There appears to be some confusion over whether the federal child tax benefit clawback from Ontario social assistance cheques has been ended by the Dalton McGuinty government this week. Allow me to clear up the confusion: the clawback is still in full force.

On Thursday, Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara announced a new Ontario Child Benefit for low income families. This means that in Ontario, there will be both a federal and a provincial benefit for low income families with children.

People on social assistance will continue to have the federal benefit clawed back from their welfare cheques. The new provincial benefit will not be clawed back. Ontario families who are not on social assistance will get both benefits. Ontario families on social assistance will receive the Ontario benefit (which is much smaller than the federal benefit), but the McGuinty Liberals will continue to clawback the federal child tax benefit from them.

Seems like a pretty clear and easy-to-understand policy, right?

Then why is the McGuinty government trying to confuse people by claiming that the new Ontario Child Benefit will “effectively end the current clawback of up to $122 per child per month from the National Child Benefit Supplement” according to “government officials” quoted in the Toronto Star on Friday?

The answer is simple. The Liberal government promised during the 2003 election campaign to end the child tax benefit clawback from the families who need it most desperately: social assistance recipients. As with many of their other promises, they did not follow through.

The Ontario Child Benefit is a very small but welcome addition to the social safety net in Ontario for low income families. But it’s a pretty big stretch to claim, as Greg Sorbara does, that this $50 per month benefit, which doesn’t even start until July of 2008, “takes children off welfare.” This July, families will receive a lump sum payment of $250 per child. For those of us with calculators at home, this works out to $20.83 per month. This, Sorbara claims, “transforms the system.” Doesn’t sound all that revolutionary to me.

It does not address the fact that people on social assistance are still having their federal child tax benefit taken away from them by the Ontario government. It also does not address the fact that the McGuinty Liberals have broken yet another promise.

Don’t let Dalton McGuinty or Greg Sorbara try to tell you otherwise.

Michelle Langlois

Michelle Langlois

Michelle is the editor of In Cahoots and is based in Toronto, Ontario. She has written articles and book reviews for, and occasionally produces videos for rabbletv.