Hamilton NDP MPP going on ‘social assistance diet’ of $6.80 per day


Published September 6, 2022 at 10:45 am

For the next two weeks, Hamilton New Democrat Monique Taylor will have a grocery budget of fewer than 100 dollars.

The Hamilton Mountain member of provincial parliament, who is also the critic for community and social services, is one of five Ontario NDP politicians who are spending part of September on a “social assistance diet” from Sept. 6 to 19. A release from the party said that Taylor, Ottawa MPPs Joel Harden and Chandra Pasma, Thunder Bay MPP Lisa Vaugeois and downtown Toronto MPP Jessica Bell will eat only what they can buy with $95.21 for two weeks. The effort is meant to draw renewed focus to Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Works (OW) rates.

About 500,000 Ontario individuals or family rely on ODSP for all or part of their income. Some 217,000 families receive Ontario Works. The MPPs are inviting Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Merrilee Fullerton, to join them in the diet, which averages out to $6.80 daily till Sept. 19.

“Recipients of ODSP and OW have been clear that the rates are far too low,” Taylor stated on Sept. 6. “We’re in an affordability crisis: the cost of food was up 9.7 per cent in July, food banks are seeing record usage, and housing costs were up 7.4 percent. An extra $58, if that, is a drop in the bucket.”

The “extra $58” refers to the real-dollars decrease to ODSP that the Premier Doug Ford-led Ontario PC Party government is implementing. The ODSP is increasing by 5 per cent to $1,227, from $1,169. With inflation at 7.6 per cent, that payout will likely not stretch as far as it did in previous years. Ontario Works payouts have been frozen at $733 per month since 2018.

The Ontario NDP said the $95.21 figure is “an approximated two-week grocery budget for assistance recipients.”

In July, almost 250 agencies signed on to a letter to Ford, written by the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC), that called for doubling ODSP and OW rates. Doubling ODSP from the previous rate would have brought it to within $50 of the $2,300 monthly housing allowance that an MPP who lives more than 50 km from Queen’s Park receives. That change was made during Ford’s first full year as premier.

Forty-three of 83 Ontario PC MPPs are parliamentary assistants to a cabinet minister, giving them a $16,600 bump on top of a $116,500 salary.

Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner has called for doubling ODSP and Ontario Works since 2021, and was included in the Greens’ platform in the spring election campaign. Schreiner is the Greens’ only MPP.

During the spring election campaign, the Ontario NDP under former leader Andrea Horwath also committed to doubling the rate. After listening to social assistance recipients, the Ontario NDP promised an immediate 20-per-cent increase if elected, followed by an increase in their second year to double what the rate was under the previous government.

The Ontario Liberals promised back-to-back 10-per-cent annual hikes.

Horwath is now running for mayor of Hamilton.

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