Ontario’s best hope of creating a modern, humane social assistance system has expired.

Thursday’s provincial budget was its last gasp. Premier Kathleen Wynne wanted to do the right thing. She was prepared to take a political risk for the 850,000 Ontarians struggling to get by on subsistence-level welfare payments. But three months into the job, she realized there was no realistic prospect of “charting a new course on social assistance” as a far-sighted provincial commission proposed. Even the people she aimed to help were balking.

So the premier took the safe, conventional route. She made a couple of minor changes to the existing program. They won’t break the bank or ruffle many feathers. In fact, most Ontarians won’t notice them at all. It was exactly the same strategy her predecessor, Dalton McGuinty, had followed.