Doug Ford’s Tories change tune and cancel financial aid program for low-income people

Doug Ford’s Tories change tune and cancel financial aid program for low-income people

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives have gone back on their word bycancelling an experimental provincial program that offered financial support to 4,000 low-income Ontarians.

The pilot program was launched in April 2017 by the previous Liberal government and was set to last three years. It provided a minimum income of $17,000 per year to qualified people, minus half of their earned income.

This could allow a couple to receive up to $24,000 annually and people with disabilities were entitled to an additional $6,000.

In April, a spokeswoman for Ford, Melissa Lantsman, told the Toronto Star that the Tories had no plans to cancel the test program, and were “looking forward to seeing the results.”

Melissa Lantsman, then communications staffer for Premier Elect Doug Ford, was seen at Ford’s swearing-in ceremony at Queen’s Park, Toronto, on June 28th, 2018. File photo by Alex Tétreault

Three months later, Ford’s government is calling it an expensive “patchwork system,” and announced the Tory government would replace it with “a system that helps stabilize people in need and support them to succeed.”

In a briefing on Tuesday, Ontario Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod said the program was “clearly not the answer for Ontario families.

In the March budget, the Liberals announced they would raise income assistance rates by three per cent. MacLeod announced the government will change that, increasing welfare rates by a smaller margin of 1.5 per cent.

The announcement marked the beginning of a 100-day revamp of provincial social assistance services, she said.

“Our plan will help get people back to work and keep them working, while supporting people with disabilities to work when they are able and participate in their communities,” said MacLeod in the statement.

MacLeod said the changes to social assistance will “go hand-in-hand” with recent government decisions to slash gas prices by 10 cents per litre, lower hydro rates and provide tax relief for working parents and minimum wage earners.

The number of people in Ontario who have signed onto social assistance has increased by 55 per cent over the past 15 years.

In a statement, Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner, the MPP for Guelph, said the PCs are “breaking a promise” to keep the basic income pilot and hurting welfare recipients depending on increase come September.