Tuesday, 21 August, 2018

Backlash Erupts in Canadian Province After Government Kills Basic Income Test

Lisa Macleod Ford government announces social assistance overhaul
Jay Anderson | 06 August, 2018, 07:24

"We need to do more than just help people remain mired in poverty", said Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, when announcing the reform plan.

The government said it will provide, "in the intermediate term", current Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program recipients with an across-the-board 1.5 per cent increase in support rates to help them with a higher cost of living.

The head of the New democratic party of Ontario Andrea Horvath considered that the plan of the government of Ontario "terrible" and makes people deal with deeper poverty.

Asked how the government determined the pilot was ineffective before it was over, MacLeod simply said the program was "not doing what it's meant to do and it's quite expensive".

Sheila Regehr, chair of the Basic Income Canada Network, said such programs are more effective in lifting people out of poverty than social assistance, and require less bureaucracy to run.

In addition to 4,000 people in Hamilton-Brantford, Thunder Bay and Lindsay who volunteered to receive the monthly, no-strings-attached payments - despite widespread mistrust of such government largesse - another 2,000 agreed to answer surveys as a comparison group.




Ontario Premier Doug Ford's platform was undefined throughout the entire campaign, but one theme was abundantly clear: he was going to limit government services to put more money in Ontarians' pockets because "you can spend your money better than the government can". "Spending more money on a broken program wasn't going to help anyone".

Ontario's pilot project was launched in April 2017 and offered 4,000 low-income residents in three communities nearly $14,000 a year to individuals or $24,000 to couples, and an extra $6,000 for the disabled.

Ms. MacLeod said that although the planned hikes were cancelled, the government would allow a 1.5-per-cent increase to the two programs later this year. MacLeod suggested the basic income pilot was a disincentive to people to find work. "It will support people with disabilities to work when they are able", she said, adding that the planned changes would "get them on their feet and restore dignity in their lives". "Ironically, the original idea for a Basic Income Guarantee came from conservative economists", said Schreiner. A single person could receive up to $16,989 a year and a couple could get up to $24,027 annually.

The government has not offered a timeline for the "winding down" of the pilot project or the implementation of a new equivalent program other than the promised 100 days.

Mike Schreiner, Guelph MPP and Green Party leader, considers the increase to be a cut to the social assistance rate. That's information any government concerned about vulnerable populations should value, Regehr said.

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