I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on this bill. This is news to me, and shake the hand of MPP Barrett. I am a little suspicious that this is a conservative voter grab, and it is a very neoliberal approach to access to work, that still views people with disabilities as burdens that businesses should be tax deducted for hiring, but it`s a step in right direction, possibly.
Since when have they had social justice reporters for the Toronto Star? I want that job!!!
March 31, 2010
Ontario’s welfare rules condemn disabled people to lives of poverty by squeezing their assets, scooping their child support payments and discouraging them from working, says a Conservative MPP who introduced a private member’s bill Wednesday to address the problem.
Under the bill proposed by MPP Toby Barrett (Haldimand–Norfolk), about 230,000 people on Ontario’s disability support program (ODSP) would see their asset limits double to $12,000, while about 38,000 couples would be allowed to keep up to $20,000. Children could have assets of up to $500 each.
Single parents would no longer have child support payments deduced from their ODSP cheques.
Currently, anyone on welfare who gets a job has 50 cents on every dollar earned deducted from their cheques. But under Barrett’s proposed bill, a disabled person would be allowed to keep up to $700 a month in earnings or $1,000, if the person has a spouse.
To encourage employers to hire people on ODSP, non-refundable tax credits would be available based on up to $10,000 per person in wages paid. The tax credit would be available for a maximum of five employees per business and would amount to about $500 per employee, Barrett said.
“Most of us want to work and it’s a big disincentive if somebody takes half of what you earn away from you,” Barrett said in an interview. “By raising the asset limit, we’ll be helping them save more of what they earn.”
Private member’s bills rarely become law, but Barrett, a member of the Legislature’s sub-committee on finance and economic affairs, said compelling submissions from advocates for the disabled prompted him to act. His bill will be debated April 22.
Kyle Vose, a cancer survivor with HIV who is living on ODSP, welcomed the move.
“Normally one wouldn’t expect the Conservatives to be so open-minded on this. But they seem more liberal-minded than the Liberals these days,” he said, referring to last week’s budget which cancelled an allowance that helps people on ODSP pay extra food costs related to specific medical conditions.
“I just hope something comes of this,” Vose added.
Advocates for the disabled were also pleased. However, they had had hoped the changes would have been introduced by the government in last week’s budget. And they would like to see everyone on welfare benefit from the proposed changes and not just the disabled.
“We’ve been advocating for rule changes like these for many years,” said community legal worker Nancy Vander Plaats, co-chair of the ODSP Action Committee. “It’s good to see this coming before the Legislature.”
Barrett’s proposed changes to welfare assets and earnings rules are among a list of 13 interim measures suggested by the government’s social assistance advisory council. The council was set up by Social Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur last December to craft terms of reference for a promised review of Ontario’s welfare system, expected later this year.
But after last week’s budget, Meilleur said she could act only on welfare rules concerning gifts, shared accommodation, financial windfalls and suspensions. The council’s other proposed changes – including asset and earnings exemptions—would be too costly for a province facing a $21.3 billion deficit, she said.
As of February, more than 830,000 Ontarians relied on social assistance, including about 371,000 on ODSP and 460,000 Ontario Works.