The Ontario Tories are floating a trial balloon that is destined for controversy.
On Thursday, the opposition party released their latest 'white paper' which suggested that the province of Ontario should consider clawing back welfare for some recipients to motivate them to find a job.
"For those who have been on welfare for a long time but are able to work, we want to decrease the incentives to remain on welfare, so they should see their benefits steadily decline," notes the report.
According to the National Post, party leader Tim Hudak wouldn't commit to how long someone would need to be on welfare before their benefits would start to diminish.
In 2003, the British Columbia government enacted a similar program.
As explained by Tyee.ca, "welfare was to be limited to 24 months within a 60-month period (or two out of five years). Single recipients and couples without children would be denied benefits altogether for the remainder of the 60-month period, while recipients with children would have their benefits reduced by between $100 and $200 per month."
Before the legislation came into effect, however, the government backtracked due to a public outcry – the public was concerned that the new rules would drastically increase the number of homeless in the province.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives was one of the more vocal groups advocating against time limits, arguing that if someone is on welfare for longer than a year, there was likely a good reason for it.
"A person who stays on welfare for more than a year does so either because a tough job market makes steady employment hard to find, or they face some barrier to employment that makes finding and keeping a job extremely difficult," a CCPA report from 2003 noted.
"These barriers are often invisible – social, mental and addiction problems unrecognized by the Ministry, a lack of affordable childcare, etc. It is these so-called "employable" folks who are most at risk of hitting the time limit wall."
But others see it differently.
Gregory Thomas of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation commended Hudak for tackling such an emotional issue and said that "welfare is a trap."
"Nothing is easier than living on other peoples’ money. There’s nothing wrong with forcing able-bodied welfare users to find a job by gradually turning down the flow of free money they enjoy," he told Yahoo! Canada News.
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"We’d like to see more accountability – we’d like to put an end to tax dollars being wasted on booze and drugs by addicts on welfare.
"We would also like to see work in exchange for welfare, where able-bodied welfare users would be required to report for work in a part of the province where their labour would do the most good – doing environmental reclamation projects, reforestation, that sort of thing."
Welfare reform is definitely a polarizing issue.
It could even be an election issue in Ontario.
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