The Ontario Liberal Party is promising to increase Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefits by 20 per cent over the next two years if elected, CityNews has learned.
Currently, a single person with disabilities receives $1,169 a month to cover rent, food, clothing and other expenses. Advocates have been trying to get that figure raised for a number of years.
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca says if elected, his party will increase ODSP benefits by 10 per cent in 2022 and by an additional 10 per cent in 2023.
The Liberal plan would put the basic monthly ODSP payment for a single person at around $1,400 a month when fully rolled out in 2023, at an increased cost of $1.2 billion. The Liberals are also promising to increase the maximum amount a person with disabilities can earn, before benefits are clawed back, to $6,000 a year. Currently, the bar is set at $200 a month, anything above that is clawed back by 50 per cent. Advocates say the majority of people on ODSP can’t work.
Trevor Mason is an ODSP recipient who is also with the ODSP Action Coalition. He says $1,400 is still not enough for a single person with a disability to live on but adds, “it’s a hell of a lot better than the $1,169 where we are at now.”
After paying rent and utilities, Manson says he has $7 a day left for food out of the $1,169 he currently receives. CityNews has documented how people with disabilities say they will turn to MAID, medically assisted dying, because they can’t afford to live.
Last month Richard Ewald, an ODSP recipient who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stage four liver disease, chronic pain, and depression, told CityNews he will be applying for MAID if his situation gets worse and he knows others who are planning to do the same.
“If you had the choice between two ways of going what would you do? Prolonged suffering or just get it over with?” he said, adding “I wouldn’t be doing it if I wasn’t so stuck in this situation with ODSP.”
Here is what other parties are promising during this election:
- The NDP says it will immediately raise ODSP rates by 20% and raise the claw back bar for those who can work but hasn’t set a target yet. It promises to re-design the system before the end of it’s first time.
- The Green Party say they will double them
- The PCs, who are currently leading in the polls, did not put anything to increase ODSP rates in the budget which is serving as their election platform.
CityNews asked a spokesperson for Doug Ford if there is a plan to raise ODSP rates and was told the comment made by him last month still stands.
In April, Ford said he has been there to support those unable to work for the last four years.
“For the people who are unable to work for any reason, mentally or physically I will always be there for them.” He said. “The best way to help someone who can work is to get them a job. ”
Former Conservative Premier Mike Harris cut ODSP payments by 21 percent in 1995. In 1998 a person with disabilities could receive up to $930 a month. Since then, 24 years later, rates have only increased by $239 a month.
Just before the last election, then Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne promised to raise ODSP by three percent a year for three consecutive years. The Ford government cancelled those increases when it won in 2018, raising them once by 1.5 per cent instead.
When asked why the Liberals didn’t significantly increase rates when it had 15 years in power, Steven Del Duca said, “the Ontario Liberal party has new leadership.”
The Liberals are also promising to bring back the basic income pilot program which the Ford government cut after it was elected.