Why everyone is talking about the Ontario Basic Income project

Lisa Macleod

Lisa MacLeod, Ontario Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.

Doug Ford's government is cancelling the basic income pilot program and slowing down increases to income assistance.

So when the provincial government announced earlier this week that it is working on a plan to reform social assistance so that it helps more people break the cycle of poverty, re-enter the workforce and get back on track, he became hopeful.

The pilot program, launched last year by the province's Liberal government, was meant to last three years.

"It's reprehensible, reprehensibly irresponsible to announce the end of the pilot without thinking those things through about how they're going to wind up the program and how they are going to support people", she said, "This is the government taking a political course of action without thinking things through the ramifications [for] these real people who have huge stresses in their lives now".

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It's 1.5 per cent more than they're getting now, MacLeod said.

For the people who were receiving basic income, the scrapping of this program leaves them in a risky position - they have expected these payments to continue until 2020 and are now stuck. One in five people stays on Ontario Works for five or more years, and if they leave nearly half return, 90 per cent of them within a year.

With the prospect of three years of income, however, McKenzie said many participants started to make "big life decisions" and plan for the future.

"I'm disappointed and upset", Knoll said.

How is a 1.5-per-cent increase to welfare rates kinder to recipients than a three-per-cent hike?

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The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, which had been critical of the project, said cancelling it only a year in "demonstrates a reckless disregard for the lives of almost 4,000 people.who planned their lives on the assurance of having a set income for three years". Single participants receive up to $16,989 a year while couples receive up to $24,027, less 50 per cent of any earned income.

He's one of many who work in the sector across Ontario and feel the same way.

Research from other jurisdictions that have experimented with a basic income does not support the government's position, McKenzie said, adding that the three-year window would have provided ample time to draw meaningful conclusions about the pilot's efficacy.

"My announcement today is about the restoration of the dignity of Ontarians, she said". In Silicon Valley in particular, many have championed basic income as the answer to the question of how society should deal with large-scale job automation-but real-world data on whether such a program is even a good idea has been lacking.

Ries also advocates for people with disabilities and those dealing with poverty and said the situation is much worse for people without family support.

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