Ontario government defends move to axe basic income pilot project

A basic income pilot program in Thunder Bay and two other Ontario cities has ended

The new Ontario government, led by the progressive conservatives on Tuesday, July 31, marked the beginning of what they promise, will be a major reform in the field of social support.

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.

Though the Progressive Conservatives had promised to preserve the pilot project, Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod said the government reversed course after hearing from ministry staff that the program didn't help people become "independent contributors to the economy".

On the question of how the government determined that a pilot project is ineffective, even to the end, MacLeod was just told that this program "does what was created, and quite expensive".

"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".

"Our plan will help get people back to work and keep them working, while supporting people with disabilities to work when they are able and participate in their communities", MacLeod said in a press release. Almost a million people use the two systems and someone on Ontario Works is now entitled to a maximum of $721 a month.

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It reached full enrolment with 4,000 residents receiving the basic income payment in three communities: the Hamilton area, the Thunder Bay area and Lindsay.

"I knew it was coming every month", she said.

The rate increase is half of the 3 per cent planned by the previous Liberal government.

It was to test whether basic income is better than current social assistance programmes. 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. Under the program, single participants received up to $16,989 annually and couples could get up to $24,027. "We are talking about people's lives", McKenna tweeted, linking to a media report that said the 1,000 Hamilton participants were "sold a bill of goods by the Ford government in the election". Numerous program's participants seemed shocked and frustrated to learn that their monetary plan for the next three years was being thrown out the window.

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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