My Gut Just Aches- Cancelling Ontario’s Basic Income Pilot
By Darrell Howard
“My gut just aches;” an understandable emotional response from Deidre Pike, someone who worked on the recently cancelled basic income pilot in Ontario. In 2017, Ontario launched a three-year basic income pilot. The goal of the pilot was to look at “how a basic income might expand opportunities and job prospects while providing greater security for people living on low incomes and their families.” This “real-world testing of whether a basic income can help people living on low incomes” demonstrated meaningful leadership from Ontario’s previous provincial government’s poverty reduction efforts.
On Tuesday, Ontario’s new provincial government announced it was cancelling the pilot, asserting that the pilot was too expensive and “clearly not the answer for Ontario families.” They did not, however, offer evidence to support these claims. Ontario’s Children, Community and Social Services Minister, Lisa MacLeod, also announced that “the province will increase rates for people on Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program by 1.5 per cent” rather than the three per cent increase promised in the latest provincial budget.
As participants of the project in Lindsay, Ontario suggest, this will leave the 4,000 Ontarians currently participating in the pilot devastated. Furthermore, the opportunity to collect data to determine the effectiveness of basic income within the Ontario context has been lost. Local economist, Ron Kneebone, tweeted in tongue-in-cheek fashion “heaven forbid that we might learn something about improving the way in which we provide assistance to people in need.”
In what many consider a short-sighted and ideological move, Ontario’s government has closed the door on an innovative and potentially transformative approach to poverty reduction while others work to blow those doors wide open. An approach that, anecdotally at least, has been making an important difference in people’s lives.
VCC remains firmly committed in its support for Basic Income Calgary and the group’s efforts to grow public support and political will for principles-based basic income in Alberta. Watch for more details on its Mobilizing Basic Income Alberta Project in the coming months.
As a young staffer at VCC puts it, “a just and equitable society seeks solutions that empower and enrich the lives of all its citizens- especially those who have been made most vulnerable by our current economic conditions.” We hope that our Alberta government will be above partisan politics and works towards the equitable and just social assistance that would bring about the fiscal vibrancy and stability we are all working towards.
(Darrell Howard is a Community Facilitation & Engagement Specialist at Vibrant Communities Calgary.) Please feel free to leave a comment below.