The following was a speech given at the #ODSP Poverty Action Rally at Queens Park, Toronto, ON on April 28, 2022.

My name is Maddy Dever and I’m a non binary Autistic with a spinal cord injury wheelchair user, living in rural Eastern Ontario and my pronouns are they/them.

The stark reality is this. The Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) does not provide enough to live on. Add ANY condition that requires supplies & we are pushed further & further into poverty & more health problems. It’s literally a death spiral. We need to STOP funding it punitively. PCs & Liberals over the last 27 years subjected us to severe poverty & kept adding to it by severely underfunding the basic necessities we need to live. 

These last 4 years have been the hardest. The current PC government has continued this trend of underfunding us as we have had only ONE increase of 1.5% in 2018. NOTHING since then. Inflation, food, gas, rent have increased MASSIVELY & yet NOTHING from the PCs. 

Inflation has increased 11% since 2018. ODSP has increased 0%. Rent has increased 20-100% since 2018. ODSP has increased 0%. COVID increased costs for everything. #PWD received $0. Every month we have less money. We go into debt, go homeless, or for some of us, we die.  Every month it gets worse.

We need to raise the rates. 

Supporting people with disabilities (PWD) in Ontario should not be considered social assistance. We currently are given so little to eat/house/clothe ourselves/transport ourselves. There are so many gaps & barriers. Poverty & loss of agency is rampant. We need to radically change ODSP.

Let’s rewind to 2020. There was a clear inhumane inequality as pandemic hit, as the federal government released out a $2000/per person Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). Almost double what a single person on ODSP makes. $2000 was now considered the “minimum” for each adult to live on. $1169 is the max for single person on ODSP.

Then the federal government released a one time $600 benefit to those who has a Disability Tax Credit, or received Candid Pension Plan with Disabilities (CPP-D). The vast majority of the 6.2 million disabled across Canada have neither. So we received NOTHING. COVID has harmed & killed many of us. The costs of everything went up. Yet we were ignored & harmed by these & other decisions made at every level of government.

Here is a little education regarding other existing benefits that pay out more than ODSP ($1169). Better Jobs Ontario ($2000). CERB ($2000) CPP-D ($1454 +264/kid), EI ($2544 max), MPP Housing Allowance ($2300).  There are hundreds more examples. What has ODSP increased since October 2018? ZERO%. Yet, during these last 3 years, inflation has been between 11-15% and market rent has increased 40-200%.

We need to raise the rates. 

The cost of everything increased but the availability of everything decreased. Well off people bought in bulk & hoarded necessities.  Finding food for those of on medically required special diet was a nightmare. Those items shot up in price 20-50% in the early months of COVID 

The ODSP benefit comes in 2 parts. For a single adult, there is a “Basic needs” of a maximum of $672/month and a “Shelter allowance” of max $497. The Maximum payment each month is $1169. Find me an apartment that is less than $1169 anywhere in Ontario. A room? Maybe. This extremely low income system leads to housing safety & instability issues. It should not be this way. 

Housing costs have almost doubled since COVID. It’s horrific. In Carleton Place, where I live, the cheapest 1 bedroom apartment is $1900/month. Landlords are requiring a minimum income of $70K just to see an apartment, let alone fill out an application and rent it. And it’s fiercely competitive even if you are at that income rate. So where do those of us on ODSP go? Where can we find housing? 

A side effect of the competitive housing market where new house prices have shot up 20-50% is that current landlords are selling their rental properties to those buyers who can’t get the new houses. Sellovictions are rampant. We are being forced from our homes & neighborhoods. 

Affordable housing. Where?  Accessible housing. Where?  The two together are the magical unicorn in Ontario.  Social housing lists are years long. People are homeless, rooming in poor conditions, couch surfing, or worse. This is happening in “first world” Ontario.

We can’t get better. We can’t get ahead. Every month that inflation increases we have less to spend. We can’t live where have lived. We lose our agency, we lose our dignity & for many of us – we lose our lives.  This has to end. It needs to get better. 

We need bold action on ODSP now. We need to raise the rates. It needs be doubled to start. It needs to be indexed to market value rent, rental increase rate & inflation. In the immediate there should be NO clawbacks until your income + ODSP is higher than poverty rate.  

I thank Mike Schreiner and Green Party candidates like Nikki Ward in Toronto centre for continually raising our issues and committing to double ODSP immediately. We are a voting block of about 2.6 million people with disabilities in Ontario.  We need to push all parties to end the discrimination and break these systemic barriers

We need to change the attitude of those governing & administering these program. We need to say enough is enough and only support and vote for those who will end this punitive system and provide us with a living income at or above the poverty line.  

This election is vital. It is life and death. Choose your candidates carefully and most importantly get out and vote. Choose candidates and parties that understand that ODSP Should NOT be a forced poverty punitive social assistance system. Choose parties and candidates that will immediately raise the rates.

Change starts with doubling ODSP. NOW.

Thanks you

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