How did Ontario’s disgraceful disability support program get so bad? 

Posted on February 22, 2022 in Inclusion Debates

Source: — Authors: – Opinion
Feb 17, 2022.    Randall Denley

Ontario has what it calls a ‘vision for social assistance transformation,’ but it does nothing to give the disabled a livable sum of money 

What kind of society believes that disabled people struggling to cope with mental, psychological and physical challenges should be expected to get by on just $1,169 a month? Well, Ontario for one.

That’s what a disabled Ontarian who is single gets every month in government support. It’s a disgrace, but one that seldom makes it onto the political agenda or captures the attention of the media or the public. And yet, 2.6 million Ontarians have a disability and more than 395,000 of them receive the Ontario Disability Support Payment.

The ODSP comes in two parts. The “shelter benefit” is intended to cover to rent, mortgage, property taxes, home insurance, utilities, and condo fees. It tops out at $497. The government generously provides an additional $672 a month to cover all of life’s other costs. Disabled people with children can get more, but the amount is still well below the poverty line. In Toronto, the $1,169 is almost enough to cover the cost of a bachelor apartment. If your lifestyle doesn’t include eating, you can get by.

Let’s put that sum in context. During the pandemic, considerable attention has been paid to how much money people require to live on, either through pandemic support programs or through work. The federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit set the floor for what was politically acceptable at $500 a week. That rate would generate an annual income of $26,000 compared to the meagre $14,028 received by a single person on ODSP. So, that’s the going rate for not working.

But what about working? Ontario Premier Doug Ford raised the minimum wage to $15 as of Jan. 1, an increase of 4.5 per cent. He was widely denounced as a skinflint, but a person working for minimum wage in Ontario, 40 hours per week, can now make an annual income of $31,200 a year. People often wonder how anyone can get by on such a pittance.

Doug Ford inherited the ODSP problem, he didn’t create it. Unfortunately, he has made it worse. One of Ford’s first acts as premier was the halving of a planned three per cent increase in ODSP rates.  People on ODSP haven’t received a raise since 2018, even though annual inflation in Ontario now stands at 5.2 per cent.

Ontario has what it calls a “vision for social assistance transformation,” but it does nothing to give the disabled a livable sum of money. Instead, it perpetuates the mistaken idea that disabled people’s main need is help finding work.

The performance of ODSP was examined in some detail in a 2019 report by Ontario’s Auditor General, Bonnie Lysyk. If ODSP is a job program, it’s one of the worst ever designed.  The auditor found that only two per cent of disabled adults were referred to the government’s employment supports program. An earlier study showed that of those, only 1.5 per cent earned enough to leave ODSP.

That’s not surprising when one considers who ODSP serves. The vast majority of Ontarians with a disability are not on the program. Of those who are, 57 per cent have either mental illnesses or developmental disabilities. Nevertheless, the PCs’ new “vision” for the disabled continues to push the optimistic goal of finding jobs for them.

ODSP is a curious job program because it begins to claw back earned income at the modest monthly total of just $200. After that, the government reduces its ODSP payments by 50 cents for every dollar earned, apparently thinking that once a person has $1,369 a month to live on, it’s time to lighten the unbearable load they are placing on government.

The government’s plan for the disabled relies heavily on the idea that people with disabilities have families who can afford to support them. It generously allows family to donate up to $10,000 a year, nearly as much as the government itself. Any greater assistance will mean a reduction in government help.

With maximum family help, a disabled person could just ease over the low income cut off, a measure of poverty that shows a single, urban Ontario would need just under $22,000 to get by. Of course, not every disabled person has such family support.

For years, disabled people and their advocates have been calling for better treatment. Instead, they are ignored by a provincial government that can afford to give wealthy people a break on their power rates, vacationers a tax break for renting a cottage, maybe even make licence plates free, a cheap political stunt that would cost $1 billion a year.

There’s a better way, which I will explain in my next column.

Randall Denley is an Ottawa political commentator, author and former Ontario PC candidate. Contact him at

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022 at 11:53 am and is filed under Inclusion Debates. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

One Response to “How did Ontario’s disgraceful disability support program get so bad? ”

  1. Josephine says:

    Hi I did read about one person in toronto how much should be their income yearly.the budget came in 2022 and government didn’t even mention about adult with disability odsp this is not right honestly odsp is very low income we hardly make in it by end of the month.can someone say something to government we need more money for odsp please government give money for all part of problems but they never did anything for poor people odsp one person get $10.000 a year that is very low that includes shelter and food.but life is not only food human need clothes there is so many things we need to buy .can you please help talk to any part of government that help for odsp thank you so much


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