Is the broken ODSP system finally hitting the mainstream?

If you’ve spent any time on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), or its partner program for the mostly non-disabled (Ontario Works), you’ve very quickly become aware of two rather important–and probably unsurprising–problems. Problem the first: the Ontario Disability Support Program has a disability. And problem the second: Ontario Works, rather, doesn’t.

Randall Denley, in a Jan. 5 column, argues that, in addressing the social assistance system, “The first thing is to get the welfare changes to one side and focus on the disability income shortfall.” However, the social assistance rates he cites suggest his conclusion is wrong.

As he puts it, “Under the optimistically named Ontario Works welfare program, the most a single person gets is $706 a month. People with disabilities get a lordly $1,138.” Sure, $1,138 is too low, but should we focus on those getting that amount rather than on those getting $706?

We got to the size of the gap between the two programs when Mike Harris, premier at the time, cut Ontario Works rates by 21.6 per cent. Since the Liberals have been in government provincially, they have only increased the dollar gap by making increases for the two programs on a percentage basis (with a minor exception: when Ted McMeekin was the minister in charge, he added a small amount to benefits for singles on Ontario Works).

Denley also buys the line peddled by Ontario governments of all stripes – Liberal, Conservative and NDP – that Ontario Works (OW) is a program for people temporarily in need of financial support. But for the 2014-15 fiscal year, the average time on OW was 27 months. Half were on it for more than 15 months. When I was a welfare supervisor in Ottawa in the 1990s, I saw many files going back 10 years. I even saw some going back 20 and 25 years. Short-term, my eye.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It should. The systems are interchangeable In one way, and one way only. Neither system is sufficient to allow a person to be entirely independent, let alone survive long enough to actually find away to get themselves off that system. The key difference? ODSP tries–and fails–just a little bit harder.

I’ve made mention of the gap between the two systems before. I’ve said they both needed a good solid fixing before. But now, I’m not the only one who’s at least paying lip service to the problems. Several places in Ontario are now tossing about the idea of introducing a basic income to solve most of the problems caused by the two systems, as well as a few the two systems aren’t designed to either cause or deal with. No one seems to have any idea the form this pilot project will take, if it takes any form at all, but there are no shortages of ideas or things people would like to see.

The Green Wood Coalition’s paper on a Basic Income Guarantee in Ontario was to be presented to a Social Services Ministry consultation event in Cobourg Wednesday evening.

Written by spokesperson David Sheffield, who also was scheduled to make an oral presentation, it supports Senator Hugh Segal’s recommendation that “the Government of Ontario immediately raise the Ontario Works rate for a single individual to $1,320 per month and raise ODSP rates by at least $500 per month.”

At this time, a single person on Ontario Works gets $720 monthly (and this just went up) and someone on the Ontario Disability Support Program typically gets just under $1,200, Sheffield said in an interview prior to his presentation.

“It is the position of Green Wood Coalition that eliminating poverty is an urgent health, human rights and social justice issue that requires action on the part of the municipal, provincial and federal governments. As a street-level, charitable organization that uses a community model of caring to walk alongside people living with poverty, mental illness, addiction and other disability, in Port Hope, Green Wood Coalition has observed, first hand, the detrimental effects of poverty on individuals and families.

Of course, what isn’t mentioned in this or any of the other articles is that about $500 is very close to the difference between what a person on ODSP gets now and Ontario’s current minimum wage–a wage that was just increased this year because, according to Ontario’s government, living costs too much. They’re right, and if they implement something even remotely like what’s being discussed here, that will put a very large dent in a lot of people’s problems. Taking care of the lower classes is supposed to be the new lliberal thing these days, at least if Ontario’s liberals take their marching orders from our new Prime Minister (he’s borrowing some of her staff, so they ought to), and this would go a few miles towards handling that. Which is why I’m surprised this government’s even talking about it, given they’ve been rather not at all interested in doing anything about it before now.

Equally surprising is the fact this is getting media attention. It should, of course, but lack of interest from the people who matter means not a whole lot for the media to cover, unless they’d like to cover a protest that doesn’t end up accomplishing much. It’s a very nice change, and if it keeps the issue from being swept under the rug as previous incarnations of this same government have also been known to do, I’ll drink a shot of cheap alcohol in their honour–I can’t afford anything with actual class, sorry.

I’m trying not to be too hopeful here, but initial signs are that ODSP’s broken might actually be trying its best to enter the mainstream. If it gets there, it’s about damned time. If it stays there, amazing. And if it fixes things, there will be no one happier than me–yes, despite the fact I’m still trying my best to get the hell off this program as quickly as humanly possible. So I’ll thank the government kindly if they don’t break everything in the attempt. That would be just a little bit awesome. Now, let’s see if they’re up to it.

Ontario pats itself on the back for $18.

Things have been happening while I’ve been drowning in academia. Some of those things have been awesome. Some of them have been questionable. And some of them have just been sad. The sad is brought to you buy Ontario’s government, who’s spent the better part of 13 years taking sad to entirely new levels.

I won’t recap the far too many problems with the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), mostly because it’s already been done several times. And every time, there’s a new one to add to the list while the old ones are hauled out into the spotlight for the province to proudly announce that some day real soon, now, we’ll get it done. In this year’s edition of some day real soon, now, Ontario would like us to be thankful for an extra 18 bucks.

Ontario is increasing social assistance rates for people receiving support from Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).

This fall, new rate increases announced in the 2016 Budget come into effect, including an additional:
•$25 per month for single adults receiving Ontario Works
•1.5 per cent for families receiving Ontario Works
•1.5 per cent for individuals with disabilities who receive ODSP.

The rate increases come into effect in September 2016 for ODSP and in October 2016 for Ontario Works.

Which, for those folks fortunate enough to be told they don’t need to rely on their parents to pay 95% of their rent, works out to a very impressive $16.65–which, in keeping with the spirit of generosity, the government rounds up to $18. A gold star moment, if you’re Helena Jaczek, who has some incredibly low standards to live down to in that department.

You might notice that the $18 we get on ODSP is slightly less than the $25 a single person walks away with if they’re on welfare instead. You would be forgiven for thinking that’s part of the problem. It’s not. A single person on welfare receives significantly less than a single person on ODSP, so the $25 actually works out to be *slightly* more effective than the $18 handed out to ODSP recipients. The problem is that in both cases, at the end of the day, the increase amounts to a very generous pile of not a whole lot.

Welfare isn’t designed to allow people to get away with not working. The intent of the system, the success of which can be debated for the next 20 years with absolutely nothing settled, is to be a temporary stopgap for people who’ve fallen on hard luck and need something to tide them over while they get themselves back to work. ODSP, however, is primarily for people who can’t work–or, at least, probably shouldn’t be working–because they have an actual, honest to goodness disability, and holding down a job just isn’t adviseable. There’s some debate over what constitutes a disability, but regardless, that’s what ODSP’s for. Secondarily to that, and something they could use to improve on, they’re there to help those disabled folks who *can* work to actually find something that vaguely resembles gainful employment. In either situation, the program is supposed to be there as a way for the disabled to gain some version of independence–to get their lives on track and, if at all possible, get to a point where they can be relatively productive. The program falls short, and has fallen short for years. The extra $18 doesn’t change that fact.

In 2009, there was a campaign put on by disability advocates and local politicians, encouraging regulators to do the math and determine if they could live on what was then the current going rate for welfare and ODSP payments. Members of the provincial legislature did so, and were surprised–surprised, they’ll tell you–to learn they very probably couldn’t. In 2010, I did a very basic version of that math based on what was then current information for both ODSP and Ontario’s minimum wage. I shared it with the provincial government, who wasn’t entirely all that interested in hearing it–or doing much about it at the time. In 2016, I did that math again. The result is a nearly $600 difference between what a person making minimum wage earns and what a person at the top end of ODSP earns ($1710 versus $1128). What this breaks down to is, based on a 37.5-hour work week, $11.40 per hour for a person earning minimum wage (as of October 1, 2016) versus $7.52 per hour for a person on ODSP. That’s factoring in the Ontario government’s extra $18.

The government’s all too happy to shout from the rooftops when they think they’ve hit on something that might buy them a few votes next year. And with the politically correct croud, being seen to be doing something for those poor disabled folks might just be enough to do it. But before they pat themselves on the back too much for their generosity, someone might want to point out to them that even relatively thrifty-minded disabled folks are still hitting food banks, or borrowing off parents who can’t afford to support two households, or foregoing groceries because paying for electricity in freaking December is just a bit more of a priority. Whoever replaces Helena Jaczek as minister of social services next year may want to put that on a post-it note in their office for the next time someone suggests congratulating themselves on squeezing out an extra $18. And Helena may want to dig up some better excuses than I’m used to receiving.

Hell has frozen. #ODSP has employed logic.

Every once in a while, the stars align in such a way that somebody somewhere actually gets an idea that doesn’t completely suck. It’s not very often that happens with the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), so when it does, it ends up being somewhat of a historic occasion. In this case, they actually might have done something that could possibly be called logical–I know, I know, but please try to hang on to your everything.

For literally years, people on ODSP have received a monthly drug/dental card when they’ve received their other, albeit not entirely significant, benefits for the month. This card covers certain dental care procedures, as well as some prescription drugs (*) to deal with other issues. The problem with the system, and the thing that didn’t make sense to me, is the prescriptions these cards covered were virtually entirely governed by the Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP). OHIP, for the painfully curious, is Ontario’s healthcare option for people who otherwise don’t have their own health insurance (Yes, healthcare idealists, we can still purchase private insurance if we can aford it. Deal with it.). It’s far more restrictive than most other insurance packages, but when you’re flat broke, poor, unemployed or otherwise unable to make off with something better, it gets you through in a pinch. But the two systems sort of semi-working together creates just a wee bit of nonsensical confusion and, well, the poor saps stuck sorting it out are usually the people who need the drugs.

