention is to refine the system as a tool to push people into the lowest paying and most exploitative jobs on offer. It is entirely in line with the attack they have already carried on the minimum wage, workers’ rights, and job protections. Forcing people off social assistance while depressing working conditions in the midst of a housing crisis won’t move people out of poverty but will make the Progressive Conservative’s bankrolling base of business executives and owners even richer.

The reforms will divide people on social assistance into those deemed the most severely disabled and those who must join the scramble for jobs. The kind of “compassion” that severely disabled can expect from this Government is made clear from the fact that the social services Minister, Lisa McLeod, would offer no comment on whether any increases in social assistance rates can be expected over the next three years.

Those presently on ODSP will be grand-parented into the new system but new eligibility rules will use the more narrow federal definition of disability. Many who could get onto ODSP under the existing rules will be forced to try to live on OW, including having to look for work even when they are too unwell to do so.

All those who are deemed capable of working will be expected to comply with “individual action plans” and the Government’s “Open for Business” website will draw the most unscrupulous employers directly into the process. Local municipalities will be encouraged to compete with each other in the development of punitive and intrusive practices designed to hound people into scrambling for the worst jobs. The door is certainly open to the privatization of delivery and services.

The government also signalled that supplementary benefits accessed by people on social assistance will be moved from being mandatory to discretionary. These benefits will likely differ from municipality to municipality. So we’ll be left with a patchwork of benefits with no access to the Social Benefits Tribunal to appeal denials. Outright elimination of particular existing benefits remains a possibility.

People on OW will only be able to earn $300 monthly without claw backs, up from the current $200, but less than the $400 it was supposed to go up to this December. Earnings above $300 will be subject to a 75% claw back, which is worse than the current 50%. The earning exemption for ODSP changes to $6000 annually, but is again subject to the increased 75% claw back beyond that limit.

Over the next eighteen months the full viciousness of the Doug Ford Poor Laws will emerge but it is already clear that, for the Tories, social assistance is a weapon in their war on the poor.

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!