Skip to main content

Ontario mayors ask federal government to take over province’s basic income pilot

The mayors of four Ontario cities are urging the federal government to take over a basic income pilot project that’s being cut short by the province, arguing the program provides valuable data that could be used to address poverty.

In a joint letter, the mayors of Hamilton, Thunder Bay, Brantford and Kawartha Lakes — communities that participated in the pilot — called on federal Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos to assume oversight of the program, which the province’s Progressive Conservatives have claimed is failing.

“The Ontario government’s cancellation of the pilot is distressing to participants and discouraging to all seeking a better way to assist vulnerable citizens,” the mayors wrote in the letter sent to Ottawa this week.

Story continues below advertisement

“Federal oversight of the Ontario Basic Income Pilot project would be the best option to revive the critical information that will be generated, protect pilot participants from crisis who entered into the program in good faith and ensure the funds that have already been spent on this program are not wasted.”

The mayors added that the program was being watched by jurisdictions around the world, with delegations from the U.K., Japan, South Korea and the U.S. expressing interest.

When asked about the mayors’ letter, a spokeswoman for Duclos said the federal government is open to sharing data with provinces that are launching guaranteed annual income initiatives but noted that the design of such programs is up to those governments.

The basic income pilot was launched under the former Liberal government and was set to run for three years at a cost of $150 million. Under the project, single participants receive up to $16,989 a year while couples receive up to $24,027, less 50 per cent of any earned income.

The Tories had promised during the spring election to preserve the pilot, but Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod said in July that the new government would change course because the program wasn’t working — a claim experts have disputed.

The program’s 4,000 participants will now receive their final payments from the government next March, the government has said.

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger said he has doubts about the claims the Tories are using to justify cancelling the pilot. The project’s success or failure can’t be determined without getting to the end of the program and evaluating the data gathered, he said.

Story continues below advertisement

“I think they’re making that up as they go along,” he said. “Clearly, this program was working by witness of all of the testimonials that were out there.”

Eisenberger said that he’s hopeful the federal government could negotiate with the province to obtain the data gathered during the first year of the pilot and see the program through to completion.

A spokesman for MacLeod said Friday that the Ontario government had no further comment on the basic income pilot program.

The province is also reviewing its social assistance programs, an exercise that’s expected to be complete by Nov. 8.

Report an error
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter