Published: Mon, August 06, 2018
Worldwide | By Victor Meyer

Save Ontario’s basic income pilot, advocates urge Ottawa

Save Ontario’s basic income pilot, advocates urge Ottawa

"There's nothing compassionate about cutting planned increases to assistance rates, and cancelling the universal basic income pilot shows that this government has no interest in making progress when it comes to improving the social supports that many Ontarians depend on", she said in a statement.

On Tuesday, Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod announced a review of the entire slate of income assistance programs provided by Ontario.

MacLeod said program was "not doing what it's meant to do and it's quite expensive".

In a pre-election budget earlier this year, former Premier Kathleen Wynne's Liberals approved annual increases of 3 per cent over the next three years to the two largest programs in Ontario's social safety net, Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program, which now have a combined budget of $8.7-billion. "It was certainly not going to be sustainable", MacLeod said.

Participants had not been notified and still haven't received any information about when their payments will end, four people enrolled in the program tell HuffPost Canada. 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. Money he says was helping him and his 15 year old daughter get on their feet.

MacLeod also announced the province would be "winding down" its basic income pilot project, which gave payments to low-income people in certain communities.

The system needs "a pause", she said. Suggesting the program discouraged participants from finding work. The Ottawa Food Bank points out, social assistance rates have not kept pace with inflation and argues that the reduced increase will continue to cause reliance on emergency food banks.

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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.

Eligible participants selected for the program were receiving up to $16,989 per year for a single person and up to $24,027 per year for a couple, less 50 per cent of any earned income.

As well, through the Ontario Works program she was on before being selected for the basic income, any funding Mendowegan received for her education counted as income and would have been deducted from her social assistance.

The program's cancellation also breaks Ford's campaign promise to keep it going.

The pilot project began in April 2017 and expected to last three years.

"When you're encouraging people to accept money without strings attached, it really doesn't send the message that I think our ministry and our government wants to send".

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