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Evidence Based Rates and the Liberal Leadership Race

January 10, 2013 Poverty Reduction

The Ontario Liberal Party meets on the weekend of January 25 - 27th to choose the next Premier of the province.

One of the files on the new Premier’s desk the day after she/he is chosen will be the report of the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario.

This report, called Brighter Prospects: Transforming Social Assistance in Ontario, charts “a new course for social assistance towards a simpler, more effective, and more accountable system....”

There are controversial aspects to the report, to be sure. One issue, though, that is not contentious is that a new system must set rates for recipients that are adequate to live on and an evidence based method to determine the rates must be established.

It is a matter of great importance to us that social assistance rates need to have some relation to the actual cost of rent, food and other basic necessities. Over the years the clinic has done a lot of work on developing a method for determining rates. To that end we met with the Commission and subsequently made this recommendation to them:

That the Government of Ontario establish an arm’s length body to recommend evidence-based social assistance rates on an annual basis. Those rates should be based on an analysis of the actual costs of rent, a healthy food basket, and other basic necessities in communities across Ontario, and should provide a level of assistance that will allow individuals and families to live with dignity....

Brighter Prospects came out in November. In its Recommendation #27 there is a call for the province to adopt a “rational methodology” to set social assistance rates. But such a methodology has already been articulated. So why reinvent the wheel?

Legislation Introduced in 2007

Many years ago we worked with Liberal MPP Ted McMeekin and put together a bill to establish an Ontario Social Assistance Rates Board. The former Bill 235 was introduced in the legislature in June of 2007 but “died” when the legislature was adjourned.

You can look at the legislation here on our Fast Facts page at

The Social Assistance Rates Board that was proposed back in 2007 would meet at least six times a year and give an annual report to the Minister of Community and Social Services recommending appropriate social assistance rates. Recommendations for rates could include regional variations. The legislation laid out a process and timeline and requires the Minister to respond to the recommendations.

We think you’ll agree this legislation makes as much sense now as it did in 2007.

Reforming the Social Assistance system as part of its Poverty Reduction Strategy was a major initiative of the McGuinty government. While there is much that needs to be changed with the current system, the creation of a rates board as described above should be a priority.

We’re contacting the Liberal leadership candidates and asking them to support a Rates Board.

We hope you will too.

Find out more at our Make Change Page

Posted January 10, 2013

Diana Walker January 13, 2013

I think that taking away the special diet from people on ODSP, and giving some of that money to people on OW is cruel and unfair to people with disabilities. Taking away the special diet from people on ODSP will crush and devastate them. They will not be able to buy food. I hope that you will fight against this. Apparently it has been recommended to the govt to do this. I will not be able to buy food. It is difficult now. When they do these drastic cuts it will be impossible. People on ODSP will not know how to cope or survive. There will be more homelessness, more sickness, more money spend on health care as a result of this, and more suicides. I emailed my MPP, but got no answer. I emailed the MCSS and got a stupid form letter saying that they have a lot of experience and are 'streamlining' the system. Actually they are going to kill people. I hope you fight against this. I'd appreciate your help and any suggestions that you have. Thank you. Diana. Hi Diana, Thanks for your comments. We share your concern about the Special Diet Allowance (SDA). The commission that made this recommendation says that the growth of the SDA is related to the fact that those receiving benefits are unable to afford good nutrition with the current rates. So they want to address people’s inability to afford healthy and nutritious food by raising the rates. While this makes sense, theoretically at least, the whole idea is very worrying until we know what the new rates will be and when they will be in place. The idea we put forward for would have rates set based on many factors including taking into account “additional expenses that may be incurred by persons with disabilities in order for them to participate fully in society, including expenses relating to education, over the counter medical goods, entertainment and clothing.” It can be frustrating but we encourage you to continue to contact decision makers (like your MPP and local Councillor) to let them know how this change will impact you and others. We will continue to fight for adequate social assistance rates. Bob

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