Doug Ford's War on Ontario's Poor

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1712 ... November 30, 2018

Doug Ford’s War on Ontario’s Poor

John Clarke

Ontario’s recently elected Tory government, headed by right wing populist, Doug Ford, did not wait very long to incorporate into its reactionary agenda, an attack on the province’s social assistance system and those living in poverty. Though their election platform had been astoundingly sparse when it came to details and no warning was given of an intended war on the poor, in July, Ford’s Social Services Minister, Lisa MacLeod, announced that a hundred day review of the province’s social assistance system would be undertaken. To set the stamp on the Tory brand of ‘welfare reform’ MacLeod informed us that a scheduled increase of 3% in social assistance rates would be cut in half, that a series of... modest improvements in the delivery system would be jettisoned and that 4,000 people who had been accepted onto the basic income pilot would now be cut adrift as the experiment was cancelled.

On November 22, MacLeod announced the results of the review process. Generally speaking, while some voices of serious concern have been raised, the brutal nature of the Tory measures has not yet been widely appreciated. One comment on the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) Facebook page suggested that "Harris did far worse." Actually, the reference to the attack on the poor that was carried by the Tory government of Mike Harris in 1995 puts things into clear focus. Harris, exploiting the fact that the Liberal and New Democratic Party (NDP) governments that preceded his regime had been happy to leave a system of social assistance in place that imposed legislated poverty, had three major objectives when it came to degrading income support in Ontario.

Firstly, he wanted to drastically reduce the adequacy of social assistance rates. This he did by implementing a 21.6% cut and by freezing benefits for the next eight years. The Liberals who followed him provided increases below the rate of inflation and so, more than 20 years after Harris slashed them, benefits levels are so low that a major reduction is hardly necessary.

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