A group of NDP MPPs are putting themselves on a so-called “social assistance diet” for the next two weeks by severely restricting how much they spend on groceries.

“We’re going to extreme extents here, we think, to highlight people’s stories, to be able to raise the focus on what is actual people’s reality,” said Monique Taylor, the NDP Critic for Community and Social Services.

For the next two weeks, Taylor and four colleagues will be limiting themselves to a grocery budget of just $47.60 per week. The tactic comes as calls grow for the provincial government to double Ontario Disability Support Program and Ontario Works rates.

“We’re using our privilege as MPPs to amplify the voices of people who are simply not heard or not listened to often enough,” added Lise Vaugeois, the NDP’s critic for Persons with Disabilities and Accessibility.

Those voices include Andrea Hatala of the ODSP Action Coalition, a group that represents roughly 900,000 Ontarians who currently receive $1,227 in social assistance payments.

“We would like to have enough money to live on and have enough money for a dignified life,” said Hatala, during a morning press conference hosted by the NDP.

The five NDP MPPs are calling on Premier Doug Ford and Social Services Minister Merrilee Fullerton to join them in the two-week diet.

During Question Period, Ford defending his government’s recent boost to ODSP rates. Those receiving the payments had been getting $1,169 a month since 2018. The amount was boosted by five per cent on September 1, which equals an extra $58 for most recipients.

“The previous government ignored ODSP… for 15 years,” said a defiant Ford. “This is the largest increase in over a decade. As the NDP and Liberals stood there and starved these people, we increased it by five per cent.”

“Our government is continuing to support those who need it most, whether it’s people who need job reskilling and retraining or people who are unable to work, and that’s exactly why we increased the ODSP rates to an historic five per cent and aligned it with inflation,” added Fullerton.

Those claims were quickly dismissed by another NDP MPP who is taking part in the ‘social assistance diet’.

“If the Premier thinks his historic increase is so great, I invited him to try living on it,” said Chandra Pasma, NDP critic for Poverty and Homelessness Reduction.

The other MPPs participating in the two-week diet are Jessica Bell (University-Rosedale) and Joel Harden (Ottawa Centre)