Problem the first: These drug cards only last a month, then they expire–usually on the day you’re expected to get your hands on a new one. Which is awesome, until you end up dealing with–let’s say–a Canada Post strike, at which point you and the poor suckers who work the ODSP offices get to perform an emergency backstep because suddenly you’re out of benefits. Every office, at that point, tends to come up with their own way of handling it–some offices will require you go pick them up, which is awesome if you can get there. Some will just decide your benefit card from the previous month is still valid–at which point you hope like hell you or they can manage to communicate that to the people who need it communicated with (good luck, at least in Ottawa).

Problem the second: Some places like to hold on to your drug/dental cards. Let’s say you’ve done the prescription thing for whatever reason of the week. You wander off to the pharmacy to scoop them up on your way to do the life thing. Awesome. Pharmacy decides now would be a fine time to let you know that by the way they’ll just be holding on to your drug card for you. Good idea, right? Sure, as long as you don’t use any other services that require you present it. And then there’s the matter of the afore mentioned Canada Post strike, or potential for the same. Assuming you’re one of these people who’s ODSP office has decided your card for last month is still valid because mail stoppage, that does you no good if your pharmacy is holding the card from last month and you need it for a service you’re starting up this month. Of course if your ODSP people have no clue what they’re doing it does you no good anyway, but you know, can’t plan for everything.

So the solution they come up with–and as usual with Ontario’s government, public details are just a tad nonexistent–is to tie the benefits you receive directly to your health card. Awesome. Awesome, and way the hell overdue. The devil, of course, is in the details, but if it eliminates the need for people to sift through more paperwork at the start of every month, and if it can even cut down just a touch on the supposed administrative costs ODSP would like to have us think are bleeding the system dry, it can only mean good things for us. And tying the thing to the Ontario health card means–again, in theory as there’s nothing publicly available on the subject–that the problem of the monthly renewal dance is potentially a thing of the past. In theory, as long as your health card hasn’t expired, then neither have your benefits. And since prescriptions aren’t actually covered by anything attached to ODSP anyway, but are instead covered by the same people who issue you a new health card every so often, this makes my head hurt just a little bit less. Who knew ODSP could actually find a strand of logic under all that nonsense. I think the temperature in hell just dropped a couple degrees. Now if they can just avoid screwing it up the second the system changes, that would be amazing.

(*): If someone could actually explain OHIP’s prescription covering process to me, that would be wonderful. They’ll cover brand names for certain drugs, but not the generic versions. They’ll cover the generic versions of other drugs, but not the brand name. And they don’t necessarily cover all of the types of drugs that would make sense–certain types of, let’s say, more effective migraine medication as an example. I don’t get it. which, I suppose, is why I don’t work in–or do any work whatsoever for–government. Now if government in general and OHIP in particular would just decide it’s in their best interest to work for us, that would be amazing. Hey, ODSP’s trying–clearly, miracles do happen. sort of.

PS: ODSP, do not make me regret that last sentence. Please? I don’t have nearly enough vodka.

For $294 million, ODSP gives us… business as usual.

The Ontario Disability Support Program ((ODSP) and I haven’t been on friendly terms for as long as I’ve been barely living independently on what they toss me. The reasons are plenty and exceedingly detailed, but can probably very easily be boiled down to a few somewhat key factors. And those can be summarized approximately this way. The Ontario disability Support Program has itself a disability.

When you approach any government at all with the expectation that they might actually be able to do something semi-useful to help you, it’s almost a necessity that you make ready with a plan B, C, D and E just in case–because assuming that help actually comes in the form of something you can do decent things with, getting it to you is going to take far too long, be far too complicated, be far too little and come attached to far too many restrictions to end up doing you or them any amount of actual good in the long run. Unless they decided instead that nope, at which point it gets even more fun if you’re you.

ODSP finally has madness like this down to a science. And it’s all brought to you by the brand spanking new case management system that does pretty well nothing you expect it to do and not very well while it’s at it. For the $294 million price-tag their new system comes with, we have a front row seat to all manner of disfunction from all manner of levels. This new case management system, the money for which could have probably gone and done some good in just about any number of far more productive ways, now makes it possible for the fine folks over at ODSP to do the following things even better than they have in years previous.

  • Babysit an entirely dependent woman’s bank account while communicating as little as possible with her caretakers, then cut her off completely when they think she’s socked away too much money
  • Knock a significantly less dependent woman off ODSP for daring to do a little work for herself
  • Force recipients to repeatedly prove, by way of medical documentation–even for conditions that won’t be changing any time soon, that yes, they’re still broken and yes, they still qualify for support and yes, you should still pay them–and then manage to screw up the review process
  • That is, when the system–or the staff who run it–isn’t accidentally making the payments you keep having to requalify for disappear for reasons no one seems capable of knowing

And all it cost the province–translation: people who actually work for a living–for the pleasure was over a quarter billion. Not bad, if the government says so itself–which it does, as often as it can get away with. But on the bright side, we now know why people on ODSP don’t get to afford pithy little things like, you know, paying the rent. I wonder where a disabled program that could really use a little extra money could pull it from. For that kind of cash, we could use something a little bit better than business as usual.

I’d support a minimum guaranteed income law. Too bad one doesn’t exist.

If you’ve spent any amount of time out of work, whether you’re disabled or not, you know it hurts. It hurts twice if you’re out of work with any kind of disability–particularly as you’ve already got at least one strike against you. Governments think they’re helping, usually–when they’re not actively trying to do everything but, but more often than not the services most people have access to equate approximately to barely covering the rent if you happen to ask nicely. There are probably a few exceptions, depending on your definition of exceptions, but for the most part it goes approximately like this:

  • Step 1: Pray like nothing else your disability/welfare deposit comes in on time and for the correct amount. Optionally curse a blue streak when it doesn’t.
  • Step two: Try and ring up your caseworker, pray she’s in her office, pray she’s awake, pray she’s not currently mid-moodswing, and pray twice she’s not stuck using what escentially amounts to barely tested beta software (I’m looking at you, Ontario).
  • Step 3: Quite probably curse as at least one of those nested if statements turns false before your eyes. If you’re lucky, it may only be 1.
  • Step 4: Explain, probably twice, and a third time for good measure, that yes you’re broken again and could she kindly fix you and damn well mean it this time.
  • Step 5: Spend the rest of the month catching up on barely paying for the things you meant to pay for before your deposit went pair shaped.
  • Step 6: Repeat steps 1-5 as needed.

If the system works perfectly, you can likely skip that whole dance–and still have enough money left over for perhaps a cup of coffee if you haven’t gotten real good at getting real creative real fast. Which is still a problem, but it’s not necessarily the one problem with the potential to be your complete undoing. The problems that could potentially be your complete undoing are pretty much all administrative, mostly unnecessary and usually avoidable if the people handling the files would demonstrate a collective IQ above about 2.1.

I’m going to bash on Ontario, specificly the Ontario disability support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Works (OW), for two very simple reasons. Reason the first: I’m far too familiar with the system here for my own good–and have written way too much about them to be healthy. And reason the second: It’s not all sunshine and roses–and people who show up here looking for info on what they offer (this has happened) need to see that.

ODSP and OW come from a very similar set of procedures, slightly tweeked to account for the intended difference in clients. Which also means they come with the same, or close to the same, set of problems. Specificly, the process of actually providing the services hangs them up and they’re left spinning their wheels while figuring out how to actually provide the services–when they’re not taking their sweet time not approving you, anyway. So you’re left with a wheelchair user having to pay out of pocket to sort out complications ODSP was explicitly designed to cover, because ODSP has dropped the ball. Again.

It’s not *entirely* the fault of ODSP/OW for the way the system’s been bent out of shape. They’re covering their respective asses, more often than not–and that covering process tends to trip them up. It’s not a complete excuse, but when you’re alternating between people who’d rather be on ODSP than working and a system that seems set up to both allow and encourage it, you can kind of see why a little coverage is required.

There is a possible way around problems like this, and we largely have systems in place already that would be capable of handling it if a government were so inclined to develop enough of a spine to put it in place. Rather than an overcomplicated system of disability/welfare payments that seems to depend more on the phase of the moon than your medical condition, why not just move to a system of guaranteed annual income and be done with it? Take the payments out of the hands of social services, which comes with enough of its own stigma as it is, and hand it over to either provincial or federal tax authorities, say–like they already do in some jurisdictions for assessing things like your HST rebates, for those who get them. Or child tax, if that’s mildly more relevant for context purposes. The only requirement for determining whether or not you qualify for this particular benefit, then, would presumedly be your income tax filings–which you should be submitting if you’re not working anyway because potentially helpful.

The trend is to increase the minimum wage instead–Alberta’s government was considering a $15 minimum wage at one point, which would help, but only if you happen to be already working–and only then if your employer hasn’t decided the increase is going to cost too much and your particular job isn’t worth what they’re expected to pay. But there are more than a few good reasons to change that trend, which at least some parts of that same government are making vague-sounding rumbling noises about.

A minimum guaranteed income would accomplish the one thing no social services system has been able to actually do with any degree of success, if it’s executed properly. Get people off social services, and living moderately independently while they try and hopefully succeed at getting their feet under them. Unfortunately, and this is more than likely precisely why it’s not a thing that’s anywhere close to happening yet, proper execution is far from guaranteed–and getting there will be far from popular in just about any jurisdiction.

