Canada's Ontario government cuts basic income project short

Lisa Macleod

Lisa Macleod

"That fake news that was in the news today totally mischaracterizes what we are doing", the minister for children, community and social services said during question period at Queen's Park on Thursday.

The Ontario PC government actually announced it is raising social assistance rates by 1.5 per cent, but that is half of the three per cent increase the previous Liberal government announced in its pre-election budget.

MacLeod said the program was "clearly not the answer for Ontario families", but she didn't provide data backing the decision to end it. She went on: "We want to get people back on track and be productive members of society where that's possible".

About 247,000 people are on Ontario Works (which is aimed at people who could be employed but aren't) and about 372,000 are on the Ontario Disability Support Program (for people who have disabilities that prevent them from working). "Ontario will focus resources on more proven approaches".

"[There's] the decision in the campaign and then you find the realities of when you're in government", said MacLeod, according to the CBC.

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.

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

That increase is down from the former government's scheduled increase of 3 per cent which was set for October. Instead of traditional welfare benefits, around 4,000 randomly selected low-income or jobless residents would be provided with yearly stipends of CA$16,989 per person (or CA$24,027 per couple).

It was to test whether basic income is better than current social assistance programmes.

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".

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

Participants in the program received an email Wednesday saying their payments would continue through August but got no further details about how the project would be phased out, said Tom Cooper, director of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction.

An advocate for basic income, Scott Santens, shared his anger on Twitter after the announcement about the program's cancellation.

If the effect on private consumption isn't convincing enough, PROOF research by Tarasuk and others has examined how poverty and food insecurity are associated with many other adverse health consequences that increase government expenditures for health care, a serious economic concern in Ontario and elsewhere.

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