It was gratifying to see Doug Ford near the end of the election campaign feel embarrassed enough by opposition parties to announce that he too would give a raise to people with disabilities on disability support (ODSP) if he did. he was re-elected. He, however, suggested just five per cent, which will force the disabled poor to continue to choose between rent or food on their current basis of $1,169.
He backed up that promise when he won with no delay for implementation, but when asked if 5% was enough given high inflation, his finance minister was evasive. We have a lot of tools in our toolbox, he told his interlocutor as he rushed into a meeting.
In 2020, when Ford claimed people with disabilities benefited the most from COVID-19 benefits, I quoted him saying that “the best way to help people on Ontario Works or ODSP, s ‘they are healthy and able to work, find them a job, help them find a job. The vast majority of people with disabilities would like nothing better than to get rid of their disability and live like everyone else and that includes work. But they cannot and only a small proportion of them can work.
According to Press Progress, Ontario will contract out the ODSP jobs program to private companies. One of the shortlisted companies was Maximus Inc. The Virginia-based social services company has built a reputation managing Conservative benefit cuts in Britain, southern Republican states in the US and, more recently, helping former US President Donald Trump’s efforts “to make the poor work for Medicaid and food stamps.
Financial aid, however, is already readily available not for people with disabilities, but for “impoverished” Tory MPs, as Global News revealed ahead of the election. Eight of Ford’s MLAs demanded extra pay from their constituency treasuries. One of them was Lisa MacLeod, who was at one time minister responsible for disability benefits. His base salary was $165,851 compared to $14,028 for a single person with a disability or 12 times that. Between 2017 and 2020, she needed an additional $56,427 to make ends meet – enough to “support” four disabled souls for a year.
For the current legislature, as Ontario Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Jay Godberg, wrote, “Ford has announced the largest list of overpaid politicians in the history of the province. No less than 73 of the 83 Progressive Conservative MPs received special titles and salary increases. And, “with a 30-person cabinet, Ford officially beat former premier Kathleen Wynne by choosing the largest and most expensive cabinet in the province’s history.”
Ford even has a red tape reduction minister who is aided by a parliamentary aide. I suspect they will try to reduce the bureaucracy lengthwise.
Unfortunately, our contempt for the difficult financial situation of people with disabilities, who are disabled through no fault of their own, extends to the Liberal Party. The provincial Liberals did very little during their tenure. Trudeau, however, talks about the need for a Canada-wide disability benefit that is supported by all MPs, but he hasn’t accomplished anything so far. This bill died when an election was called and has now been reintroduced as Bill C-22 in time for the summer recess. Poverty among the disabled stands at 41%, inflation at 7.7% and rising food costs at 9.7%. Supermarket profits rose 31.08% for Loblaws and 20.06% for Metro.
Business wellness to help them through COVID was substantial. At the start of 2021, Bell, Rogers and Telus raised $240 million to help them. Dividends to shareholders continued and were increased. Ontario’s auditor general found the province failed to properly track $4.4 billion in COVID-related spending.
We wonder what our priorities are and where our humanity stands.