First, the receiving end of the spectrum. We’re assuming the idea behind a system like this is to give people just that little boost closer to the poverty line–the general assumption that was supposed to be the intent of social services, before it wasn’t. That means we’d need to see a minimum guaranteed income in or around the $19000 per year range to be considered closeish to the cutoff line. Doable, perhaps, but not easy–and it still won’t be entirely equal, though it would be more equal than the current system.

This is the part where I start to throw numbers at you. So if you’re the type that goes crosseyed at the prospect, 1: I know the feeling and 2: I warned you. Ontario’s minimum wage is about $11.25 as it stands right now. Crunch a few numbers based on a 40-hour work week, and you come out with $23400 in before-tax income on the year. Assuming they set the cutoff for this new guaranteed income plan at $19000, the actual hourly rate would be just slightly over $2 cheaper (at $9.13, based on that same 40-hour work week). So anyone who can’t find a job for more reasons than I feel like ever writing down in an entry would still lose out, but not by all that much in the grand scheme of things–and by a whole lot less than what they do now. Contrast this with the maximum you’d be entitled to on a system like ODSP, without the extras for things like special dietary requirements. Based on that same 40-hour work week, an ODSP recipient who’s actually entitled to the maximum allowed would earn $13176 on the year, or $6.33 per hour. Nearly half what Ontario’s current minimum wage is at present. And with the insentives against going out and finding work (see above), which would only end up hurting you long-term unless you found work at a rate of pay significant enough that it cancels out your ODSP entirely, the situation doesn’t end up actually doing a whole lot of helping you–and even if it does, the extra paperwork it requires, and the multiple opportunities for that extra paperwork to grow legs and wander off somewhere, don’t make it something most people look forward to actually doing.

Contrast that to the process for either reducing or getting completely off the minimum guaranteed income list–or getting back on it, if somewhere down the road your prospects take a turn for the nonexistent. As I said elsewhere, presumedly you’re filing your income taxes whether you’re working or not, particularly if you’ve got student loans–as keeping track of that becomes slightly easier at that point when it comes time to figure out how much of those loans you can claim credit for paying back. If the system is set up properly, meaning tied to your income tax filings similar to some other benefits you can claim from the government, then your eligibility for the minimum guaranteed income is either validated or revoked by virtue of the very same process you’d be going through anyway. So our person making minimum wage above, while maybe not flying in style, would be able to get himself off the minimum guaranteed income provision just by indicating he now has a job that pays him that minimum wage. If yearly income is more than minimum income threshold, minimum income doesn’t apply. If he later ends up losing that job and taking employment insurance, then the next time he files his taxes he’ll likely come in at or below the theoretical $19000 income cutoff. There’s probably a lot of room for maneuverability and all sorts of fun and games to make the system a little more fluid than the example I’ve just described, but given it’s a thought bubble at worst at the moment and a working theory sitting on some government staffer’s stack of paperwork at best, I’m using what I have to work with as a loose baseline. It will probably be challenged. Please do.

And now we get into the not so fun part of all this, and the reason I don’t expect to see one–not even one spearheaded by Alberta’s new NDP government–in the foreseeable future. The fairly significant matter of funding this provision. From the opinion piece on minimum guaranteed income linked earlier on:

But notice how it works. The benefit is a social obligation; thus, it is socially financed, i.e., through the tax and transfer system. Everybody pays for it (though the more you make the more you pay) and everybody is eligible for it (though the more you make the less you receive). It is available whether you are in work or out, and has no impact either on the willingness of workers to supply their labour or the willingness of employers to demand it.

The problem, roughly summarized, is that everybody pays. So the people who would have an issue with handing over their money for social assistance funding would very likely still have an issue with handing it over for this fund. The difference is, on a more technical level, they’d be as eligible to receive the benefit as, say, I would–though perhaps, depending on their particular situation, they might not see it that way if they’re paying in more on balance than they’re technically getting out of it. The trick, then, would be to frame that discussion in such a way that it’s not so much a net loss to the ones doing most of the paying. Which, incidentally, is precisely why I don’t particularly see it happening any time soon.

governments of just about any stripe, on principle, mean well–at least when they initially take office. They have their ideas, their pet projects, their whatever, but at the end of the day, they ran on something they thought would improve the situation. They were elected on that something. Then they get into the details and one of two things happens. either the government decides–truthfully or not–that the thing they ran on is quite a bit more involved to put in place than they figured, so they try to dance around it without being run over by the train of broken promises let loose by the government they just replaced, or the details of what they’re looking to implement are–mostly–released to the public, who decides that wasn’t what they signed on for in the first place, and that thing that got the government elected isn’t quite as popular now as it was on election day. Either way, like so many other potentially decent ideas, the details get hung up on how it’s being paid for, who’s paying, how much and why isn’t $GroupOfTheWeek exempt from these new taxes. Enter the problem with getting something like this minimum income provision approved. If any government with this kind of a brainstorm doesn’t articulate it exactly right, and I haven’t seen a government yet with that particular ability, the media will be pumping out headlines to the tune of “$government introduces new employment tax” and that’ll be the end of that in incredibly short order.

I would love, absolutely, to see a system of minimum guaranteed income put in place. I’d openly support something like that–and might actually be convinced to vote for anyone who’d willingly step up to the plate with an idea like that. It’s a sad, sad shame such a beast doesn’t exist.

In which ODSP passively approves of sheltered work shops. Who’s surprised?

I have plenty more to say about the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) in the other direction (thank you, Toronto Sun), but this has been sitting here for a while and I figure now’s as good a time as any to get to it.

A few months ago, there was a human rights case underway in which a packaging company, now probably (hopefully) out of business, was paying its fully able-bodied employees minimum wage at least while its disabled employees received significantly less. The article, by Christie Blatchford, focuses on the sad fact that at the end of this legal mess, the company is out of business completely and at least one of its employees hasn’t managed to hold a steady job since then.

Garrie and her mother told the tribunal that while Garrie and other disabled workers were paid between $1 and $1.25 an hour, the able-bodied who worked beside them, including the mother and another of her daughters who was also able-bodied, earned minimum wage.

The mother said she and her husband were uncomfortable with the pay differential, but didn’t complain because their daughter so enjoyed her work, the socializing it provided, and besides, Szuch “treated her [Garrie] respectfully.”

Szuch, in her late response, elaborated on that, and said the disabled workers didn’t have to punch in, and were allowed to play cards and make crafts while ostensibly on the job.

Strike 1: People who clearly weren’t expected to actually perform the job they were supposedly being paid for, hence the permission to play cards and such while supposedly being paid for it, being allowed to work there in the first place. These are the types of people ODSP, in as much as ODSP does anything like it adequately in the first place, is supposed to be capable of supporting fully–explicitly because they’re not expected to do much insofar as employment goes. And instead, with a smile and a nod, they looked the other way while a company pretended to hire people for work. That’s mostly on the company, who probably should have known better, and the mother turned supervisor, who if she was half as uncomfortable as she said she was wasn’t doing her daughter any favours with this arrangement either. But the kick in the head, as almost per usual, comes from the ODSP itself.

But in her response, Szuch said the company never provided what’s called “supported employment” for disabled people, but rather offered “volunteer trainee” placements for them, with far fewer responsibilities, for which it paid them an honorarium.

And, the response said, all of this was done on the up and up — with the honorariums duly declared to Garrie’s worker and the other disabled trainees’ workers and to the ODSP.

Evidence of that was the fact that while the ODSP occasionally “clawed back” over-payments because of the honorarium, for the most part it was so modest that claw backs weren’t common.

As Bhattacharjee wrote, “I find that the respondent [Szuch], likely with the agreement of the parents of workers with developmental disabilities, intentionally set the honorarium level just under the threshold for claw back of ODSP payments in order to maintain the receipt of such payments from the government.”

ODSP knew, and had no problem taking back their own money if the company paid too much, but here’s a question that isn’t asked in the article at this point–or pretty much ever. The article points out that the ODSP provides income and employment support for disabled people, but where was the employment support part of that arrangement in this situation?

ODSP’s primary goal, aside from income support–which at least they largely got as close to right as they ever do, is supposed to be providing a way for people with the skills to work to get the hell off ODSP. Clearly, ODSP thought these folks had the skills to work, based on the fact they had no problem with these folks working–albeit for what amounts to coffee money. So find them adequate work for adequate pay, and get them the hell off ODSP properly. It may not mean they’re fully independent–at least in terms of, you know, being able to function on their own without parental intervension–but if they’re considered independent enough that they can be shuffled off to work in the morning, then they can damn well be considered independent enough to get paid as much as the person they’re sitting next to doing exactly the same work.

Blatchford writes:

But a closer read of the 33-page decision in fact shows that if the company discriminated against Garrie, it did so with the consent of her parents and likely the complicity of the government.

The company did discriminate against Garie, and the others she worked with. And they did so indeed with the approval of her parents and the government. Stacey Szuch, the former owner of that company, deserves to be ordered to personally pay off every cent she didn’t pay off when she had employees to rip off. Terri-Lynn’s parents ought be slapped with a clue for willingly and knowingly extremely undervaluing whatever work their daughter was obviously skilled enough to do. And I sincerely hope the ODSP case worker who oversaw the ripoff no longer has a job with the ODSP, though I also sincerely doubt it.

The ODSP passively approved of a sheltered work shop for disabled people. Even knowing said sheltered work shop was paying well below the minimum wage–and being aware of it enough to take back any money that was overpayd to workers as a result of it. And the people who should have known better went along with it for kicks. And folks wonder why it is I have difficulty drudging up enough respect for ODSP on a good day.

More ODSP slight of hand. So long, community startup benefit.

I actually had to go looking for this one, after a reader of this thing up and tipped me off. January’s cost cutting that saw the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) kill their medical transportation funding on no notice wasn’t their only attempt at trimming the budget at our expense–it was just the only one I took immediate notice to. As it turns out, they’ve been quite slash happy, our beloved provincial government.

