Toronto·Ontario Votes 2022

Ontario New Democrats pledge to double current ODSP and OW rates in 2nd year if elected

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath pledged on Saturday that the party will double current Ontario Disability Support Program and Ontario Works payments in its second year of government if elected.

NDP supporters had criticized the party's initial planned increase as too low

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath waves from her campaign bus as she announces her party’s northern platform at Bell Park in Sudbury, Ont., on Monday, May 9, 2022. (Gino Donato/The Canadian Press)

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath pledged on Saturday that the party will double Ontario Disability Support Program and Ontario Works payments in its second year of government if elected.

Horwath announced the policy change at a rally in the Canadian Convention Centre in Brampton, saying the doubling of rates of both social assistance programs is "long overdue."

She said the party, if elected, will increase ODSP and OW payments by 20 per cent from the current rate in its first year of government. Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh attended the rally. The doubling in the second year would be of 2022 rates.

"For decades, folks receiving ODSP and OW have been neglected and disrespected, living in ongoing crisis, well below the poverty line," Horwath told hundreds of supporters on Saturday.

"We'll change that and permanently lift every ODSP and OW recipient out of poverty. We'll immediately increase rates 20 per cent and work urgently with people with lived experience to create a new system built on justice, dignity, and economic security," she added.

"We're going to double the rates in our second year, and index them so no Ontarian will ever live in legislated poverty again."

On April 25, when the NDP released its fully costed platform, the party had pledged to raise ODSP rates by 20 per cent and to legislate increases tied to inflation.

The party had faced criticism from its supporters that the party's initial promise to increase ODSP rates wasn't enough.

In a Twitter thread on Saturday, before the rally, NDP candidate Kristyn Wong-Tam had hinted at the Brampton announcement. Wong-Tam is running in the riding of Toronto Centre.

ODSP provides income and employment supports to people with disabilities. OW provides financial assistance, benefits and employment assistance to people in need.

Rates have been frozen since 2018, with a single person on ODSP able to receive up to $1,169 a month for basic needs and shelter. Advocates say that is far too low, and the level of support would remain well below what's needed even with increases promised by all three major parties.

Singh, who also spoke at the rally, said Horwath has backed up Brampton throughout her career as a politician.

"She is someone who cares deeply about people," he said.

Singh said being in Brampton was special for him because Brampton is where he got his start.

Greens have said they would double ODSP rates

The Liberals have promised to boost ODSP rates by 10 per cent this year, another 10 per cent next year, and two per cent per year after that.

The Greens have said they would double ODSP rates. 

In a news release on Saturday, the Green Party said the NDP is following its lead. The party said Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner called on Doug Ford to double rates in September and again in December last year. Schreiner made the same request in March, the party said.

The NDP pledged to increase rates by 20 per cent on April 25, but the Greens pledged to double the rates and index further increases to inflation when it released its fully costed platform on May 12, the party added.

"If you want Green, vote Green," Schreiner said in the release.

The Progressive Conservatives, meanwhile, have promised to increase rates by five per cent, a pledge that was not in their recent budget that is serving as their platform.

PC Leader Doug Ford said in a statement that his party would spend $425 million on a five per cent increase, and introduce legislation to increase ODSP rates annually.

Andria Barrett, Ontario NDP candidate for Brampton South, Sara Singh, Ontario NDP candidate for Brampton Centre, and Gurratan Singh, Ontario NDP candidate for Brampton East, were also at the rally.

With files from Lorenda Reddekopp and The Canadian Press