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After years of neglect, Ontario politicians pledge to raise disability support payments | CBC News

Josie Brunet has been receiving Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) payments for six years due to a number of health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. 

She has roots in London but lives in Toronto and says the rates, in particular the $497 monthly shelter allowance she receives, is not enough.

“It’s not even close,” she said. “The rent portion needs to be increased. I’m originally from London but I live in Toronto and there’s no way you can pay rent for that.”

CBC News spoke to Brunet as she stood in line to receive a meal at the St. Joseph’s Hospitality Centre’s lunch program on Dundas Street East. Without such free meals, she’d go hungry. 

Over the past week, ODSP rates have pushed their way onto the agenda of the Ontario provincial election, and that’s a welcome development to Mike Moffatt. 

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has promised to provide a 20 per cent increase to ODSP rates immediately if elected, and to double today’s ODSP and Ontario Works rates in year two (Cole Burston/Canadian Press)

An economist with the Smart Prosperity Institute, Moffatt says the rates have for years lagged behind a living wage, a situation made worse in recent months with inflation now running above five per cent. 

A single person on ODSP with no dependants receives $1,169 a month, a total that includes a shelter allowance of just under $500. 

“I think they’re absolutely unacceptable,” said Moffatt of the current ODSP rates. “I can’t think of anywhere in this province you can rent somewhere to live for under $500.”

The poverty line in Ontario changes with location but runs between $1,900 and $2,300 a month, Moffatt said. 

“Once we see the rate of everything rising, particularly rents, it’s just impossible for persons with disabilities to make ends meet,” he said.

In a Twitter thread posted yesterday, Moffatt pointed to a study commissioned by the Kathleen Wynne government in 2016 which recommended ODSP increases of five per cent a year to bring the rates in line with the cost of living. 

Moffatt came down hard on the Doug Ford government for not doing more and for the Liberals looking to replace Ford for promising only 10 per cent this year, another 10 per cent next year, and two per cent per year after that.

Moffatt’s Twitter thread comes as the political parties work to out-manoeuvre each other on the issue. 

Parties adjusting platforms

Andrea Horwath pledged on Saturday that her party will double ODSP  payments in its second year of government if elected.

She said the NDP will increase ODSP and Ontario Works payments by 20 per cent from the current rate in its first year of government. The doubling in the second year would be of 2022 rates.

That’s an update from late April, when the NDP released its fully costed platform pledging to raise ODSP rates by 20 per cent and to legislate increases tied to inflation.

The party had faced criticism that its initial promise to increase ODSP rates wasn’t enough.

The Green Party has also said they would double ODSP rates, which they say they’ve been promising to do since September of last year. Doubling the rates won’t come cheap. In their costing documents the Greens estimate it will cost $5.5 billion a year.

The Progressive Conservatives, meanwhile, have promised to increase rates by five per cent, a pledge that was not in their recent budget, which is serving as their platform.

The political posturing aside, Moffatt said he’s happy to see the issue get some focus after what he sees as years of neglect and under-funding. In particular, he said the moves to link the rates to inflation is a big step forward

“Now we’re seeing all of the parties  commit to some kind of automatic adjustment to inflation over time and I think that would be a fantastic thing,” he said.  “Because we haven’t seen the rates keep up with inflation and the real value of ODSP has declined since the Mike Harris days.”



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