A little background. As I’ve said before when discussing this topic, you can’t do much to find work and thus get off ODSP if you’re living in a teeny tiny town who’s bus system consists entirely of one bus going from a mall at one end of the town to a second mall at the other, picking up and dropping off along the way (yes, I lived there). Which is going to necessitate a trip, with permanent residency in mind, to yonder larger than life city (Ottawa, Toronto, Kitchener, pretty much anywhere that isn’t the middle of nowhere). Rent in most of these cities hits ya pretty hard on a good day, to the tune of you’re either getting a roommate, or paying way too much to share a corner of someone’s basement with a bunch of other folks who can probably only slightly better aford to pay too much for the same corner. On what ODSP gives you, even managing that can be a little tricky if you’d still like money left over for things like, you know, food. Or clothing. Or well, pretty much anything that isn’t putting a roof over your head. Coming up with first and last month’s rent so you can move in to the place that’ll suck up most of your money for the foreseeable future, until something vaguely resembling a break falls into your lap? Not happening without a serious amount of external help. That’s where the community startup benefit came in. Or did, until January of this year.

The way this particular system worked was actually fairly simple, if you paid attention. Every two years, you were eligible for up to $800 to be put towards things you actually needed to get your hands on. Like, say, go buy a few halfway decent outfits. Maybe get caught up on a few bills that have had to wait a month or two longer than you’d like on account of some fool jacked up your rent and you’ve had to rebalance things. Or, and this is the use I most often heard it being put towards, paying for at least most of your last month’s rent so you can manage to get yourself out of the less than helpful situation, and into a spot where you can stand a chance at finding work and getting the hell off ODSP. I used it for that last one myself–and that first one before that (I put my first ever benefit money towards clothes, because I was only a few weeks from employment and getting off ODSP myself, for what that turned out to be worth). It meant you could not only secure yourself a better living situation, but could still aford to actually get you and your belongings there, and still have something left over for all the fun things that come with postmove chaos–like discovering that pretty much everything has an activation fee, and the basics really are cheaper in a small town, even if you make up for it in gas to pick them up.

It was an extremely useful system, and one of the few things during a move I didn’t used to need to step on somebody for. Which matches the Ontario government’s criteria for things what get the axe. So, on January 1 of this year, it got the axe. The page that used to contain information related to that benefit has been removed, replaced instead with a statement confirming the removal.

9.2 – Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit
Removed effective January 1, 2013.

And that’s all she wrote for that program. There are vague mutterings about that program being downloaded to the municipalities, or something else coming out to take its place, but at the moment they’re only vague rumours–the ODSP website’s got nothing, and by the looks of things, neither does anyone who might have an inside track and feel like sharing. So the Ontario government, who spent a good while explaining to me all the wonderful things they’re doing to help us folks on ODSP, has turned around and taken another chunk out of ODSP with nothing to replace it. And once again, the only documentation I can find on it is an obscure corner of their website–the corner linked above–which is more than can be said for their change of heart re: other cost cutting measures, for what that’s also worth.

Like I said before. I get we’ve got a budget situation to deal with. I’m not about to disagree with that. But here’s the thing. This government spent so much time criticising the conservatives for stripping anything and everything they thought they could from ODSP in the 90’s. They spent the majority of their first term and a good chunk of their second making like they were about to up and fix that–they didn’t, naturally, but they do get a B- for effort. Now that the money’s tight (a couple canceled gas plants’ll do that), and folks on ODSP are trying to stay ahead of the small implosion anyone with half a brain knows is coming, the government decides–hey, we don’t need all those extra dollars, so thanks much. Meanwhile the message coming out from all levels of government is the economy’s not back to where it should be yet, so save as much money as humanly possible. I’ll get right on that, government boys. Just as soon as I can properly time things to duck the axe. If you could keep your hands out of my pocket for a year or two, that’d be awesome too. Not happening? Well, I tried.

Add this to the ODSP wish list of things that ain’t happenin’.

From the way back department, a thing that would be useful. Very useful, actually. Which makes it all the more likely it’s just not about to happen. Considering the love (*) we’ve been getting from the government of late, I’d be inclined to think useful things for ODSP folks take a back seat to useful things for executives in the healthcare industry. But, since we’re being wishful and all that, have a thing.

Oct 24 7:33pm: do i get extra money for christmas when i’m on odsp

Good idea. Won’t ever be seen. Same with extra money for just about anything else–like a phone bill, even though not having one makes trying to do anything useful with ODSP a very interesting little exercise in migraine. Of course, I’d love to be proven wrong–there *is* a budget coming down in a week. Yeah, I didn’t think so either.

(*): The government does love us. Or rather, they love to hold us up as a statistic they’re fixing while all the while fixing to do not a whole lot about this mess. But hey, why split hairs? We don’t need all that fancy stuff–like, you know, rent flexibility. That junk’s for the working class.

An open letter to Charles Sousa: Please don’t fubar ODSP.

I’m a little late to the party, but welcome to the fold, Charles. Taking over the finance ministry after the hot mess of the last, oh we’ll say 10 years can’t be what you were looking for when you ran for office. But, I suppose congratulations are still in order, given that–well, whether you were looking for it or not–it’s officially all yours. So, congratulations. Please don’t completely screw the pooch.

I don’t do well with preamble, and wouldn’t know what to do with it if I did, so I’ll get to the point. The Ontario disability Support Program (ODSP) has been the Ontario government’s favourite punching bag since the mid to late 90’s. In fact–that was, and is still, one of the things your liberal party continues to blame on the conservative government you replaced–a decade after you replaced them. Here’s the problem, though. The situation of people on ODSP hasn’t exactly done a whole lot of improving in that time. My last actual check on the ODSP situation, all of which you can easily brows over here, gave every indication that while people on ODSP are improving financially, they’re not doing so at a rate that will allow them to continue to live independently (disclosure: for the moment, I am one of those on ODSP, but I’m hoping to change that in the not too distant future). Added to that, the gap between what a person on ODSP receives and Ontario’s minimum wage–and, subsequently, what an able-bodied individual with nothing preventing them from finding and keeping work can and does earn–continues to widen, thus effectively defeating the purpose of a minimum wage when seen in the context of an individual who can’t find work due to a disability.

Presumedly, Ontario’s minimum wage was adjusted since 2004 to its current level of $10.25/hour to account for increases in cost of living. However, recipients of ODSP have not seen a similar increase–or, in fact, anything close to that over that exact same time. Assuming you’re getting the maximum allowable on ODSP, before any additional credits/bonuses/what have you such as an allowance to provide care for a guide dog, on an hourly basis you’ll top out at roughly $6.71, or $1075 per month. From that $1075 per month, you’re expected to pay for rent, electricity, groceries, heat, a phone (ODSP doesn’t consider it a necessity, but try getting a job or even reliably communicating with ODSP without it), and that’s just at a minimum. Want anything extra? Like, say, to be able to aford an air conditioner should your place not include it in the rent? For that matter, want to be able to live in a place that includes things like air conditioning in your rent? Not happening on current levels of ODSP. Especially not happening in a market like Toronto, Ottawa, or pretty much any other major city–thus ruling out pretty much any chance a recipient of ODSP has of moving to a location that would increase the recipient’s chances of finding work.

I get it. Ontario’s $9 billion in debt. You’re not expecting to see it clear that debt entirely until 2016. It might not have been quite so bad had it not been for a couple of gas plants, eHealth, the OLG mess, and the several other self-inflicted wounds that could have probably been avoided if somebody somewhere’d used their freaking brain. But it’s there, and now you get to deal with it. Awesome, except for all the ways in which it’s not. But “deal with it” doesn’t mean leave the folks on ODSP further behind than they already are. Paying rent shouldn’t need to come at the expense of shorting yourself a week’s worth of groceries, or going without heat in January so you don’t need to short yourself that week’s groceries. Do the math, Charles. Other current and former MPP’s already have, and it ain’t pretty. You have the ability to do more than provide lip service. Give it a try. If for no other reason than the opposition already has enough reason to want an election. Why go handing them a free one? That’s what I thought.

ODSP cuts costs again, figures you’ll make it up out of pocket.

It’s been a long time since I got to do one of these, largely because while things haven’t really improved a whole lot, they’ve not done much in the opposite direction either. That apparently changed at some point in January. I needed to hit the hospital this past week to bring May home after a minor procedure that required she be overnight. No big thing, really–I could get me there. The hospital wasn’t entirely too far away, to the tune of about a $25 drop each way. I’ve handled worse.

Here’s the thing, though. The Ontario disability Support Program (ODSP) entitles the patient–note: not the one showing up at the hospital with the patient’s belongings–to a lift home from the hospital, or any other medical appointment, with the appropriate level of proof provided (usually confirmation from one of the medical staff that says you’ve been there, you’ve been seen, you need to get home). Because we’re not all Blindy McBlinderson with 24/7 access to a person with both a pair of working eyes and a driver’s license. Also I’m not sure I’d have wanted to wake mine up at 5:30 in the morning if I had that kind of 24/7 access–yes, they might be my sighted servant bitch, but I’m not that cruel.

As I’ve mentioned before, ODSP doesn’t exactly shower us with cash over here. So while it can be afordable getting patient’s things to them, then getting patient home, more often than not it’s afordable at the expense of something else–like I really was hoping I didn’t have to pay to have the prescriptions we were sent home with filled (I didn’t, thank Christ). So I was a teeny tiny bit surprised when, while trying to make arangements to get May and myself home with ODSP’s help, I was informed that as of January of this year, ODSP has stopped offering that service. This according to the folks at the city of Ottawa line that handles requests for such foolery. Again, fortunately for us I didn’t end up needing to pay for prescriptions, but the creative mental tap dancing on the way home would have been impressive were it not to do with figuring out which bill wasn’t getting paid for a couple weeks.

