Ontario’s Tory government slashes welfare benefits, vows further cuts
4 August 2018
Just weeks after taking power, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government, led by the right-wing populist Doug Ford, has launched a major assault on welfare recipients, society’s most vulnerable and impoverished.
Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod announced Tuesday that the 3 percent increase in welfare benefits adopted by the previous Liberal government will be slashed to just 1.5 percent. The cut affects both those deemed “employable,” who are enrolled in the Ontario Works program, and those receiving disability payments.
The government is also canceling a three-year, $150 million pilot project to test replacing the current welfare system with a “basic income” payment. Under the pilot project, which began last year and involved 4,000 low-income people, a single person was to receive up to $16,989 in provincial assistance annually—still far below the poverty line.
Under conditions where rents, food and other costs are rising rapidly, the planned 3 percent increase would have at best meant that welfare recipients in Canada’s most populous province were treading water.
But, taking a page from the playbook of Mike Harris, who on becoming Ontario premier in 1995 cut welfare benefits by more than 21 percent, MacLeod and Ford are planning to eviscerate the current social assistance program.
Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, MacLeod declared the current welfare system irretrievably broken and announced that the government has set a 100-day deadline for coming up with a plan to transform it, from one that gives “handouts that do little if anything to break the cycle of poverty,” into one that is “sustainable.”
Indicating that the government…