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'Disgusting'; 'Short-Sighted'; and 'Shameful': Ontario's Right-Wing Govt Nixes Basic Income Project

It's not the pilot project that's too costly but poverty that is, says basic income advocate

Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford.  (Photo: the Canadian Press)

Advocates of basic income are blasting the decision by Ontario's newly-elected right-wing government to kill the province's pilot project on the anti-poverty scheme.

"It is just so incredibly WRONG," tweeted writer Scott Santens in a thread denouncing the decision.

"Too costly? Unsustainable? BULLSHIT. What's unsustainable and far too costly is poverty. Not having a financial floor is unsustainable. In Ontario alone the full cost of poverty is upwards of $30 billion, which is about the cost of UBI for all of Canada."

The move was announced Tuesday by Lisa MacLeod, the province's Minister of Children, Community, and Social Services, who said, "We're going to hit the pause button on the previous government's patchwork system and replace it with a system that helps stabilize people in need and support them to succeed." The program, she asserted, is "not doing what it's intended to do and it's quite expensive."

The three-year project began in 2017 under the previous government and involved 4,000 low-income participants in five communities. Participants must have earned under C$34,000 per year if single or under $48,000 a year for a couple. Those with a disability would have received an additional $500 per month. Notably, it was "already showing extremely promising results," said Taylor Jo Isenberg, managing director at the Economic Security Project, who called the decision to scrap it "a short-sighted and irresponsible one."

"I'm in shock," said Dave Cherkewsk of Hamilton, one of the communities taking part in the experiment. "I had a three-year plan and now it's gone."

"I am angry," said Tom Cooper, director of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction. "I am angry on behalf of the 1,000 Hamiltonians who were promised they could participate in this pilot project. They were sold a bill of goods by the Ford government in the election. They were lied to."

Ford is Ontario's recently-elected Premier Doug Ford—a man some dub Canada's Donald Trump.

Reacting to the scrapping of the basic income project as well as the announcement that planned increases in rates to the welfare programs Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program Opposition would be slashed in half, opposition leader Andrea Horwarth said Ford's plan was "disgusting."

"Doug Ford's decision to slash the meager increases to social assistance is appalling, it drags Ontario backwards, and it pushes those already at a disadvantage even deeper into poverty," she said.

Among those urging Ontarians to call up officials to let them know what they think of the cuts was Roderick Benns, author of Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World.

He argued that "it's time to react to the unkindness. It's time to make our voices heard." He added, "Tell them to let the pilot finish and let the third-party evaluators do their job during and afterwards."

Santens also urged people to call representatives to voice support for the basic income project, and tearing down MacLeod's claim that it costs too much, he quipped: "Too costly? Unsustainable? BULLSHIT. What's unsustainable and far too costly is poverty. Not having a financial floor is unsustainable. In Ontario alone the full cost of poverty is upwards of $30 billion, which is about the cost of UBI for all of Canada."

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