If you’ve been following the ODSP episodes since around 2010, or even if you’re yourself on ODSP, you’re probably very familiar with the extreme difference (note: 2010 figures used) between what folks on ODSP get versus what even folks making minimum wage get. That hasn’t changed much in 3 years–there’s still quite the gap between ODSP payments and minimum wage payments. But ODSP did, at least, have the supports for getting people home from the hospital who otherwise couldn’t get themselves home due to a lack of license, a lack of servant with license, and a lack of public transit service when the discharge order comes in at half past dawn going for it. As of January, they don’t anymore. And they figure it’s perfectly fine if you have to make up the difference out of pocket. Because really, you weren’t gonna buy groceries with that money anyway.

I’ve always said if I had half a choice, I’d leave ODSP in the dust and never look back. I’m still staring down the prospect of giving me half a choice. I get the province is about $25 billion short insofar as the budget goes. I get that they need to trim expenses. I get that they figure we’ll manage to cover it if and when. But I’d be interested in seeing the mental gymnastics that lead to the conclusion that we actually can. Oh, of course–that’s for us to work out. They’re hands off now. Government cost cutting at work. So. About that next election.

PS: You’d figure we’d have gotten a notice from ODSP insofar as they’ve made changes to the service we’re entitled to receive from them. So far as I’ve seen, not so much. Rumour has it that was caught in the cost cutting as well. Damn shame, that.

Edited to add: I originally wrote this entry by email. Apparently when I did that, a link up and broke itself and didn’t get caught by my usual checking and rechecking of things. Go figure. Have a fixed link. Just in time for me to find something else to post about.

And now, a Canadian conspiracy theory.

Have I mentioned that I do love a halfway decent conspiracy, if the theorist behind it puts just a teeny tiny little bit of thought into it? No? Well I have now. The problem with most theories, a la the type you’ve seen in the last few years from south of the border, is they’re pretty grounded in somebody’s imagination. They don’t even really claim any starting ground in reality, beyond whichever news story they’ve picked up on to remind folks their theory still exists. It’s how you end up with things like Sandy Hook was all about banning guns, or your various incarnations of the 9/11 inside job theory and whatever other crapola folks decided to attach to it–complete with the theory that 9/11 wasn’t actually a terrorist attack.

Not to be outdone, somebody’s decided to give “Conspiracy Theory Canada” a shot–because, you know, everything’s original up here if we just slap “Canada” on the end. And they’ve sent me my very own not so personalised copy. Up side: at least this one starts off somewhat grounded in reality. Wanna see how long it takes for the train to jump that track, though? Keep reading. Oh, and “Leon”, if this wasn’t the result you were hoping for, please feel free to try harder. A little sanity might go a long way.

Here’s the reason the supreme court found in favor of alcoholics and drug addicts as being disabled. 1. In 1995 when Mike Harris made a public statement that all ODSP recipients were lazy drug addicts and alcoholics he had to retract his statement. Now they found a way to make it real!

Hey, not bad. Relevant case law, plus the statement of the guy what provoked it. Decent starting point. Just one problem. It doesn’t exactly exist–or, at least, it doesn’t exist in any medium that can actually be referenced. Probably why you didn’t provide a reference, would that be about right, Leon? That’s okay. It happens.

2.Once the supreme court decision was made Community and Social Services Madelene Meuller what ever the F her name is was able to work with other policy makers to determine a way to help with the NWO agenda of a cashless society…they always work from the standpoint of getting the most vulnerable first. They were able to merge OW/ODSP recops and then classify all of us as being incapable of handling our own cash.

I must have missed getting that letter. Since, you know, I’ve delt with ODSP on more than half a million occasions. Still do, in fact. Yeah, they’ve got their issues–and I’ve called the now former minister of social services out a time or two for those issues (You can read everything I’ve put up here on this page). Oh, the two programs share an office in some cities, sure–for the record, that doesn’t include Ottawa based on my few visits there, but if that’s the new definition of merging I think somebody needs to call up Oxford right quick. Again, good try, but it kind of falls a little bit short.

If you noticed they brought out in 2012 the new food card to OW recips! They can only spend it at certain stores and only on food…talk about removing dignity? wtf! Then in the new year 2013 Tim Hudak piece of discriminatory scum…announces that he wants to implement the food card to ODSP recips too!

Um, waitasec. What? No. Yes, the conservatives proposed a food only debit card in 2013. But 1: it was for welfare recipients, not for ODSP. And 2: it was a trial baloon. One not too dissimilar to the foodstamps program in the US, if my reading of it’s correct–oh wait, now we’re getting into the motherland of conspiracies. I should probably point out that trial baloon’s got a snowball’s chance in hell of floating–but for much more, how you say, sane reasons. I have a few of them, but they’re for an entry where Leon doesn’t get my full attention. Sorry. Okay, next.

We will live in slums, eat GMO foods, where second or third hand clothing and basically dissolve into the Canadian governments planned and insidious genocide on disabled people.

… AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND on your left, reality’s exit sign. That didn’t take long at all. New World Order, government going all exterminator on its population for sport, the type of class warfare only really seen in the movies–all in one not very well constructed sentence. And no supporting evidence. Awesome. Also: if you’re on ODSP and can aford to buy entirely natural/organic/green/whatever the hell you call it food, you’re either getting way more than you’re supposed to be from ODSP or lying. Sorry, but that shit’s bloody expensive.

What amazes me is that; no one stops to think that many disabled people and their families paid into this system of support for decades and this is what we get when we need to collect? All I can say is; people working in government are fucked! and if we don’t look out for each other we’re fucked so there needs to be a group of ODSP recips that will get together in each area and begin to plan heavily for the time the sheep are brought to the slaughter.

That exceedingly loud sucking sound you hear is the last vestages of sanity leaving the argument entirely on its own, drifting somewhere between nonsensical and fiction–and having the door to both slammed on its nuts. Yes, yes, the government is the enemy. We hear it every 6 months or so–again, from the other side of the 49th. Thing is, they at least try to prove their point–complete with actually, you know, including some variation of verification, even if that verification comes from a fellow crackpot who’s got none of his own. All that’s missing from this mess is the class favourite–the media’s got everybody so bloody brainwashed that none of this shit’s allowed to see print, lest somebody up and get arrested, killed, or both at once. Oh, yeah, and quick everybody get your guns. But I guess some nutter stateside has a copyright on that. But copyright is government, and down with government–so come on, Leon. Where’s the blame for the media? Oh–I get it. They paid you off, right?

Yeah that must be it. Tell ya what. I’m no publisher, but I’ll see if I’ve got a contact for one. This could be a best seller. Spruce it up a little, add a bit more depth, throw in a plot twist or three, you could make millions. Then you could get off ODSP and no longer be on the government’s hit list. Or, in the alternative, you could just call the institution you ran away from and let them know you’re ready to come back home. A smart man would do that second one. I’ll see you in Chapters.

Some food for thought for Ontario’s government: “Just get a job” doesn’t solve the ODSP problem.

I’m taking the week off from all manner of mockery, but as this affects several people who read this blog, and as I’ve kind of been–well–sitting on the government’s head over this for quite a while, It could use to be posted. This pretty much explains why just going out and finding work doesn’t actually help, and why rather than the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) just saying “well go apply for work”, they should actually be working towards–well, you know–making it a bit more liveable for people who can’t (note: I didn’t say won’t) find work. My bief with ODSP is rather well documented. Now, we can add this to the list. Are we getting the message yet, Ontario government? Didn’t think so.

ODSP Reform: Why Mandatory Employment Won’t Work

Ahila Poologaindran

Public Policy and Governance Review, December 7, 2012

Since its inception in 1998, the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) has been a parcel of Ontario’s social assistance program, providing income support benefits and employment support services to people with disabilities. Due to a recommendation in the 2008 Poverty Reduction Strategy that identified removal of barriers and importance of employment support as a vital poverty reduction strategy, the Ontario government appointed Frances Lankin and Munir A. Sheikh to review the province’s social assistance program.

In October of this year, the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance released Brighter Prospects: Transforming Social Assistance in Ontario. By consulting various stakeholders for nearly two years, it proposed some recommendations that, if implemented, would radically change the system. Though many of the recommendations are promising, one particular proposal might take the Province backwards.

Under the newly proposed system, all ODSP recipients would be required to set out employment goals and a course of action to get there – a Pathway to Employment Plan. Devised in collaboration with a caseworker, a recipient’s plan would identify and develop a “pathway” to employment, taking into consideration his or her limitations and abilities.

If a recipient cannot work full time or at all, a temporary deferral would be granted and he or she would be expected to participate in activities identified in the plan to prepare for and find work eventually. A recipient would have to meet these conditions in order to receive income support.

In order to understand the seriousness of such a regulation change, it is important to contextualize the challenges that currently face the Ontario government.

  • For 2011-12, Ontario’s expenditure on ODSP totalled $4,101 million, excluding drug benefit program costs. In fact, the number of ODSP cases continues to increase at a higher rate than expected.
  • Only 10% of primary recipients report earnings from employment.
  • From 2009-10, 60% of new ODSP grants were due to a mental health disorder, either as a primary condition or a secondary condition.

In 2010, 5% of Ontario’s working-age population was receiving disability-related income. This number is expected to be higher of recipients of all disability-related income support sources were taken into account.

Despite the pressing need for including people with disabilities in the labour market, Ontario should not mandate some of its most vulnerable residents to find employment. The above-noted figures are due partly to the systemic barriers to employment that people with disabilities face.

