This is a workable plan for the reduction of poverty in Ontario. Yes, it will cost a little money, which will result in savings elsewhere. Only one example, this would be in hospital admissions for mental health/addictions, which term has had an unfortunate tendency to become all one word in media coverage of issues related to poverty.
It is an unfortunate tendency to lay the problem of poverty on mental illness and addictions, which is an unfair moral judgement as well as a conflation of two separate and distinct issues.
The roots of poverty are structural, and therefore the solutions must also be structural.
This program specifically addresses the Ontario Disability Support Program and Ontario Works, (welfare). As a highly-trained Canadian journalist, the author has been embedded in this story for 24 years, and he is very familiar with the ODSP program in particular. He is proficient at interpreting guidelines insofar as that relates to his employment and business interests. When the landlord is taking seventy percent of an ODSP pension in rent alone, working means eating. For whatever reason, this writer has become rather fond of eating over the last 59 years or so—
Raise the rates, annually, at greater than the rate of inflation, which currently stands at roughly two percent.
Raise the allowable earnings limit, which currently stands at $200.00 per month for a single adult.
Lower the rate of clawback on earnings over the limit from its current fifty percent to thirty or even twenty-five percent.
Under CPP (D) guidelines, clients can earn up to $5500.00 annually, and they don’t even have to report it. I would recommend the same level for ODSP/OW clients, in order for the province to be more in line with federal policy. This would save much administrative time for Ministry staff, resulting in higher morale, less staff turnover, and real financial savings.
Presently, with $100.00 in Work-Related benefit and an ‘automatic’ business deduction of another $100.00, it now stands at $2400.00 per year. (That automatic deduction is a trap. Staff would prefer that clients NOT keep track of each and every receipt, each and every kilometre. It is, after all, a real headache to administer such a client, who is perfectly within their rights to pursue employment and business interests.)
Raise the mileage rate for employment/business/medical travel from $0.40 per kilometre to $0.45 or $0.50 per kilometre. Note that medical travel is a cash disbursement, while the rate for employment/business travel is a deduction from gross income. It is interesting that Ministry staff probably receive (in cash disbursements) more like $0.55 per kilometre when traveling on business when using their own vehicle. The per-kilometre costs of operating a vehicle are well-known and have been studied extensively. This government might ask what the Canada Revenue Agency recognizes as a legitimate rate of mileage/reimbursement, and
model their own program accordingly.
Raise the work-related benefit from $100.00 per month per single adult to $200.00 month per single client. Adults with families should get an additional hundred a month benefit per child.
Keep rent controls in place, as presently constituted, for three to five years, in order for the province’s most vulnerable citizens to have some reasonable time to catch up.
Raise the provincial minimum wage to $20.00 per hour by 2024.
A special housing benefit to augment the federal housing benefit, slated for 2019, although details are presently sketchy.
A dedicated university fund, initially $25-million per year, in order for ODSP/OW clients to get the skills and education required to break the cycle of poverty and to address the skills shortage presently plaguing the province.
There’s more, which I will address in a future post.
Please read this additional coverage.
Image. Louis Shalako.
Thank you for reading.