As one among many groups working to contribute to the Social Assistance Review process ongoing since early last year, we were dismayed to see the Drummond Commission weigh in so significantly on recommendations around social assistance.
One of the most troubling of Drummond’s recommendations is to limit annual spending growth in Ontario Works and the ODSP to 0.5% for the next six years.
If adopted by government, this low rate of growth will not only cause further despair for people whose incomes have been stalled far below the poverty line since 1998, it will indefensibly delay making the degree and range of investments in improving the social assistance system that we are all hoping will come out of the Social Assistance Review.
But just because Drummond says so, doesn’t make it true. The Doomsday scenario is not upon us yet.
Abandoning the Social Assistance Review process due solely to Drummond’s recommendations would be deeply counterproductive. Now is the time for people on social assistance, their advocates and allies to fight even harder for the kind of system that can and must be built in Ontario. But it’s going to take efforts in two distinct areas to get the job done.
It’s crucial to push back against the austerity agenda that the Drummond Commission represents. Cutting public services is the wrong way to respond to a deficit caused by the 2008 global economic crisis – which was generated by the reckless actions of bankers and financial speculators. Choosing austerity will hurt those Ontarians who are most vulnerable – including people on social assistance – and make a mockery of the government’s poverty reduction efforts. It also has the potential to slow economic growth in Ontario, making it even harder to get the province out of the financial doldrums.
Use resources online to give you the arguments you need (like this from the CCPA). Phone, write to, or meet with your local MPP and tell them the austerity agenda is the wrong way to go.
But equally importantly, continue to engage in the Review process. Responding to the second Discussion Paper is critical. If we don’t engage, we have no ability to impact the outcome of the Review and the Commission’s final report and recommendations.
And getting the best recommendations possible from the Review is going to be essential. Government will have the final say on how to move forward with reforming social assistance. If we get good recommendations from the Review Commission, we have something positive to fight for on the political stage. But if the recommendations are bad, we lose a critical position from which to advocate for positive change.
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