Without addressing some of these pervasive factors contributing to low employment rate, it is unrealistic to expect all recipients to find and maintain employment by simply creating a plan.

Granted, the Commission recommended options that would raise awareness and promote the employability of ODSP recipients. Nevertheless, recommendations that highlight the employer’s role in integrating people with disabilities in the labour market must make substantial headway before ODSP recipients are forced to pursue employment options.

Research highlights that when many people with disabilities are employed, they are often relegated to the margins, receive low wages with no benefits, and are often the first to get laid off. In order to fully integrate people with disabilities into the labour force, they must be able to obtain meaningful employment that would make mobility within the workplace possible.

The Pathway to Employment Plan hopes to encourage and incentivize recipients to prepare for and find employment. However, it is blind to the fact that entrenched systemic barriers as well as employment conditions are not conducive to integration, even when the Plan considers the recipient’s abilities and limitations.

This is not to say that many recipients would not benefit from such a plan. On the contrary, the individualized approach to employment may facilitate a greater number of recipients into the labour market.

But recipients must not be threatened by reduction in income support. Rather, the Plan should recognize the value of volunteer work and child care along with employment-related activities. The value of an Ontarian should not simply be reduced to his or her ability to earn.

Ahila Poologaindran is a 2014 MPP Candidate at the School of Public Policy and Governance. She holds a joint degree in Political Science and International Development Studies from McGill University. Ahila has worked for the non-profit sector as well as for the Ontario Public Service. Her interests include migration, mental health, and social policy. k/

The google’s been reading my mind. Or: why I should not know the answer to this query.

I’ve been in a situation where this search actually applied. It sucks, but hey, whatcha gonna do? If someone else is looking, aim them here. If, uh, they haven’t come here already.

May 19 2:44pm: will odsp pay your hydro bills if you cant

fortunately, or not, depending on your perspective, they will. It’s a little bit convoluted, and it comes with a bit of a catch, but it’ll happen. Now, whether or not them doing that for you is worth the catch it comes with is entirely your call. But they’ll at least do that much for you. Also useful if your choice is hydro bill or groceries, but that’s a rant for another, unprompted entry.

More random ODSP searches.

I said I’d do more of these. Then I, uh, promptly fell off a cliff. So this one’s quite old. The searcher probably found what they were looking for already. But, you know. You’ll have that.

May 17 11:55am: minimum wage vs odsp

There’s not much of a comparison here. Minimum wage is way the hell up there ($10.25, last I’d heard). when I made the calculation in an open letter to Ontario’s government, what we receive on ODSP was well below that. It still is. And there’s been nearly as much activity on that file as there was in 2010–translation: not much. And that’s what we’re left with. I’m going to most likely need to needle the government again. But for right now, hopefully this answers someone else’s question who just so happens to be tossed over here by Google etc.

I used to be this naive.

Then, I got me an education real fast. From today’s random glance at search stats:

Jul 20 9:05pm: will odsp try to employ me or just pay me

Don’t we all wish. Sadly, neither ODSP or the CNIB will do much for employment up here–despite the insistence by some folks in these parts that they do, or should. ODSP barely pays you, actually–thus, making it very nearly impossible to do much that vaguely resembles being financially, er, stable. Now, then, if that ever changes, I’ll probably be first in line up here. But, hello, sucky economy. It ain’t changin’ anytime soon. Sorry, random person from I think Google. You’re in the same boat I’m in. No wonder it’s barely floatin’.

I could teach this Googler a thing or two.

You know I have too much free time when I can pluck a random search query out of the statistics for today and turn it into a blog post. Today’s random Google question comes from this side of the border–and this province, I’d imagine.

May 25 11:15am: ODSP how can I spend it?

Oh, my poor unwitting searcher. Let me count the ways. Let’s see. first, you find an apartment in the middle of nowhere to attempt to call home. Then, you pay the nearly 50% of your maximum entitled income on rent–before luxuries like, say, electricity or phone service (which they don’t count as a necessity anyway, cheap buggers). Or maybe that’s just how I did it. For my next random search-inspired blog post, possibly, how to *save* your ODSP–the screw you over version.

The myth of online privacy, or why the ODSP’s activities fail to surprise me.

I wrote last Friday that the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) has taken to threatening law enforcement action were I to show up at the meeting that was supposed to have taken place on Monday morning. Yeah, that one that was scheduled for a teleconference later on that same afternoon–more on that in another entry. They’re threatening law enforcement action over a single sentence in a previous post that made clear in no uncertain terms the professional damage that may or may not have resulted from this meeting were the level of incompitence displayed so far by my caseworker to actually go unaddressed. I was, rightly so, more than a little pissed with what’s been happening the last few months on that file, and more than a little irritated someone decided to focus more attention on a single sentence in a blog post than on the actual issues that provoked the afore mentioned blog post. Irritated, but not surprised.


It’s been a common trend in the last few years, though more so in the last year or so, to see how far government agencies and potential employers can shove even the pretension of online privacy out of the way under the guise of performing a more thorough background check. From the Maryland department of corrections asking for social networking passwords as a part of their certification/recertification process, to a New Jersey police chief who seems to have no problem telling parents to hack their kids’ online passwords–and even shows them how complete with spyware, that’s becoming the cool thing to do. And I’m not even touching the most recent instance of online content overreaction in Canada involving two teenagers, a Facebook photo and a conservative political ralley. yeah, those two teenagers.

Part of me expected this exact response, pretty much as soon as I started to push back against what ODSP was up to. And, indeed, it was even while expecting that response that I still wrote the exact post I did, in the exact context I did, and later ran into the exact result I did. So why wouldn’t I change my writing accordingly, people have asked? Put in the simplest of terms, because I’m not that dishonest. No, this isn’t Facebook and people don’t need my password to see 90% of what I write here. Yes, this blog is perfectly and completely public, and yes, I’m very well aware of this–I made it that way for a reason. But, much like the Facebook photo incident of this past week, the only reason anything on this site became an issue at all rather than the, in my opinion, more important priority of getting to the bottom of the mess at least one person made of the last 3 months’ mountain of paperwork is because someone actually had time, and may have been getting paid for said time, to have a sit down and throw something into Google that landed them on the blog.

I’d be a freaking liar if I said I didn’t enjoy taking a look at who’s been checking this place out and from where. I’d be lying if I said I do this solely for my own benefit–Microsoft has an incredible word processor for that if I really really need something like that. But yes, primarily, this is my thing. Sometimes, my thing includes something others will find semi-useful and/or interesting–that’s what search engines are for, after all. but I have a significant problem when people actually devote time and resources to scanning this blog, or any other that I help to maintain, looking for dirt–be it on me, on friends of mine, on family, on my friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s mother’s cat. I’m not in the business of slinging mud. for that reason, you’ll find no mud on this blog to sling–be it at me, or at anyone I happen to know. I’ve called people and/or government and/or corporate entities out on this blog. I will continue to call people and/or government and/or corporate entities out on this blog, if the said people and/or government and/or corporate entities continue to screw people over on the same, consistent basis. And if the only thing certain entities can find in their obviously too much spare time to make an issue of is one line in an otherwise mild–for me, anyway–expression of general overall fed-up-ness, I must be doing something pretty damn right.

No, I’m not surprised in any way, shape or form that at least 3 ODSP locations–Kingston, Ottawa and Cornwall–have been scouting out my blog. In fact, I’m really kind of flattered that a small-time blog like this one manages to make it onto ODSP’s radar, even if it’s over what amounts to trivialities that in 6 months won’t make a whole hell of a lot of difference. But not being surprised by it doesn’t mean I agree with the fact that a government entity who has until this past week had no interest whatsoever in actually giving me a response has decided, on the public dime, to devote time and energy to looking for the smallest hint of an almost problem and trying desperately to turn it into a major issue. That’s crossing at least one line, and with very little in the way of justification for it–last week’s teleconference didn’t exactly reveal much in the way of straight answers about it. I’m still waiting. Perhaps the next time one of ODSP’s people drops in, they’ll leave a comment behind or otherwise drop me a line. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll include their justification for doing so. But if it doesn’t, on that, I also won’t be surprised.

ODSP decides they don’t like me after all, threatens to have the police meet me.

Seems them what run the disability support system around here haven’t gotten done having fun with me yet. At the eleventh hour, escentially, with an hour left in the actual business day and therefore not a whole lot of time to actually work around their latest curve, ODSP decides they’d like to go another fun-filled round. We got on the phone with a manager this morning, due to the fact one of us can’t trust our caseworker half as far as we can throw her. Explained the situation, got told she’d look into it and get back to us by the end of business today. So I’m helping Jessica get set up for a project we’re contemplating starting work on, and the call comes in from the manager. I figure okay, she’s got answers for us. We can get part of these issues resolved hopefully before Monday, if not try and prevent the need to go in there in the first place. Not so much. Seems in their spare time, Ontario Disability Support Program employees run random Google searches on folks in the hopes of hitting on something potentially scandalous. One such employee–wouldn’t surprise me if it was the very manager we spoke to, honestly–comes across my blog. There are several pops for people showing up here using keywords related to ODSP and/or Pembroke, so that wouldn’t surprise me. She, or someone working for her, decides to take offense at one or two sentences in a post published here earlier this week. Specificly, this post published here earlier this week. They’ve decided, based on the fact they have plenty of free time and can very easily spend it on Google, that they’re not going to permit me to show up for Monday’s meeting. Taking it a step further, they have apparently decided that my showing up on Monday will constitute a perfectly good reason for them to have the police involved.

So now, not only do we have Wingnut deciding to play the privacy game only if and when it suits her, but higher level management is apparently deciding that I’m a threat to the security and safety of employees of the ministry of community and social services. Instead of me showing up there, they have proposed instead that they call at 9:00 AM on Monday morning–the smart money’s on that phone not ringing at 9:00 AM on Monday morning, just sayin’. We’ll supposedly be holding this meeting via teleconference on that day at that time with all parties involved.

