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Changes to Ontario social assistance coming Nov. 22

Changes to Ontario's social assistance plan will be revealed Nov. 22, Community Services Minister Lisa MacLeod announced this week.

Liberals 'aimlessly threw money at the problem without any plan to get people out of poverty, minister says

Lisa Macleod, Ontario's Children, Community and Social Services Minister will announce changes to the province's social assistance program on Nov. 22. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Much-anticipated changes to Ontario's social assistance plan will be revealed Nov. 22, Community Services Minister Lisa MacLeod announced this week. 

"Ontarians deserve a system where those with disabilities are treated with dignity and where hard work and commitment by recipients is met by empowerment and trust from their government," the minister said in a statement. 

Thursday marked the last day of a promised hundred-day review of the current Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program system. 

But MacLeod said she won't release the results of her review for another two weeks. 

"The previous government's solution aimlessly threw money at the problem without any plan to help people get out of poverty. The only measurable outcome has been trapping the very people the system is there to assist, in a deeper cycle of financial insecurity," MacLeod wrote in her statement.

"The best social safety net is a compassionate and caring society where everyone, not just government, is part of the solution. The best social circumstances are when those who are able, actively participate in the workforce. And the best social program is a job."

Fears and anxiety

Those who collect social assistance and those who work with them are fearful that sweeping cuts to welfare will echo those that were made the last time the Progressive Conservatives were in power in the province, under Premier Mike Harris in the 1990s. 

According to the latest figure, more than 960,000 men, women and children collect social assistance from the province's two programs. 

The two programs, including drug benefits, cost more than $10 billion annually. 

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath expressed worry about possible reforms last week in Queen's Park. 

"We're all concerned that the cuts are going to be drastic and that they're going to be callous," she told the CBC's Mike Crawley at the time. 

Also last week, Mary Marrone, of the Income Security Advocacy Centre, said there is "huge uncertainty" about the coming changes, which has led to "at best, fear and anxiety and at worst, despair."

MacLeod says one in seven Ontarians live in poverty. 

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