TORONTO (26 March 2012) – Two days before the 2012-13 Ontario Budget, Premier Dalton McGuinty has chosen to break faith with the poorest in Ontario.
The Premier has been quoted in all Ontario’s major newspapers as saying that social assistance rates will be frozen this year, and that the scheduled increase in the Ontario Child Benefit will be slowed.
“Freezing people’s incomes when the cost of everything keeps rising is not a ‘balanced approach’,” said Jennefer Laidley, Research and Policy Analyst at the Income Security Advocacy Centre. “The Premier seems to think that people on assistance should be grateful that rates aren’t being cut. They’re not grateful. They’re despairing that once again, this government doesn’t recognize the depth of the poverty they’re living in.”
A single person on Ontario Works currently receives $599 per month. Single people make up the largest category of OW recipients, at 58% of the caseload. The Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) has an even higher proportion – single people make up 77% of the caseload. Singles on ODSP receive only $1,064 per month.
“Statistics Canada just released the latest Consumer Price Index, which shows that prices have increased in Ontario by 2.9% over the last year,” said Laidley. “A 0% increase to social assistance rates is effectively a cut in the ability of people on assistance to afford even the basics.”
Freezing social assistance rates will save government at least $60 million this year. Delaying the increase in the Ontario Child Benefit, which has been a significant help to people living in poverty, will save $90 million. $150 million is less than 1% of the government’s $16 billion deficit, but would make a big difference to the incomes of people living in poverty in Ontario.
“Despite saying he doesn’t want to balance the budget on the backs of poor families and children, it seems that’s just what the Premier is doing,” said Laidley. “We’ll be watching to see just how the Premier defines ‘a balanced approach’ when the entire budget is released on Tuesday.”