Neoliberal Deviants and Surveillance: Welfare Recipients under the watchful eye of Ontario Works
This article examines the current practices of welfare surveillance in Ontario Works (OW). Although neoliberal policy changes to social assistance have been well documented by a variety of scholars, the surveillance technologies behind them have received less scrutiny. The article questions how new surveillance technologies have transformed the administration and everyday practices of OW. Based on primary research of policy documents, legislation, regulations and directives, the paper explores the eight surveillance tools used to police OW recipients including the Consolidated Verification Procedure (CVP); Maintenance Enforcement with Computer Assistance (MECA); Service Delivery Model Technology (SDMT); Ontario Works Eligibility Criteria; Eligibility Review Officers (EROs); Audit of Recipients; Drug Testing and Welfare Fraud Hotlines. I argue the Ontario Works Act (OWA) 1997 justified increased surveillance, regulation and control of poor families creating new forms of surveillance. Additionally, the rationales behind the implementation of OW surveillance (anti–fraud and workfare) were unjustified and have made OW recipients, particularly racialized single mothers more vulnerable. Using a feminist political economy critique, the article endeavours to explore the gendered, classed and racialized implications of welfare surveillance and the expanding ways the state has created ‘deviants’ out of those who fail to be ‘good market citizens’.