Toronto Star

November 25, 1999

Child-support recipients condemn `disgusting' new user-fee policy

By Richard Brennan
Toronto Star Queen's Park Bureau

The Mike Harris government plans to make more than $1 million a year from single mothers and their ex-spouses through new user fees to access information from the provincial child support plan.

The fees, which take effect next spring, have been slammed by single mothers and critics from the Liberal and New Democratic parties, all saying it is a tax on some of the most needy people in the province.

``This is scandalous. I'm outraged. The reason we are going after deadbeat dads is because we need the money. We can't afford this,'' said Jean Donovan, of Pickering, a single mother with one daughter.

``The province is supposed to be on our side and I just feel they are working against us,'' Donovan said.

The new user fee policy, which is expected to raise $1.3 million in 2000-2001, includes $100 to make an adjustment, such as amounts being changed by a court order. Support recipients also will have to pay a $25 fee for getting a statement of their account, known as a Schedule A, which is often required for tax purposes.

``We are raising this publicly now, hoping government members will back off and reverse this disgusting and unfair policy,'' NDP Leader Howard Hampton said.

``These fees make the system completely unapproachable. Already my ex-husband owes me more than $40,000 and they want money from me,'' Kerry Kurt, a single mother of two boys from the Sudbury area, said.

Attorney-General Jim Flaherty said the new fees should help the government with its goal of moving the plan from the paper age to the electronic age.

``That's why these fees are being added. We are encouraging people to use the electronic system,'' he said.

Liberal critic MPP Michael Bryant (St. Paul's) said no matter how the government tries to justify the fees, ``it is a tax on the victims of deadbeat dads.''

``It is an acknowledgment that the Family Responsibility Office is terribly underfunded,'' Bryant said.

The Family Responsibility Office (formerly the Family Support Plan) administers court-ordered support plans.

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