So if I have this straight, and in all likelyhood I may not actually have this straight, potential privacy issues and general incompitence takes a back seat in this ministry to looking for and possibly attempting to make use of some incredibly trivial part of a blog post expressing more than a little tiny bit of frustration with the offending ministry. Really. And the tax dollars of people who actually don’t have a problem finding work are paying for this? That must go over insanely well.

I have not received any notice, written or otherwise, legal or otherwise, requesting and/or requiring me to take down or modify the offending post. Anyone who knows me probably knows just how far such a request would actually get them. The request to not show up on Monday also didn’t come in writing, legal or otherwise. The only reason I’m not seriously considering just showing up there anyway? I’m not *looking* for problems–they’re handing me enough without me helping them along with the process. This meeting will happen. This meeting will happen on Monday. And if this meeting doesn’t happen on Monday, at least one of us, probably both, will be on the next vehicle moving in an officeward direction. Oops–probably shouldn’t of said that. I’ll expect the Ottawa Valley detachment at my door Tuesday morning. Well, if you folks from the offices of the ODSP are going to spend this much time tracking what gets tossed up here when I’m not over my head in job searches, least you could do is drop a comment once in a while–say hi to that guy you’re trying to dig up some dirt on. Wait, no, nevermind–it’s much more fun to yoink lines from a random post completely out of context. My mistake. I’ll know better next time.

Update on the ODSP front. I thinks I may have spooked Wingnut.

You’ll remember I made mention to the fact my caseworker, who we’re still calling Wingnut, has been sort of using privacy laws as a protective shield. To the point of even if the roommate was in the room and could give permission, she wasn’t interested. I get a call from her this morning, and suddenly, she thinks she knows where the inconsistency I’m seeing might be coming from. She supposedly has the numbers right in front of her, has both my and Shane’s case file in front of her, and would be open to discussing things with us. Keep in mind, in 4 days, whether she wants to or not, we’ll be discussing it with her in person. And Shane’s caseworker–which is probably what she’s trying to avoid. She called today, she says, with the intention of saving us a trip into town. Pity the poor girl for at least coming up with a convenient excuse–or, would that be a convenience excuse. Unfortunately, we’ve already got other things bringing us into Pembroke anyway, kind of haphazardly scheduled around the fact we were going to start our day there. So she was informed, pretty much, we’ll see you Monday. Good try though, Wingnut. Now if only you’d just tried that a month ago.

Schooling ODSP in the art of numbers.

So as any of you who’ve been reading this thing since December are aware, it’s been somewhat of an uphill fight between the Ontario disability Support Program (ODSP), Shane, and myself. We’d go a round or two, find a clue, offer it up and have it escentially kicked across the room by someone in government who thinks they know better. We’d find more information, offer it up, complete with the math that lead us to the result you’d expect to see if you actually follow their own rules, and get summarily told we were using the wrong math. Lovely. Except in every which way that it’s not. And oh, let me count the ways. So the four of us–Shane and I, and our respective caseworkers–go several rounds about that over the course of the last month or so. And in the process of doing so, come up with the fact that not only were we using a completely different math system from what our caseworkers were, but apparently our caseworkers were using completely different systems from each other–thus resulting in completely different results being pried out of completely identical documentation. Yeah, I don’t get it either. That’s government for ya.

So we spend the better part of the last month trying to work around that, and hit one very problematic road block. Both caseworkers are clinging to privacy laws like they’re on life support. In spite of the fact half the time when we call, Shane and I are 3 feet away from each other and can get a good enough idea what the conversation’s going to end up revealing just based on one side of it. And picking up the phone and saying “by the way, you have my permission to access my case file and compare with his case”? Yeah, not good enough, apparently.

In her defense, Shane’s caseworker is at least in possession of a low-level clue. Enough of one that I don’t think her information’s the source of half our problems. Mine, on the other hand, could probably benefit from some retraining in a few key areas. In theory, I could probably have told Shane’s caseworker to go ahead and look up my file and she might have. Mine? Nope. Can’t. Privacy laws. Permission doesn’t matter. So, fast forward to Monday. Shane has to be in to see his caseworker anyway for an unrelated matter, so I bounce it off him and the wheels on the way back that we find a brand new way to tackle this small little tiny minor issue. Both caseworkers, both of us, one room, A S A fuckin’ P. So we make the call Monday afternoon. Shane’s worker, we’ll call her Clue, has absolutely no problem with it. Oh, you want a meeting? Awesome. James is coming too? Okay. He’s dragging his caseworker in as well? Hey, that works. 9:00 AM? Why not? My worker, on the other hand, we’ll call her Wingnut, takes a little more twisting, turning and kicking to get her into the same meeting. Oh, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it. We can’t have a joint conference–the other party has to be perfectly fine with it. Oh, er, he is. Well. Um. I’ll have to check with his caseworker. Oh. You did. Well, er, let me see if I’m available. Oh, crap–entire morning’s free. 9:00 AM, you say. Can I ppossibly get away with calling in sick? (Note: she didn’t actually say that last part, but you know she thought it.) Fine, fine. But I probably won’t change anything anyway.

After she ran out of excuses, we finally dragged Wingnut into the meeting schedule with the three of us. This coming Monday, sharp at 9 barring natural disasters, I have a sneaking suspicion somebody’s going to get an education in just what the hell their job involves–a little hint for those of you keeping score, it doesn’t actually involve trying your hardest to pull a fast one. So bright and early Monday, me, Shane, Clue, Wingnut, a pair of eyes of our choosing, and a small mountain of already submitted documentation will all pile into a conference room down at the place what employs ODSP peoples. A well-timed phone call could, if the need should present itself, also see she whom Wingnut and Clue report to showing up for that very same meeting.

It’s one thing for us to end up getting different results from the government. That’s kind of expected–if they can find some way to sneak it in that you don’t actually get your hands on everything you should, they’ll do so. If you don’t expect it, well, sorry. But when two government employees, handling two different case files, get slapped with the exact same supporting documentation for both case files and come up with completely different results, even from one another, Houston, we has a problem. When we can take a look at the inner math supposedly behind both cases, even after having said inner math explained to us, and still end up being sent for a loop thanks largely to the fact the results don’t even look like they *should* be close, yeah, say hello to the red flag, ladies and thinggies. Somebody’s not giving us the goods, and I have a sneaking suspicion it’s not Clue. I have an equally deep suspicion the problem will be solved, or unemployed, before this issue’s fully delt with. I hate being screwed with.

Oh, and miss permission doesn’t bypass privacy laws? Turns out that only applies if you’re not Wingnut, apparently. According to her, she and Clue had a conference re: this issue in which both our cases were discussed. Neither Shane nor I were informed of such a conference, as we would have needed to be in order to be fully in compliance with privacy laws. Clue, naturally, didn’t exactly confirm they held a conference re: our respective cases, so once again, somebody’s either lying or violating those same privacy laws she has no problem slapping us in the face with. That gets added to the list of, shall we say, topics on the agenda for Monday’s meeting. This, combined with the few months of back and forth that haven’t really gotten us anywhere, combined with the fact 90% of this issue could have probably been cleaned up if they’d either 1: actually compared notes or 2: applied just a little bit of consistency to their own procedures, is going to make for a quite interesting morning. I have a sneaking suspicion one of us is going to come away bloody. And I’ll be quite damned if it’s gonna be me.

In which I get an introduction to ODSP math.

I’ve been on ODSP’s case for, like, ever about not escentially drumming us out of the running financially, for what little my being on them’s managed to accomplish. For those just tuning in, ODSP is the Ontario Disability Support Program, also known as those folks what pay me because no one likes to hire the blind guy and I still have bills to pay. I’ve done everything from harass folks locally to write the folks who actually make the decisions, most of which eventually ended up documented on this thing calling itself a blog. Adding to my reasons for harassing folks at both ends of the food chain, my recent attempt to save money has prompted ODSP to attempt to save a little on its end. Thus, not doing a whole lot on mine to make actually saving money worth my while.

Let me bring you up to speed. I live in a fairly cheap apartment, rent-wise. It’s $550 a month, plus your electricity. For most places, that’s cheap. For Pembroke, I’m surprised it was even vacant. I’ve lived there since 2009. At the end of 2010, I decided it would be in my best financial interest to do the roommate thing. Yeah, that would eventually require a bigger apartment, but two bank accounts are almost always better than one, so the math should have worked out. Then I got a phone call. I’d forgotten there was actually two different types of math at play, here. There was actual math, as in that stuff you were forced to sit through before they’d let you get out of highschool, then there’s ODSP math. That, apparently, follows an entirely different, much more nonsensicle, set of rules.

We ran the math out, figuring we could probably manage to free up an average of roughly $250 between the two of us, which could easily be realocated into bills we otherwise would have had a difficult time paying had we decided to be stubborn about it and forego the whole idea of a roommate. Those numbers in hand, we actually planned our month of January figuring if things changed, they wouldn’t change by a whole heaping lot, so we could optionally minus 50 from here or there if we needed to in order to cover off something else. We played with it until it didn’t hurt our heads, then left it there. The month rolled over, and shortly after, the phone rang. It was ODSP. They’d decided they’d be cutting a nifty little slice off each of our monthly allowances, to the tune of very nearly what we were figuring we could just end up reusing. On top of that, a letter showed up in my name 3 days after that wonderfully heartwarming conversation, escentially telling me they believe I was overpaid for the month of December and they’d be collecting that back, kind of now like. And they did it in the form of slicing off what they were going to, plus what they thought would be an awesome magical number to just sort of start at for repayment. Yeah, just how I wanted to start my 2011. While dealing with that, we were also looking at the possibility of said larger apartment, and trying very hard not to laugh at the prospect of them arguing with us about our attempt to save money just long enough that they wind up being forced just by way of our expenses to reverse themselves anyway, and we’d still wind up not having actually managed to come out any further off the financial ropes.

