Like an eerie horoscope that offers a vague premonition of harsher times to come without providing details, Doug Ford’s government last July announced a 100-day review of social assistance in Ontario. Ford launched the review by cutting the scheduled three-per-cent rate-increase to Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program in half, halting nearly 20 other positive changes, and abruptly cancelling the basic income pilot program. This taste of what’s to come filled almost 1 million of Ontario’s poorest people with an unshakeable dread.
The results of the review were expected last week. But just a day before the big reveal, Ford’s social services minister, Lisa Mcleod, announced that the government would not share the results of the review for another two weeks. Doing her part to keep people’s fear intact, she repeated the Ford government’s common refrain that “the best social program is a job.”
Ford and Mcleod relish the absurd statement. Presumably, they also believe that the best medical treatment is to not get sick. The best child-care program is to not have a child.
By eliminating the increase to the minimum wage, taking away sick days and weakening employment protections, the Ford government has made getting decent work even more difficult. If Mcleod thinks earning $14 an hour at a temporary job with no benefits in the midst of a housing crisis is the best social program her government can offer, surely that is cause for grave concern.
Ford and Mcleod have been sparse on details, but their rhetoric makes clear that their brand of social assistance reform will make the system even more restrictive. Forcing people off social assistance and depressing working conditions won’t move people out of poverty, but will make business executives and owners -- the Progressive Conservatives’ bankrolling base -- even richer. A program of tax cuts will allow them to accumulate wealth, while the poorest among us will pay the cost.
Despair is a reasonable response to a bleak situation, but we cannot afford to be consumed by it. The Ford government has a legislative majority but it will be difficult for them to govern with mass opposition in the streets. We can’t allow Ford’s “Open for Business” Ontario to come at the expense of people’s lives.
Yogi Acharya is an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. OCAP is organizing a rally called Stick it to Ford on November 17, at Ford’s business.
Photo: Doug Ford/Flickr
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