Basic Income Pilot Program cancelled


"It was certainly not going to be sustainable", Lisa MacLeod, Ontario's Minister of Children, Community, and Social Services, told reporters at Toronto's Queens Park.

The Ontario government defended their decision to put the brakes on a basic income pilot project Wednesday, saying the program discouraged participants from finding work.

The head of the New democratic party of Ontario Andrea Horvath considered that the plan of the government of Ontario "terrible" and makes people deal with deeper poverty.

MacLeod said the program was "clearly not the answer for Ontario families", but she didn't provide data backing the decision to end it.

The government announced Tuesday it was "winding down" the project and cutting a planned three per cent increase in social assistance to 1.5 per cent - the first steps in its plan to revamp the social assistance system. She went on: "We want to get people back on track and be productive members of society where that's possible".

Reports of the program's effectiveness have not been released but the program operated on the theory that if individuals were provided with a steady, basic income it would increase their achievement in obtaining health care and education and helps them return to the workforce.

While Regehr doesn't think Ottawa should be bailing Ford out, "if he really refuses and will not budge, participants in this pilot shouldn't suffer", she said.

Announced under the previous Liberal government, nearly 4,000 people were enrolled in the pilot program in five regions: Lindsay, Thunder Bay, Hamilton, Brantford, and Brant County.

"It's one of the things I'm really anxious about", said Kwame McKenzie, a psychiatrist and CEO of the Wellesley Institute, on Thursday.

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In their pre-election budget, the Liberals set the increase for social assistance at three per cent.

But just a little less than halfway through the pilot, the government of Ontario is scrapping the program.

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.

"What I'm announcing today is about restoring dignity to Ontarians", she said.

The research team also compared seniors' guaranteed income with conditional income assistance programs.

MacLeod later admitted that the cancellation of the pilot was a broken campaign promise.

The project has been running since April 2017.

The group predicted the government's pledge to reform social assistance was nothing but a thinly veiled return to cuts brought in by former Tory premier Mike Harris, and vowed to oppose what it called Premier Doug Ford's "war on the poor". That's information any government concerned about vulnerable populations should value, Regehr said.