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Income Security and the Ontario Election #1

May 4, 2018 Poverty Reduction

Community Legal Clinics are mandated to do Public Legal Education and Law Reform Work.

In that context, elections provide a unique opportunity to discuss issues important to our community and clients.

One such area is social assistance.

We’d like to see informed debate on social assistance in this year’s provincial election. 

To that end, we will be running a series of questions and backgrounders on our website beginning today. 

We’d like to understand where all the parties and candidates stand on these issues.

The materials have been prepared by the Income Security and Advocacy Centre. The Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) is a community legal clinic established in 2001. and funded by Legal Aid Ontario. ISAC has a provincial mandate to advance the systemic interests and rights of low-income Ontarians around income security programs and low-wage precarious employment.  Find out more about ISAC at


Benefit Levels

Question 1: How much will your party increase basic OW and ODSP rates? Will your party also ensure that everyone on OW and ODSP gets at least the full basic needs and shelter amounts by implementing a standard flat rate in both programs?


• People on OW and ODSP live in poverty. OW rates were cut by 21.6% in 1997. ODSP rates were frozen from 1997 to 2005. Subsequent small annual increases have not kept up with inflation. Even with other tax-delivered benefits included, incomes are still grossly inadequate.

• Single people on OW get a maximum of $721 a month – $337 for basic needs and $384 for shelter. The G/HST credit and the Ontario Trillium Benefit add only $80 more. This means an income of just over $9,600 a year – nowhere near what it takes to pay for rent and food, and more than $10,000 below the poverty line.

• Single people on ODSP get a maximum of $1,151 – $662 for basic needs and $489 for shelter. Their total annual income with other benefits is only about $15,000 per year, which is more than $7,000 below the poverty line. Not only is this amount of income not enough to cover basic needs, it doesn’t provide enough for the additional costs that people with disabilities have, whether as a result of their longer-term needs or the additional expenses they face related to their disability.

• Some people on OW and ODSP get even less. Shelter benefit amounts are maximums, so if a person’s real housing costs are lower, they only get the lower amount. People who are homeless or live in shelters, long-term care homes or certain kinds of institutions also get less. For example, a single person on OW in a “board and lodge” situation (where they get shelter and food from the same provider) gets only $594. A single person who, because of their disability, lives in a place where meals are prepared for them gets $881. A single person on OW who is homeless gets only $337. These low benefit amounts penalize people for needing more help, and make it impossible to find housing.

• 50,000 people on OW/ODSP are in “board and lodge” situations. 10,000 are homeless. The November 2017 Income Security: Roadmap for Change report recommends creating a “standard flat rate” in both OW and ODSP to bring everyone up to at least the basic benefit levels. It also recommends that basic benefit levels be increased by 10% for OW and 5% for ODSP this year, with more increases over time to get everyone to an adequate income.

Nancy White May 5, 2018

I am so sad to read these figures and to know that I have known this information for years and have watched and waited for something to change. A single person with no children is being treated like a disposable person who does not count. The people on ODSP need as much help as the ones on OW who can maybe work a bit under the table to help themselves but ODSP recipients are ill and usually cannot work. If a campaign was launched on the promise that this would change I really think even the average and high income people would vote for them as they would see the need to help all citizens. Also, I think it is hard for a lot of us to see immigrants being put first over citizens that have been born here and that includes money as well as housing benefits. I am not saying they should not be helped I am just saying it is very difficult for the people who are suffering to see this happening.

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