Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Ontario Disability Program Explained.

Louis Shalako

I have not made a book submission in about two and a half years. The last book I submitted was Third World.

I am on the Ontario Disability Support Program. I receive a small pension. It’s about two-thirds of subsistence level, which is part of our punishment for not being good, bourgeois, middle-class Canadians. I fell from a scaffolding and broke my back in three places.

(Before that, I really was quite all right.)

Because we are errant children, cretins, mindless retards and life-long heroin addicts, or merely just born dishonest and unwilling to work, the usual no-good lazy cunts who are just out to fuck the system, we are subject to certain guidelines.

Here’s the problem: a six thousand-dollar advance (or any advance) would come in during a one-month period.

I report my income to ODSP. It is the right thing to do, after all. An honest man has less to fear than a thief, a cheat or a fraud. I like that feeling, being able to hold my head up and look the fuckers in the eye. I will not give that up, ladies and gentlemen, not for anyone or anything.

Their position would be a simple one. I am allowed to earn up to $100.00 a month without penalty. 

Those clients employed by others would also receive a cheque for $100.00 from the ODSP. The Work Related Benefit is a subsidy for scab employers as much as anything else. It encourages employers to exploit our misery.

As a client operating a business, the Ministry has allowed me a $100.00 ‘automatic’ deduction for business expenses.

Sounds fair enough, right?

Here’s how it works.

Someone goes out and gets a job at Tim Horton’s. They work four hours a week at ten and a quarter an hour. This results in $164.00 per month in earnings. They have already received a hundred bucks in cash from ODSP. So the government, in their great wisdom, would claw back fifty cents on the dollar for every dollar over $200.00 in any monthly reporting period. They worked sixteen hours to receive $232.00 in benefit from their effort, in other words, money.

If I want to claim a business expense, I have to spend money—it’s not money rolling in, it is money going out. I have to earn the money before I can do that. Money spent on business expenses is money that I cannot use to buy food, shelter and clothing. This is just one obvious disincentive for anyone on ODSP to try and possibly succeed at anything, ladies and gentlemen.

Interestingly enough, I earned $208.00 in December, the result of accrued earnings paid out at the end of a quarterly or yearly period…try explaining that to the ODSP. I was previously reporting sales as they were reported to me. The ODSP social worker asked me to report only cheques received and deposits made—which essentially fucked me, didn’t it? Yet it all seems so reasonable, so logical, that the typical ‘normal’ citizen could not help but agree that it was ‘fair.’

The expense can be claimed against income but only in the month when the expense was incurred. This is different from any other business operated by any other class of citizen in this country. Those other businesses have a twelve-month cycle. In this province, corporate income tax is a measly eleven percent. The ODSP has never denied clients the ‘right to work.’ And I work (allegedly) five or ten hours a day, sometimes more, to achieve whatever earnings I get. Last month I had a receipt for $29.00 in business expenses. This does me no good, as I already have the ‘automatic’ business deduction. I spent eight hundred (on my credit card) when I bought a computer in October. This was useless as a deduction as the earnings simply weren’t there in October.

What this means for last month, is that I would have had to have spent over a hundred dollars already—and have the receipts to prove it—before that $29.00 receipt does me any good at all. I am subject to the same fifty cents on the dollar claw-back as someone working for any number of shit jobs in shit fast-food outlets—you know, the so-called ‘job-creators.’

So why aren’t I submitting books and trying to land that major publishing contract?

If I got an advance, the government would tell me that I get to keep—free and clear, the first $200.00. After that, the government takes fifty cents out of every dollar of the advance against future earnings. Let’s look at a $20,000 advance. I get $10,200.00 and the government takes $9,800.00. 

They say this is not a penalty! Ah, but it gets better. As a client of the ODSP, I am allowed up to $7,000.00 in assets. Anything above that gets their ire up and they would, at the very least, tell me to spend it down.

The really great part is that I would not be allowed to spend the money on food, shelter and clothing! Your social worker will happily explain this to you. It would be perfectly acceptable to go to the casino and piss it away. I could buy a diamond tie clip, wear gold rings and watches, and drink the finest liquor (all mindless luxuries) every day until the money was down to acceptable levels. I could also invest it into the business, subject to the same considerations as listed above—but it would only be possible (or useful) in the month I received it, and if your income isn’t that big, (and how could it be?) there’s not much point. The funny thing is (if you are a member of this or any other government here in Ontario) that I would still be living thirty to forty percent under the poverty line.

Yet my business could have assets up to the guideline level.

