Why everyone is talking about the Ontario Basic Income project

Hannah Rogers
August 6, 2018

And in unveiling those moves, Ontario Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod said she has asked the province's Auditor-General to investigate "hundreds of millions of dollars" in fraud in social-assistance payments.

Lisa MacLeod, the Progressive Conservative minister of children, community and social services, said the program "clearly not the answer for Ontario families" when she made the announcement at a Queen's Park news conference.

That system will be developed over the next 100 days and implementation will occur sometime after that, she said.

The first steps announced on Tuesday are to cancel the previous Liberal government's plan to raise Ontario Disability Support Program and Ontario Works rates by three per cent and raise them by just 1.5 per cent instead. "It was certainly not going to be sustainable", MacLeod said.

The pilot program's end will leave many of those people in financial, and sometimes psychological, turmoil, he contends. "My commitment to the people of Ontario, particularly the people who are most vulnerable, is that we will get it right". "Spending more money on a broken program wasn't going to help anyone".

The devastating refrain underpinning all of these stories was best summed up by Lindsay resident Catherine Webb Widjedal, who wrote to The Lindsay Advocate to say that the people she knew receiving basic income were "hard working people in low-paying jobs", who had "planned the next three years of their lives on this monthly money".

"It's one of the things I'm really anxious about", said Kwame McKenzie, a psychiatrist and CEO of the Wellesley Institute, on Thursday. "It's possible there may even be an increase in demand for social assistance because of it".

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Ms. MacLeod said that although the planned hikes were cancelled, the government would allow a 1.5-per-cent increase to the two programs later this year.

"Look, what I'm announcing today is about restoring dignity to Ontarians". Single participants receive up to $16,989 a year while couples receive up to $24,027, less 50 per cent of any earned income.

In a supplied backgrounder, the government states it will "wind down" the Ontario basic income pilot project.

However, program participants are mostly angry and disheartened.

During the election campaign, the PC party had suggested the pilot project would be kept through to its completion.

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

She pointed out that the government has plans to cut electricity prices, has scrapped the price on carbon emissions and will cut gasoline taxes, all of which means more money in people's pockets. This pilot project was not technically "universal" basic income because it targeted a low-income demographic, but multiple studies have found that a government-issued basic income has many benefits for both individuals and the economy.

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