Jessica Bell MPP, University–Rosedale

Government of Ontario

Not enough to live on

Published on September 6, 2022

Over the next two weeks I’ll be living on a welfare diet of $47.60 a week, joining my colleagues MPPs Vaugeois, Harden, and Taylor. Our plan is to draw attention to the 900,000 people living on poverty-level Ontario Disability and Ontario Works payments, who have been ignored by governments for too long. Click here to take action

The welfare diet has a history. Twenty-seven years ago, then-Conservative Premier Mike Harris cut social assistance rates by 21.6 percent. In response to the outcry, his Conservative Minister for Social Services, David Tsubouchi, presented a shopping list to demonstrate that you could live on the reduced rate. His shopping list, which included seven different types of pasta and no sauce, was ridiculed as ignorant and out of touch. 

What was true then is true today. The government’s five-percent increase in ODSP rates comes into effect this month. The $58 per month increase will not lift people out of poverty, even more so because inflation has sent food and housing prices skyrocketing. Ontario Works recipients have had their rates frozen at $733 per month.  It is not possible to eat healthy or well on this budget.  

I will be reporting on my experience trying to stretch out my food budget while living in Canada’s most expensive city. I will be highlighting the experiences of residents who live on social assistance, as well as those of us who help people on social assistance, in the legislature. And I will be encouraging all of us to join me in donating to local food banks and pressuring Minister Merrillee Fullerton to join our endeavor and double social assistance rates.

I am choosing to use my privilege to spend $47.60 a week at the grocery store - many people on social assistance live on less than $47.60. I know our participation will bring attention to the many residents who have been legislated to live in poverty who have been ignored for too long.