Lisa Gretzky MPP, for Windsor West

Government of Ontario

Ford redefining disability means vulnerable Ontarians will be turned away from ODSP benefits

Published on November 23, 2018

QUEEN’S PARK — The Ford government has announced it’s changing how it defines a disability — a move that means many more Ontarians will be turned away when they apply for the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).

"For people in Ontario living with a disability or serious illness, this change is going to make them more destitute, and more desperate," said NDP Social Services critic Lisa Gretzky." This is a callous way to deliver a cut on the backs of the most vulnerable people in Ontario. It's taking Ontario's social services from bad to worse."

Conservative Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Lisa MacLeod announced Thursday that the province will change the definition of disability to match the federal definition. The most common federal definition applies to Canada Pension Plan Disability (CPPD) applicants, who can only get support if their illness is likely to prevent them from ever working. If Ford applies this definition to ODSP recipients, Ontarians whose disabilities allow them to work occasionally, or those who may one day be able to work, will be denied support. This could include people with cancer, common forms of diseases like MS, and certain mental illnesses.

The move enables the Ford Conservatives and Lisa MacLeod to make a deep cut to social service programs. Her ministry, which includes Children, Community and Social Services, is budgeted at about $1 billion less than the 2018 budget allocated for those ministries when they were separate.

“The Conservatives have already made deep cuts to a social assistance system that gives much-needed support to nearly one million Ontarians,” said Gretzky. “Doug Ford has already cut in half a planned increase to social assistance from three per cent to 1.5 per cent. He killed the Liberals’ three-year basic income pilot, a project that has been helping 4,000 low-income earners across Ontario.”

These cuts are causing serious anxiety for Ontarians struggling to make ends meet on the existing social assistance payments provided by Ontario Works (OW) and ODSP.

“The Conservatives are taking things from bad to worse,” Gretzky said. “In Windsor, one in four women and one in four children live in poverty – the highest poverty rates in Canada. For MacLeod to pass this change off as anything but cuts to Ontario’s most vulnerable people is disgusting.”

In Toronto, the Daily Bread Food Bank recently reported that over 60 per cent of its users rely on social assistance to make ends meet. Last year, the food bank had 914,000 visits. Doug Ford’s own riding of Etobicoke saw the largest surge – 170 per cent - in food bank users. Daily Bread Food Bank CEO Neil Hetherington warned that Ford’s cuts to social assistance will only drive these numbers up.

Ontarians, and Ontario’s most vulnerable, deserve better.