Hamilton Centre MPP tabling motion next week to boost Ontario disability benefit

Hamilton Centre's independent member of provincial parliament Sarah Jama says she will table motions next week at Queen's Park that would boost Ontario Works, Ontario Disability Support Program rates. Motions regarding air quality are also in the works, she said.

Sarah Jama was censured months ago but is still able to put forward motions at Queen's Park

A woman smiling.
Sarah Jama is the Independent member of provincial parliament for Hamilton Centre. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Hamilton Centre's independent member of provincial parliament (MPP) Sarah Jama says she will table motions at Queen's Park that would boost Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) rates. 

Jama told CBC Hamilton in an email she wants the housing allowance portion of both ODSP and Ontario Works to be calculated by and tied to the annual average market rent price of the city someone lives in.

She will also table a motion that would ensure ODSP benefits aren't reduced as a result of another household member's income. If someone gets married, for instance, or has a common-law partner and is on ODSP, they shouldn't see a decrease in benefits. 

"I've heard disability benefits are just not enough to meet the soaring costs of rent in this province," Jama, who uses a wheelchair, said in a video posted to X on Tuesday.

Right now, people can receive up to $1,308 per month under ODSP for basic needs and shelter if they are single and receive up to $733 a month under Ontario Works under the same conditions, according to the provincial webpages for both programs.

CBC Hamilton previously reported the average rental listing price across Hamilton was $2,212 in 2023 and the average sale price of a home in the city last year was $885,000.

Jama said she worked with the ODSP Action Coalition to write the motions, which will be tabled on Feb. 20.

Coalition spokesperson Ron Anicich said if things don't change "people die, literally."

"If the shelter allowances were tied to market rent, that would have a huge impact on the level of homelessness and it would also make sure disabled people are able to live in secure, safe environments," Anicich said in a phone interview with CBC Hamilton. 

Motions on air quality in the works

Robbie Speers, Jama's executive assistant, said in an email motions regarding air quality are still in the works but are set to also be tabled next week, when Queen's Park returns to session.

Speers said Jama's office has been working with Environment Hamilton, Hamilton 350 and other environmental groups on those motions.

Ian Borsuk, executive director, Environment Hamilton said in an email the group is "very pleased she specifically wanted to prioritize the environment, particularly local air quality issues, over the course of this term."

Last year, a study showed breathing Hamilton's air is like smoking part of a cigarette every day due to the levels of cancer-causing benzo(a)pyrene in the air.

Hearing on Jama's censure to be held next week

While Jama remains censured at Queen's Park, she is still able to table motions in the legislature.

The Progressive Conservatives censured Jama in the House in late October, after she posted a statement on Oct. 10 to X, formerly Twitter, calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza as well as an "end to all occupation of Palestinian land."

The post came days after the Hamas attack on Israel, which in turn prompted Israel's bombardment of Gaza. 

Jama's post and subsequent statements have prompted both anger and support. 

She was removed from the Ontario New Democrats caucus. Premier Doug Ford called for her resignation and accused her of antisemitism.

Jama's office served Ford with a cease and desist letter, threatening to sue the premier for defamation if he did not remove his statement.

Jama also applied for a judicial review into her censure. Speers said the first hearing on the censure will be on Feb. 22.


Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.

With files from Samantha Beattie, Saira Peesker and The Associated Press