TORONTO, ON – Today the Ministry of Finance released its 2022 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review.
While the Economic Outlook included some announcements that will improve the lives of some people living on low incomes in Ontario, the provincial government has missed a crucial opportunity to re-invest surplus dollars into increased social assistance rates, social programs, and programs that will protect and support low income workers.
Most notable in the Economic Outlook is what’s absent; while Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) clients who are able to work will be able to keep more of the dollars they earn, Ontario Works (OW) clients will not. OW clients still face clawbacks on lower levels of earnings, and are still expected to survive on extremely low social assistance incomes.
“Allowing ODSP clients to keep more of the dollars they’ve already earned is going to go a long way for those who can work. Unfortunately, today’s announcement leaves people who rely on OW even more behind. They’ve had no rate increase, they can’t earn any more income, and they are forced to try to continue to survive on $733 a month,” says Devorah Kobluk, ISAC’s Senior Policy Analyst.
The Income Security Advocacy Centre’s previous analysis of recent provincial surpluses and savings indicated that the provincial government has room to raise social assistance rates by a minimum of ten per cent immediately. Instead, the provincial government has not moved beyond an approved five per cent increase to ODSP rates and has held fast to a zero per cent increase to OW rates.
“People living on social assistance in Ontario live forty-five to sixty per cent below the poverty line. Without reinvestment into social assistance rates or robust funding for wraparound services, Ontario’s poorest people will continue to face deep hardship,” says Kobluk.
Investments in training programs and tax credits won’t address key issues facing low income workers, adds Dave Bush, ISAC’s Workers’ Rights Organizer.
“These training programs imply that if workers just had the right skills, they wouldn’t have any problems. We don’t have a ‘mismatched skills’ situation in Ontario. We have an income mismatch situation,” says Bush. “Two million Ontario workers earn less than $20 an hour. With no increase to minimum wage in today’s Economic Outlook, those workers have been left behind.”
With the ongoing impacts of record high inflation and the looming threat of recession, now is the time for the government of Ontario to invest in income and social supports for people living on low incomes in Ontario.