April 24, 2019
The Honourable Lisa MacLeod
Minister of Children, Community and Social Services
6th Floor Hepburn Block
80 Grosvenor Street
Toronto, ON M7A 1E9
Dear Minister MacLeod,
We are writing to you with regard to consultations your government is hosting to determine a new definition of disability for the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). After speaking with stakeholders and social assistance recipients, it is our understanding that these consultations are closed-door, invitation-only meetings. We implore you to open up these consultations to the public, and to create a transparent process by providing the public with clear information as to the dates and times of these meetings.
In November 2018, your government announced changes that are potentially devastating to Ontario’s social assistance programs and overall framework. Your decision to cut a planned increase to social assistance rates by 50 per cent, and to increase clawbacks on recipients’ earned income, will undoubtedly make life more difficult for Ontarians with disabilities — many of whom are already struggling to get by on meager social assistance allowances.
Further, your government’s announcement that it intends to align the province's definition of disability with that used by the federal government was of immediate concern to social assistance advocates, recipients, and experts. As you know, the most commonly utilized federal definition of disability is the Canada Pension Plan – Disability (CCP-D) definition, a classification that grievously limits the scope of eligible disabilities to those considered “severe and prolonged.” Should this definition be applied to eligibility requirements for ODSP, a large number of disabled Ontarians will be unable to access ODSP. Among those potentially excluded are Ontarians battling cancer, multiple sclerosis and a range of mental health challenges.
In the 2019 budget, your government also announced a $1 billion-cut to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services. The vast majority of this cut will apparently come from “implementing social assistance reforms” and “transforming employment services.” Despite the fact that consultations are apparently ongoing, we are concerned that your government has already decided to exclude as many Ontarians as possible from accessing ODSP. The latter amounts to a cut at the expense of some of Ontario’s most vulnerable residents and we sincerely hope that this is not your government’s plan.
Minister, just a few months ago, your government, and your ministry, experienced first-hand the consequences of releasing a problematic plan without authentic consultation with the Ontarians who will be affected. The original version of your Ontario Autism Program was swiftly met with fierce opposition from parents, educators, industry professionals, and experts alike. It is clear that any closed-door, invitation-only consultations you held on this program did little to mitigate the harmful effects of the program you rolled out. We encourage you to learn from this mistake, and immediately host open forum consultations on the province’s new definition of disability.
It is our sincere hope that you fully consider the consequences of actively and intentionally excluding the voices of experts, advocates, and recipients from this significant consultation.
We look forward to your prompt reply,
Rima Berns-McGown, MPP
Lisa Gretzky, MPP
Joel Harden, MPP