Five Ontario MPPs say they will live on a “social assistance diet” for two weeks in an effort to show that a five per cent increase to Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) payments is not enough.

The MPPS, who are all members of the New Democratic Party, say that from Sept. 6 to Sept. 19, they will only spend $95.21 on groceries—an average of $47.60 per week.

They say this is an “approximate two-week grocery budget” for an individual on ODSP or on Ontario Works (OW).

“We live in an era of soaring costs and pretty much everything that we see is increasing,” Monique Taylor, NDP MPP for Hamilton Mountain, said at a news conference Tuesday morning.

“Inflation is sitting around seven and eight per cent in Ontario. The cost of food is up 9.7 per cent in July. Food banks are seeing record usage and housing costs are up 7.4 per cent.”

“If you’re disabled in the province of Ontario, you are legislated into poverty, and that’s completely wrong and that’s something that I know we’re hoping to be able to highlight and call on the government to ensure changes going forward.”

As part of his re-election campaign, Premier Doug Ford promised a five per cent increase in monthly payments for ODSP recipients. The other three major political parties called for the ODSP rates to be doubled.

Individuals on ODSP have been receiving approximately $1,169 a month since 2018. A five per cent increase would put an additional $58 in their pockets.

The NDP say that OW recipients have not received an increase in payments and receive about $733 a month.

“Doug Ford and Merrilee Fullerton need to acknowledge that nobody in Ontario can live a decent, healthy and dignified life on $733 or $1,227 a month,” Chandra Pasma, MPP for Ottawa-West Nepean, said.

Andrea Hatala from the ODSP Action Coalition told reporters Tuesday that in order to make an actual difference the rates need to be doubled.

“The rates for ODSP were too low to begin with,” she said. “Clients have not gotten an increase for the past four years.”

Hatala said that no matter how careful she is with her payments, she finds that she always runs out before the month is through.

The five NDP MPPS—which includes Pasma and Taylor, in addition to Thunder Bay—Superior North MPP Lise Vaugeois, critic for Persons with Disabilities and Accessibility; University-Rosedale MPP Jessica Bell and Ottawa-Centre MPP Joel Harden—say they have already experienced challenges on the strict grocery budget.

“One of the things that we’ve learned in talking to people who are living on social assistance is that it can be practically a full time job to live on social assistance,” Pasma said. ”You can’t just go to the grocery store and buy whatever you want. You have to do a lot of planning in advance looking at prices and if you have multiple grocery stores within walking distance to compare prices and shop at multiple locations.”

“So we are replicating a small portion of that but, you k now, we have to put in that legwork to, to make our grocery budget stretch.”

The MPPs said their first trips to the stores were daunting, but they also acknowledged their privilege and that after the two-week time period they will be returning to their own economic living situations.

“It’s going to be a learning experience for us,” Taylor said.

The increased ODSP payments are expected to roll out in September and are typically made out at the end of the month.