The fate of Basic Income Pilot Project leaves thousands hanging in the balance.

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The announcement on July 31st, of the intent by the Ford government to cancel the Basic Income Pilot Project has sent a shockwave through the communities and people that the programme was designed to support.

All parties in the recent (June 7, 2018) Ontario election agreed that the pilot would run to completion, and Basic Income as an approach to economic security, had support across the political spectrum.

The project was being run in Hamilton, Brantford, Brant County, Thunder Bay, the Municipality of Oliver Paipoonge, Township of Shuniah, Municipality of Neebing, Township of Conmee, Township of O’Connor, Township of Gillies and Lindsay. (Kawartha Lakes region)

To qualify, you had to be living on a low income (under $34,000 per year if you’re single or under $48,000 per year if a couple).

Superior media’s ONNtv is pleased to introduce three individuals who were guests – both in studio and via SKYPE – as we explored the issue of basic income.

  • Rob Rattle, Executive Director, Crane Institute for Sustainability
  • Sheila Regehr – Chair – The Basic Income Canada Network (BICN) – A voluntary, non-profit, non-partisan organization promoting informed, constructive public dialogue leading to a basic income guarantee in Canada. https://www.basicincomecanada.org/
  • Ron Hikel – Professor of Social Work – University of Manitoba. Hikel is one of the architects of the 1970s ‘Mincome’ project,(Basic Income Manitoba) and a member of the University of Manitoba Department of Economics.
    The Manitoba Basic Annual Income Experiment (Mincome), conducted about 40 years
    ago, was an ambitious social experiment designed to assess a range of behavioural responses to a negative income tax, a specific form of GAI (guaranteed annual income).

In March 2016, the Ontario government (under Kathleen Wynn) committed, in the Ontario Budget, to create a Basic Income Pilot Project to test a growing view at home and abroad that basic income could provide a new approach to reducing poverty in a sustainable way.

In June 2016, the Honourable Hugh Segal provided advice on how the Ontario government could design, deliver and evaluate a basic income pilot. Segal submitted a discussion paper, which was used to consult with people in Ontario about the design of a Basic Income Pilot.

A discussion paper produced by former Senator, Hon. Hugh Segal, was the genesis of Basic Income Pilot Project. The research recommended a monthly income of $1,320 with another $500 for people with disabilities, to replace the Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program.

Those consultations took place from November 3, 2016 to January 31, 2017 and you can read the report  to learn more about what was heard during the consultation.

Sault Ste. Marie was a site being considered for the Basic Income Pilot Project. Many Sault citizens and organizations participated in the round-table discussions. Superior Media reported on the consultations here: https://saultonline.com/2017/01/put-food-in-the-budget/

The Ontario Basic Income Pilot (OBIP) was announced by Premier Kathleen Wynne in Hamilton in April 2017 and the first phase to enroll participants, was successfully completed in April 2018, with full participation across the three pilot sites.

The province enrolled over 4,000 people in the pilot and in addition over 2,000 people were registered to participate in the comparison group. This group will not receive monthly Basic Income payments, but will actively participate in the research study.

The original plan under the Wynne government was to complete a fullsome study on how a basic income might help people living on low incomes better meet their basic needs, while improving outcomes in:

  • food security
  • stress and anxiety
  • mental health
  • health and healthcare usage
  • housing stability
  • education and training
  • employment and labour market participation

The payments made to participants was meant to ensure a consistent, minimum level of income. Aligning with the advice of Senator Hugh Segal, payments based on 75% of the Low Income Measure (LIM), plus other broadly available tax credits and benefits, would provide an income that will meet household costs and average health-related spending.

Following a tax credit model, the Ontario Basic Income Pilot would have ensured that participants receive up to:

  • $16,989 per year for a single person, less 50% of any earned income
  • $24,027 per year for a couple, less 50% of any earned income

People with a disability would also receive up to $500 per month on top.

The fate of the Basic Income Pilot Project now hangs in the balance as the Ford government continues to cut spending.

In a statement posted to Basic Income Canada Network, Regehr shared, “Cancelling the long-awaited Basic Income Pilot would be a cruel, misguided breach of trust. We are heartbroken at the thought that women, men and children have started to regain hope and rebuild their lives around a government promise that is being dishonoured so abruptly. It is devastating. Out of human dignity and decency, we sincerely hope the Ontario government will reconsider its path and avoid perpetrating a cruel, misguided breach of trust.”

And therein lies the sentiment shared by thousands of Ontarians. Social Justice takes another hit.

My sincere thank you to Sheila Regehr – Ron Hikel – and Rob Rattle for your expertise on this important issue.

To read a report on The Manitoba Basic Annual Income Experiment go here: https://umanitoba.ca/media/Simpson_Mason_Godwin_2017.pdf

 

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