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Analysis

Farewell, Lisa: Here Are Lisa MacLeod’s Worst Accomplishments as Doug Ford’s Social Services Minister

Why working families in Ontario won’t miss former former Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced he was shuffling his cabinet this week.

One cabinet minister who received a so-called “huge demotion” from Children, Community and Social Services to Tourism was Ottawa-area MPP Lisa MacLeod.

Although MacLeod insists she’s done “some fantastic work for Ontario’s most vulnerable,” Ontario’s most vulnerable might have a different take.

Here’s a round up of Macleod’s legacy as Doug Ford’s social services minister:


1. Cutting a planned increase in Ontario Works and ODSP rates in half

As PressProgress reported previously, one of the Ford government’s first acts was to cancel the previous government’s promised increase to social assistance rates.

This saw the government halving the increase to 1.5%, around the rate of inflation, and listing no increase (or even a planned increase) in its April budget.

That is very bad news. As noted in Policy Options, the cost of basic food items, controversially-dubbed the “welfare diet” by one minister in the Harris government, rose 86.33% from 1995 to 2018, while social assistance rates rose by less than half.

2. Increasing costs for parents with autism by up to $80,000 per year

The Ford government’s changes to support for kids with autism were deeply controversial, with MacLeod even having to clarify she did not plan on resigning.

Under the proposed changes, eligible families would receive a maximum lifetime total of up to $140,000 per child for treatment but even that sum came with fine print.

The cap would get lower as kids get older.  So, a two-year-old child entering the program gets the maximum $140,000 but a seven-year old would be capped at $55,000? And each year after? The cap is $5,000 per year.

That’s a problem for kids requiring intensive therapy, which can cost between $50,000 to $70,000 a year.

When the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario released its spring and summer guide to autism services it listed hefty prices far beyond what many families can afford. Mike Moffatt, an economist at the Ivey Business School, told CBC News the Ford government’s changes will mean treatment for his son will result in annual costs soaring as high as $80,000.

Under pressure from horrified parents, MacLeod “scrambled” and, in early May, announced consultations that would help shape further reforms to the system.

3. Planning half a billion in OW and ODSP cuts

As reported previously, the government’s 2019 budget planned a $1 billion cut in funding for MacLeod’s ministry — except they included few specifics.

Soon after, PressProgress uncovered that the province’s budget estimates for the next year lay out a plan to cut over $514 million from financial support through Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program.

Chart: PressProgress

When asked how the ministry planned to meet its target, MacLeod’s office did not respond to PressProgress.

4. Gutting food assistance for refugee kids

As PressProgress was first to report, the Ontario government informed municipal service providers it intends to eliminate the Transition Child Benefit this November.

That’s bad news as the TCB provides support for the children of refugee claimants and the recently unemployed so they can access “basic necessities” — for example, food and clothing.

When asked about it in the legislature, MacLeod opted to fearmonger about “border crossers” instead of addressing concerns by parents and health providers the cut will increase the province’s number of homeless children.

 

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