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Austerity budgets target those already living in austere conditions: the disabled, the poor and their children

Ontario’s budget will include welfare freeze: McGuinty
The Canadian Press Mar. 25, 2012

According to the Oxford English dictionary:

austere

ADJECTIVE (austerer, austerest)
(Of living conditions or a way of life) having no comforts or luxuries.

Origin
Middle English: via Old French from Latin austerus, from Greek austēros ‘severe’.

One could argue few have less comforts or luxuries than those dependent on already well-below-subsistence-level government income supplements such as Ontario Works, Disability Support and Child Benefit programs.

Welfare incomes by household type (Ontario), 1989-2010

These programs have not been indexed to reflect the cost of living over the years.  In constant dollars, social assistance supplements for all recipients are less today than they were two decades ago.  If that’s the case, then how have social assistance payments become such a budgetary burden in recent years?

Ontario Works and ODSP beneficiaries, Oct 2008 - Jan 2012

Answer: Volume.  From October 2008 thru January this year, the number of Ontario Works beneficiaries increased by one third,  and Ontario Disability Support beneficiaries by one fifth.  Both figures are well beyond Ontario population growth over the same period (3.78% from Q3 2008 to Q4 2011, CANSIM Table 051-0005).  It’s not the ageing population either, as the elderly cannot collect federal Old Age Security / Guaranteed Income Supplement and provincial income supplements at the same time.

A significant part of the explanation for the ballooning Ontario Works numbers stems from the Great Recession. Job losses began to mount in October 2008, Ontario’s Manufacturing sector particularly hard hit.  That recession and the current jobless (non)recovery have now spanned more than three years.  However, federal Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, for the increasingly few who qualify for them, only extend for a few months in Ontario’s major (urban) population centres.  As EI benefits lapsed… well, the numbers speak for themselves.

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