My now open letter to Ontario’s government, and the premier’s response.

I’ve mentioned already that if you’re on disability in Ontario, you’re almost getting the shaft so far as actual help to do anything without needing to rely on help, financial or otherwise, from friends/family/whatever. In this letter, sent to Ontario’s ruling parties, I mentioned it to them in far more simple terms. So far, response has been rather minimal.

Subject: Disability Does Not Equal Poverty

Honourable members,

I write you today to bring to your attention what I had hoped initially might have been a grave oversight in the administration of the Ontario Disability Support program (ODSP). Presently, minimum wage in Ontario is scheduled to undergo a 75 cent increase on the 31st of March. This would be the seventh such minimum wage increase since the McGuinty government took office in 2004, and would bring the wage to $10.25 per hour–a nearly 43 percent increase in a 6-year period. In the same length of time, however, ODSP payments have seen an increase of slightly more than 100 dollars, or approximately 10.5 percent.

These statistics constitute a grose imbalance between those Ontarions restricted in their employment options due to a disability and those capable of filling any minimum wage position. Additionally, it strips many of the disabled of their independence by forcing them to rely on the support and shelter of family/friends due to the inability to aford living on their own. The difference, which is the difference in some cases between poverty and independence, is 500 dollars based on a standard 37.5-hour work week. A disabled individual living on the current level of ODSP will most likely not continue to remain self-sufficient based on current cost of living trends.

I speak on this matter as one of the said disabled individuals affected by the imbalance between current established minimums and those available to the disabled via the ODSP. Living presently in Petawawa, after being forced to leave Ottawa due to my inability to aford to remain, I now reside in an apartment who’s rent is still approximately $100 above the current allowance for shelter of $465–presently, it is the lowest rent available to me without the assistance of subsidised housing. The rent does not include heat and/or electricity, which brings total expenses paid well above $100 over the allowance for basic shelter. Transportation costs then must come out of my allowance for food/clothing, along with payment of necessary expenses not currently considered necessary under the ODSP (E.G. telephone). As Pembroke/Petawawa does not have a public transit system, transportation costs will vary depending on several conditions including: where i’m going, how far away, how frequently, and whether by family or friends’ vehicles or local taxi services. When expenses are finally alocated to groceries, clothing etc, it would be an understatement to say the remainder of current ODSP payments are spread a little thin.

I find it less than acceptable that able-bodied individuals with little to know limitations applied to their ability to work are able to remain virtually entirely self-sufficient, whereas the disabled who are unable to occupy a position at, for example, McDonalds for the said minimum wage are forced to depend on the support of others in order to establish a degree of independence. Furthermore, I find it even less acceptable that over the past 6 years under this government, the gap between disabled and non-disabled Ontarions has only widened. The disabled do not get discounts on rent, nor do we get a similar discount on electricity, groceries, transportation, or any other item easily aforded by those individuals earning minimum wage. And yet we are expected to pay equal prices for equal services on significantly less income. Disability should not equate to poverty, however under the current system as it stands right now, that is precisely what it equates to. If the minimum wage was adjusted in order to allow Ontarions to maintain the ability to cope with the increase in cost of living and inflation, payments via ODSP should likewise see a similar increase. A failure to do so should be seen as a failure to provide afordable living for the people of Ontario.

I would be more than happy to have this conversation in a more direct manner with each one of you, should you be so inclined, and provide you with any further information that might assist you in determining the entirety of this issue. If you would like to discuss this matter further, my contact information is below. I will also include for your reading pleasure a link to a website in which many non-disabled individuals not only agree with me, but have performed their own research based on information publicly available to determine for themselves that current support levels are insufficient. Thank you for reading, and I hope we can speak further on this topic.

Additional Information: http://www.knitnut.net/2010/02/do-the-math/

Sincerely,
James Homuth
Petawawa, Ontario
(contact information removed from this version–I hate spam)

It took a couple days, but Dalton McGuinty did eventually get back to me. Or, rather, one of his slightly modified form letters got back to me.

Subject: An e-mail from the Premier of Ontario

Thanks for your online message about the Ontario Disability Support Program. I appreciate your having taken the time to share your valued feedback with me.

Our government remains committed to improving the quality of life for all Ontarians. I note that you have also sent a copy of your e-mail to my colleague the Honourable Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community and Social Services. I trust that the minister will take your views into careful consideration.

Thanks again for contacting me. Please accept my best wishes.

Dalton McGuinty
Premier of Ontario

c: The Honourable Madeleine Meilleur

While he noticed I sent a copy to his minister of social services, he didn’t exactly prod her in the rear end to get back to me. I’m still waiting, Dalton. In the meantime, let’s talk about that extra $10 you’re giving me in about 8 months. Specificly, let’s make it $500, and effective next month. Deal? Didn’t think so.

3 comments

    • James

      I get the distinct impression he’s good at that. fortunately, or not depending on your perspective, I’m better. Will post specifics in a bit.

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