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Yes Minister, But 

July 20, 2018 Poverty Reduction

Yesterday, in response to a question in the Ontario Legislature on the future of social assistance, Lisa MacLeod, the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services (pictured below), had this to say:

“I was dismayed to learn more and more people are staying on Ontario Works for longer. So, let’s face it: The true income security in this province will be a job, and we will continue to make sure that people are getting the supports they need in order to work and keep more money that they have. Our focus will be bringing prosperity and more jobs to Ontario,.”Minister McLeod

Yes Minster, but….

“More and more people” may be staying on Ontario Works longer but not for the reasons you suggest.  It is a lot more complicated than you may think.

A report last year by staff at the City of Toronto provides clarify.

“an ever-growing population of clients that have been unemployed for long periods, that are distant from the labour market, often have significant barriers to employment and need a wide range of services and supports, beyond conventional employment services, to stabilize their lives and enable them to improve their capacity to prepare for a return to the labour market, where possible”

 Who are these people who are staying on assistance longer?

 City staff say they include:

  • Younger OW clients facing growing challenges in the labour market. The challenges are compounded for racialized youth and youth with lower levels of education.
  • Women, including singles and single parents, who often face isolation and whose specific needs may not always be served by generic service models.
  • Members of racialized communities who also tend to have higher levels of education than their Canadian born counterparts.

(There are more interesting facts in the report You can find it at

So, Minister, because of changes in the labour market and the erosion of other income support programs, OW is no longer merely a short-term program of last resort.  That is what is happening on the ground, according to the City of Toronto.

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