03/27/2020 13:56 EDT | Updated 03/28/2020 10:47 EDT

Petition Supporting Ontario Emergency Income Crashes NDP Website

“We think that goes to show just how much people need direct support, now.”

Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath speaks with media at Queen's Park.

TORONTO — An Ontario NDP petition calling on the provincial government to provide $2,000 in emergency funding to anyone who’s lost income during the COVID-19 pandemic quickly racked up 20,000 signatures and crashed the party’s website. 

“We think that goes to show just how much people need direct support, now,” NDP provincial director Lucy Watson said in a statement. 

Ontario is offering emergency money to people who don’t qualify for federal benefits. People can get up to $733 a month under a new emergency assistance program, Ministry of Social Services spokesperson Palmer Lockridge told HuffPost Canada in an email Friday night.

For people who will get federal benefits, Ontario Premier Doug Ford says his government’s hydro subsidies, $200 to $250 payments for parents and benefits for low-income seniors are what the province has to offer. 

Ford tapped his finance minister to answer a reporter’s question Thursday about why other provinces are offering cash support for workers and renters. 

“There are a number of areas where we are supporting,” Finance Minister Rod Phillips said. “Our objective is to fill in the spaces and the gaps where the federal government is not able to.”

I always say, they have the printing machine to print the money.Premier Doug Ford

The premier said repeatedly that the province can’t afford to support people the same way the federal government can. 

“I always say, they have the printing machine to print the money,” he said. “We don’t.”

Other provinces are offering more broad support packages than Ontario’s.

In British Columbia, workers affected by the pandemic can apply for a one-time payment of $1,000 and renters at risk of losing their home can get $500 a month. Alberta is offering one-time payments of $1,146 to people who can’t work because they are in self isolation and must wait until April 6 for their federal benefits. 

The Ontario NDP first asked for the emergency income before Ford’s government unveiled its support measures Wednesday and before the federal government announced it was combining multiple measures into one $2,000-a-month benefit.

But NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said provincial payments are needed to bridge the gap before federal payments go out. 

“People cannot wait weeks for money to come in,” she said in a statement Tuesday.

“We need to help people before rent is due, before the cupboards are empty.”

This story has been updated with more details from the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services.

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