The Provincial Conservative government of Doug Ford announced three significant changes to social assistance today:
- 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.
- The 3 year basic income pilot program, which started last year, is now being canceled and “wound down.”
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.