Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives promised Monday to increase disability support payment rates by five per cent, if re-elected, a pledge that was not in their recent budget that is serving as their platform.
PC Leader Doug Ford did not make the announcement in person on the campaign trail, but said in a statement that his party would spend $425 million on a five-per-cent increase, and introduce legislation to increase ODSP rates annually.
“With the cost of living going up, we want to give vulnerable people across Ontario more support so they can pay for life’s essentials,” he wrote.
Rates have been frozen since 2018, with a single person on ODSP able to receive up to $1,169 a month for basic needs and shelter. Advocates say that is far too low, and the level of support would remain well below what’s needed even with increases promised by all three major parties.
“Most people on ODSP that I know … they only eat one meal a day,” said Trevor Manson, the secretary co-chair of the ODSP Action Coalition.
“That’s all they can afford basically, if that … If you consider the cost of housing, even $1,400 is still only leaving people with a couple hundred bucks a month for food and for everything else.”
It’s also still below the poverty line, Mr. Manson noted.
Support of about $1,400 per month is a roughly 20-per-cent increase, which is what the NDP is promising. They also pledge to legislate increases tied to inflation.
The Liberals are promising to boost rates by 10 per cent this year, another 10 per cent next year, and two per cent per year after that.
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said his party is also promising affordability measures that will help such as removing the provincial portion of HST from prepared foods under $20, making transit rides $1 until 2024, and reinstating a basic income pilot project.
“I think when you look at the whole picture, these are important steps in the right direction,” Mr. Del Duca said at his platform launch on Thursday.
“Do I think it’s the entire answer forever and ever? Not necessarily. But I think it’s an important and tangible first step when you look at the whole picture.”
Economist Mike Moffatt calculated that the Progressive Conservative, Liberal and NDP proposals would still see ODSP recipients receive less support than under past Progressive Conservative premiers Mike Harris and Ernie Eves, when adjusted for inflation.
The Greens say they would double ODSP rates. Mr. Manson said that is obviously the plan that appeals most to ODSP recipients, though they acknowledge the Greens are not going to form government.
But it comes down to respect and treating people as more than their labour-market value, Mr. Manson said.
He said the pandemic Canada Emergency Response Benefit program from the federal government was eye-opening for people with disabilities.
“When the federal government picked $2,000 a month as sort of a benchmark at which people may be able to make ends meet, people with disabilities who are unable to work are sitting here saying, ‘well how come able-bodied people who can’t work are getting $2,000 a month, but someone with a disability who can’t work only gets $1,169?’” he said
“It’s telling us we’re worth half the amount of an able-bodied person.”