In my last blog I described some important changes to the Ontario Disability Support Program (“ODSP”). Specifically, I looked at certain provisions of Ontario Regulation 278/18 (“Amending Regulation”), which amended Ontario Regulation 222/98, the General ODSP Regulation (“ODSP Regulation”), to:
- eliminate the $10,000 limit on voluntary payments to ODSP recipients in any 12-month period, which include payments from a trust, payments from a life insurance policy, and gifts; and
- designate funds held in an RRSP or TFSA of which the ODSP recipient is the annuitant as exempt assets for purposes of the ODSP asset limits.
Unfortunately, the above changes to the ODSP Regulation have been rolled back as part of the Ford government’s recent announcement it intends to reform social assistance in Ontario.
On July 31, 2018 the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services held a press conference to announce that the basic income pilot project initiated by the prior government was being wound-down. At the same press conference, the Minister announced that the Ford government would, over the next 100 days, work on a plan “to reform social assistance so it helps more people break the cycle of poverty, re-enter the workforce and get back on track.” As a result of this 100-day period in which the government is working on a plan to reform social assistance, the Minister further announced that certain measures introduced in the prior government’s 2018 budget would not proceed. Although the heading in the press release that accompanied the Minister’s press conference alludes to certain budget measures being “paused”, on the same date the government filed Ontario Regulation 396/18 which revokes almost all of the Amending Regulation, including the changes to the ODSP Regulation described above.
Implementing measures designed to help people re-enter the workforce is a laudable goal. The reality, however, is that many ODSP recipients either cannot enter the workforce at all, or can only enter the workforce in a limited capacity. In that context, statements about re-entering the workforce ring hollow, particularly if, as I suspect, the phrase “re-entering the workforce” really means “getting off social assistance”. That simply may not be an option.
Moreover, it is difficult to understand how rolling back the above amendments to the ODSP Regulation is consistent with a stated goal of helping individuals break the cycle of poverty. The changes included in the Amending Regulation would have assisted ODSP recipients by expanding the scope for family members, and others in a position to help, to supplement their benefits, and to potentially save for the future through contributions to an RRSP or TFSA. The fact is that most people come from families who may be in a position to provide some assistance to an ODSP recipient, but will not be in a position to provide so much assistance that it could be said to be abusive. In any event, the ODSP asset limits, and the contribution limits for RRSP’s, TFSA’s, and RDSP’s, all act as built-in checks.
The 100-day period for studying reforms to social assistance is currently underway. Stay tuned for the results…
 Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, Press Release, Helping People with a Plan to Reform Social Assistance, July 31, 2018.