It would be more or less legal to take money out of my account, as they would need a lot of nerve to penalize you twice. (Although they do try.) The ODSP has their right of financial review, and they would be sure to have one in my case. They would be asking a lot of questions, and looking for infractions of their guidelines. They would be looking for a reason to cut me off, for a month, a year, or even just to impose an overpayment and dock my cheque by a few hundred a month for as long as it took to pay that off. (And I would still only be able to earn $200.00 a month, 'without penalty.') And you never know what they will accept until you have done the dirty deed and reported it and they have made their decision. This is when they tell you have the right to appeal. 

The government denies benefits to those whom they damned well know are qualified. This lovely act would be committed by the very same social worker who claims to be your friend, your advocate, why, they’re just trying to help you.

But not everyone appeals—the process takes nine or ten months and if you want to win you have to play their game their way. Most clients simply don’t have the wherewithal to fight effectively, and their family members never have the slightest fucking clue of what it is about. Our families are the least effective advocates, because as citizens of this country and this province they may actually have some rights—or honestly believe that you do when quite the reverse is true.

When someone tells you that you have rights, this is a pretty good indicator that they have no fucking idea of what they are talking about. Unless it’s ODSP themselves, in which case it’s a pretty good indicator that you are going to be fucked over.


Okay, so I’m 55 years old and I might, (if I am extremely unlucky) live to be about 85 years old.

During that time, assuming I’m still on ODSP, that would amount to about $390,000.00 in pension benefits, or, Guaranteed Annual Income Supplements, Canada Pension, Old Age Security, etc. If I were to get a fifty or hundred thousand dollar advance, it is difficult to see how I could do that without losing my pension completely. From the point of view of the average person, (who knows nothing of my circumstances or the system) that might seem reasonable. And I could never get it back—how in the hell could you ever prove that a man who got off ODSP by writing, has somehow lost all ability to write and therefore needed to get back on again. If I took a fifty grand advance, I would be scrambling to get another one—and the sooner the better.

It really is kind of like someone advising you to win the lottery.

Simply put, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Some might suggest making up a resume.

Why not get a job, right?

What am I good for? Who would have me? Bear in mind you have to tell them something—and to lie to a potential employer is a real bad idea.

(What if I fell and hurt my back—who would be liable? I already have back injuries, what a field day the lawyers would have—assuming I could afford to get one. And what if I had been dumb enough to lie, and what if I had been dumb enough to tell the truth? What then, eh?) Simply put, if you want the job, you sort of have to lie about the back injuries.

Writing and publishing is what I’m good for, and not much more. But we know very well we’re not going to get an even break from the ODSP. If I took a job for thirty or forty grand a year with some Canadian publisher, there is a very good chance they would get all pissed-off. Even though I spent years, at my own expense and on my own time, with nothing but bullshit from the ODSP, to acquire the skills and the knowledge to succeed or even just to get off ODSP. They might very well ask for repayment of benefits, going back x-number of years. This would take away any benefit from working. I would essentially be trading one frying pan for another. Why work forty hours a week, with all the pressure that goes along with moving to Toronto, living in a fourteen-hundred dollar a month one-roomer somewhere, all for the privilege of saying I had a job—the exact same job that I have now.

Yeah--working myself into an early grave, to repay eighteen years of benefits....right?

My personal opinion is that to give up the pension for anything less than about $250,000.00 (cash on the barrel-head) would be pretty God-damned foolish. That’s because I have at least, somehow, managed to survive on ODSP for eighteen years.

To accept an advance, knowing that almost half would go back to the province that has made a game of ripping us off, is morally unacceptable.

They would do everything in their power to hound me into an early grave. I know, as I was well on my way to success when I operated a business doing commercial interior renovations and roofing part-time.

The ODSP staff drove me to the brink of suicide and that’s the sort of thing I will not forget.

If you are a major publisher and you have been wondering why I haven’t submitted anything in a while, well, now you have your answer.

I could write a book about the ODSP, but the average Canadian publisher would not want to publish that much truthiness. It reflects poorly on the system which has been pretty good to them.

Publishers have a certain power, and I too will acquire such powers.

At that point, I may be in a position to effectively lobby further on behalf of my fellow disabled Canadians.

In the meantime, I do what I can. I fit actions to words. This rather excellent blog post is an example of putting my precious time and my precious money, where my fucking mouth is.

Which is more than can be said for the ODSP and the bourgeoisie sometimes.


Incidentally, if you honestly believe that poor people can work their way out of poverty, then you might do me the honour of having a look at my other books and stories.

Please grab any free title that takes your fancy, (Amazon’s always price-matching somebody) and if you could leave a review, that would be positively lovely.

My plan is to take things slowly and think it through before I make any bone-head moves.

Strictly speaking, and thinking outside of the box, it is still theoretically possible to succeed in this business. If that ever happens, perhaps I will write a book on just exactly how that’s done…

Have a nice day and believe in yourselves.

No one else is going to do that for you, ladies and gentlemen.

(Okay, it’s over now. – ed )


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