The Ontario NDP government has finally decided to get tough with the province’s surging $17 billion debt.  Most recently, Premier Bob Rae has taken aim at trimming the welfare system which has long needed substantial reform.

However, these latest rounds of proposed cuts have left many single parents, who depend on social assistance to care for their children, uncertain about their future.

In the July issue, The Interim looked at the agenda behind the NDP health-care reform and how most of the cuts were aimed at society’s more helpless members – the newborn, the old and the mentally and physically handicapped.  Further, despite the extent of the current health crisis, Health Minister Ruth Grier has committed more money to expanding abortion services.  Ottawa has just been granted a new abortuary which will cost tax payers over $500,000 annually.

Now Social Services Minister Tony Silipo has announced his government’s intention of scrapping the present welfare system.  Most observers would agree that the system is outdated and in need of revision.

Silipo announced his reform package I mid-July.  The government’s idea is, in the words of Silipo, “to make all the individuals the within social assistance system reorient themselves toward the work force.”

The government’s aim is to provide the necessary money and retraining to get those currently receiving social assistance off the dole and into the work force.

In theory, the plan seems satisfactory but it has been loudly decried by anti-poverty groups and some media.

Lost amid the general out-cry, however, has been the effect which the changes will have on single parents.  In Ontario, there are 200,000 stay-at-home single parents who need social assistance to care for their 370,000 children.

Silipo has already stated that single women will not be exempt from having to undertake this get-out-of-the-house-or-lose-your-welfare-program.

Josephine Grey, a single woman who has raised four children on social assistance, heads the Metro Coalition for Social Assistance Reform.  Grey worries that single women who are pushed into the work force will not be able to cope.  ”Whether it’s caring for children, for elderly parents or for the disabled, it’s all working.  If those women go out in the work force, they are doing two jobs,” Grey told the Toronto Star.

The added economic pressure may force more women to abort their babies should they become pregnant.

The new proposals will not come into effect until 1995 and single parents and pro-family groups are hoping that sufficient changes will be made to protect those affected.