Georgia Andromidas | Nov. 23, 2018

Welfare recipients’ food security is on the line after the Ontario government announced cuts to social assistance payments.

The cuts, announced Thursday, will halve welfare increases from three per cent to one-and-a-half per cent.

Rachael Wilson, director of communications and development at the Ottawa Food Bank, said that the changes are going to “dramatically affect the people who use the food bank.”

Wilson said that nearly two thirds of the food bank’s users rely on welfare. “We never exactly know how it will affect the numbers, but [the cuts] certainly won’t help,” said Wilson.

The changes come at a time when food prices are rising.

On average, groceries in Ontario have become three per cent more expensive over the past twelve months, according to Statistics Canada’s Consumer Price Index. It’s the largest provincial food increase in Canada.

Welfare payments have accounted for roughly $10 billion of the Ontario annual budget. Nearly 80 per cent of recipients who get off of social assistance are back on the government support system within a year.

Casey Pender, a doctoral candidate in economics at Carleton University, said that though the Conservative government’s plan increases welfare payments, it fails to keep pace with a rising cost of food.

“If the [food index] growth rate is three per cent, then I would say the Liberal welfare rate of three per cent would’ve been a good rate, because it would’ve kept pace,” said Pender.

“You want to pick a level of welfare that can be held through new patterns of prices,” she said.
“If prices are rising, which generally they do a couple per cent a year, then welfare checks should go up a couple per cent a year.”

“It all comes down to what other prices are doing, before you really say whether this comes as warranted or not.