Since I hadn’t yet figured out exactly how much they’d be snagging from me each month to compensate for having paid me more than they’ve decided I’m worth, I went with their usual practice and left things as they were for the time being. Then the roommate fled to see his girl, and I came down here. I wouldn’t find out until a few days later, when I both had time and wasn’t at too much a risk of losing a lung to actually do the month’s finances on my end–belatedly, but hey, they got done. Their definition of a repayment plan leaves me with less money at the end of it than I had pre-roommate. All told, I actually ended up losing most if not all of what I was kind of aiming to put towards the actual paying of bills.

Look, guys, I get you’re cheap. Really, I do. I get you measure your $10 annual increases in the context of millions of dollars combined. Again, I really do. But not even you can comprehensibly wrap your heads around this attempt at math, as evidenced by the fact no one I’ve spoken to on this file’s come anywhere near close to an explanation that doesn’t try very hard not to trip over itself and fall flat on its face. Just what actual sense does this make? Seriously? Not only does ODSP want to not actually give you more money, but if you actually try and save yourself some of the money they do give you, that only serves to invite them to claw it back whether they actually should or not. And of course, the system is designed in such a way that they decide you can live on this amount, and you get to provide them 80 metric tons of documentation on why you can’t, then wait for them to maybe or maybe not–usually not–change their minds.

ODSP is here to foster independence and help recipients to actually function on their own without needing to spunge off family/friends. Just don’t actually try and avoid spunging. Turns out ODSP math doesn’t allow for it.

Note to the city of Ottawa: do this. Now.

Rallying cry for more housing money

In what can only be described as a rallying cry for more support, affordable housing advocates from across Ottawa came together Thursday to call on municipal council and mayoral candidates to commit to funding more social housing.

The numbers are pretty simple: $15 million annually for the next 10 years to help build 10,000 affordable housing units. That will help get the 10,000 families on the social housing waiting list into homes.

Folks, you’re being freed from having to fund ODSP payments out of your own pocket. I’m not even sure why Ontario felt the need to force the municipality to pay for it to begin with–so that’s why we’ve been getting the shaft lately–what with it being called the Ontario disability Support Program, but that’s why I’m not in politics. Now that Ontario’s finally taking back the costs for doing so from the city, do those of us who’re on the list a huge favour. Build something useful–like, you know, housing units that don’t take up 80% of the check just on rent alone. That’d be awesome.

Seriously, you need to do this. There’s no such thing as a good job in Pembroke, and no such thing as a cheap apartment in Ottawa. And hey, at least then you’re only paying to potentially house the guy from this court case. That has to be a cheaper alternative.

It’s amazing what some folks will call a disability now.

I’m still curious what the human rights people’s explanation is for this.

The Ontario Court of Appeal has upheld rulings that denying two chronic alcoholics long-term support payments would violate the province’s Human Rights Code.

The Ontario Disability Support Program had argued over the years the men should be ineligible for benefits because their sole impairment was severe alcoholism.

That argument had been rejected by the Social Benefits Tribunal in 2006 and last year by the Ontario Divisional Court, and the support program director took the case to the Appeal Court.

The Appeal Court on Thursday upheld the earlier rulings, saying that denying benefits to Robert Tranchemontagne and Norman Werbeski — who died a year ago — would be discriminatory, based on their disability.

It rejected arguments the men should instead collect welfare, which would require them to look for a job and get help with their alcoholism.

Welfare payments would be about half of what recipients receive in long-term disability.

So because a couple people who can’t be bothered making use of the more than a few options open to them re: getting a halfway decent job, the appropriate counselling–paid for by us, most likely–so they can at least have a chance at not drinking, and generally having a far more decent life than they’re giving themselves now are too lazy to do any of the above, Ontario’s human rights commission–and, apparently, the court of appeals–escentially states they get to be lumped in with those of us who just so happen to actually be disabled because… why, exactly? They can’t drink as much on welfare? They might actually have to eventually work? Seriously, I’m clueless here.

How is it, exactly, that two people who’s only “disability” is the fact they can’t seem to let go of the bottle long enough to get their heads on straight get to sit there and say they’re disabled, meanwhile the actual disabled among us pretty much get the shaft, and are at the same time trying to wiggle their way off this fish hook Ontario’s government calls a support program? Okay, I get it–kicking the habbit’s hard. I’ve got an uncle who’s been quitting off and on since before I was born. It sucks. Just like quitting smoking sucks. Or getting over your addiction to pain killers. Or any number of bad habbits people pick up for one or more of several hundred reasons. I get that. But being addicted to smoking, or pain killers, or any number of those other bad habbits, isn’t a disability. Neither, contrary to what our lovely HRC would like us to believe, is alcoholism.

Not entirely too long ago–in fact, I’m pretty sure it’s still going on in one way, shape or form–a relative of mine ended up with some pretty significant health issues. Not to get into any major details–folks I talk to on a regular basis already know the specifics, but it’s resulted in some pretty unhealthy complications that pretty much kept him doing as little as humanly possible while he recovered, on doctor’s orders. That same doctor also told him 3 things he was to start doing, as soon as humanly possible after he was pretty well recovered, in order to avoid a repeat–and, yes, so he could eventually get back to work. In no specific order they were: knock off the smoking, get a reasonable amount of exercise, lose some weight. He did none of those three. Instead, he started the ball rolling to try and collect his own disability paycheck. I don’t believe he ever succeeded, though he may still be trying–in all honesty, I haven’t been bothered to ask. But, he took that approach because it was easier–because he wouldn’t have to change anything then, and he and his family could still keep living most of the lives they were used to. Of course, meanwhile while he was trying to pull off that maneuver, money was tighter than anything and his wife ended up having to take a minimum wage job just to keep the roof over their heads–she hadn’t worked for at least 25 years until then. I continue to maintain he shouldn’t get a dime from ODSP, and neither, in my honest opinion, should these two.

Now, yeah, I’m definitely not the biggest fan MCSS and the Ontario Disability Support Program have at the moment. I’ll admit that. But in this case, if only because it illustrates in its most simplistic way part of what’s making the rest of us come up with the short end of the stick, I’m falling in step right beside them on this one. Save the disability payments for those of us who’re actually, you know, disabled. And get the one guy who’s still alive some freaking help. Seriously.

If you’re in Toronto in July and have an interest in supporting ODSP recipients, check this out.

Date July 7, 2010
Time 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Where Metro Hall Rotunda, Toronto

Event source
ODSP Action Coalition


From an ODSP Action Coalition announcement:

Please join us on July 7th for the ODSP Action Coalition’s event “Telling Our Stories: Disability Should Not Equal Poverty”.

This event will bring together ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) recipients, agency workers and members of the general public to learn more about what it is really like to live on ODSP.

The speaking agenda includes a panel discussion on human rights and ODSP (all panellists are on ODSP), as well as personal stories from four people with experience living on ODSP.

The event will also include informational displays and an area where you can share your own story. We are also excited to launch the ODSP Action Coalition’s Disability Declaration at this event.

For more details visit
English, Web Page 
Complete announcement

Were I one of those people with the reason and money to get myself down to Toronto, I’d be going in a hurry. Mostly, because this fits right in with my own ODSP campaign. But, since I’m not presently able to, I’m going to encourage strongly anyone who reads with an interest in hearing what they have to say to get around to checking it out. It could stand to be quite educational.

Update: Apparently, the article as pasted comes with a surprise–in the form of a broken link. Have a working one.

MPP couldn’t survive on welfare.

MPP couldn’t survive on welfare

Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey did the math and says Ontario should do more for people on social assistance.

Bailey is one of 18 MPPs who filled out a “Do The Math” survey for the Social Planning Network of Ontario — a group asking the government to give more money to people on Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program benefits.

MPPs estimated their own basic living expenses and came up with an average of $1,314 a month — $729 more than a single person receives from Ontario Works.

Bailey, who estimated $987 a month, said, “Something’s got to give.”

The network’s Put Food in the Budget campaign wants Ontario to pay a $100 monthly healthy food supplement to every adult on social assistance.

“I know with the deficit it can’t happen overnight but we certainly have to do something,” Bailey said.

He added he also supports Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett’s private member’s bill that would allow people receiving disability support benefits to keep more of the money they earn working.

Social assistance clients make up about 30% of the 1,800 people visiting the Inn of the Good Shepherd food bank each month, according to executive director Myles Vanni.

“The assistance amounts are well below what you really need to survive,” he said.

Bailey, a Tory, said the Liberal government hasn’t acted on the campaign’s call because the poor don’t have a voice at Queen’s Park.

“They don’t have high-paid consultants or lobbyists to work for them, like all the other groups.”

He added he finds it “disheartening” a government that wasted “billions” in the E-Health and Ontario Lottery Corporation scandals won’t do more to help people on social assistance.

“We’re talking minimal amounts of money to help people who are the most vulnerable.”

Mike Balkwill, co-ordinator of Put Food in the Budget, said Ontario’s government doesn’t see “any political advantage” to helping the poor, even though studies show that can lower health care and other costs over the long-term.

“As many other people have said, the poor are ignored in good times and forgotten in bad times,” he said. “So, we just have to raise the political price for them.”

The NDP gets it. The conservatives, at least one conservative MPP–just not the one for Pembroke and area, gets it. When can we expect the governing liberal party to get it? And when can we have that conversation I’ve been talking about? I feel another open letter coming on.