Cuts to ODSP benefits set a new low for Liberal cynicism: NDP MPP Forster

WELLAND — By hiding a $100-per-month cut to ODSP benefits behind a flurry of anti-poverty rhetoric, the Liberals have set a new low for cynicism, said NDP Community and Social Services critic Cindy Forster today. Her remarks came after anti-poverty organizations like the Income Security Advocacy Centre told the Legislature’s Finance Committee that the surprise elimination of the Work-Related Benefit would harm working ODSP recipients.

“The Liberals secretly planned to cut benefits for ODSP recipients, while claiming they were raising benefits and reducing poverty. This sets a new low for Liberal cynicism,” said Forster, MPP for Welland.

The cut was hidden in the 2014 provincial budget, which announced a “streamlining” of employment benefits for ODSP recipients. However, the government did not reveal until after the election and the budget was passed that this “streamlining” actually meant that the $100-per-month Work-Related Benefit for working ODSP recipients would be cut. A brief reference to a “transitional benefit” was the only clue that the budget included a cut to ODSP benefits. 

The cuts come nearly two years after the NDP forced the Liberal government to allow working ODSP recipients to keep $200 more of their monthly earnings before having their benefits clawed back. This change encouraged recipients to seek employment, knowing that they would not immediately lose benefits the moment they started earning any money.

In addition to reducing benefits to working ODSP recipients, the government is replacing mandatory benefits with a single benefit that will be discretionary. This means that a denial of benefits can no longer be appealed to Social Benefits Tribunal.

“Two years ago, the NDP fought to increase benefits for working ODSP recipients, and now the government is reversing that progress,” said Forster. “And by replacing mandatory ODSP benefits with lower, discretionary benefits that can be taken away without the right to appeal, the government is denying ODSP recipients access to justice. It’s disgraceful.”

Forster noted that these latest cuts were implemented in a similar cynical manner as the provincial funding cuts to homelessness prevention programs for ODSP recipients in 2012. Under the guise of “modernization,” funding for the mandatory Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit was cancelled, and replaced with discretionary benefits worth half as much under the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative.

“In the last few months, the government announced a new homelessness prevention panel, less than three years after it cut funding for homelessness prevention programs. The government also announced a renewed anti-poverty strategy, but now it is cutting benefits for ODSP recipients. If the Liberals make any more announcements like these, pretty soon there won’t be any ODSP benefits left,” said Forster. “We don’t need any more empty Liberal anti-poverty rhetoric. We just need them to stop cutting anti-poverty programs.”