NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is calling on the federal government to pick up the tab to continue a basic income pilot project scrapped by Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
The $150-million, three-year project was initiated by the province’s previous Liberal government but Ford announced last summer that his Conservative government will end the project in March, a year ahead of schedule.
Singh says the premature end of the pilot will make it impossible to amass enough data to determine how effective a basic income program could be in lifting Canadians out of poverty.
And he says it leaves in the lurch the 4,000 Ontarians who are involved in the pilot.
The pilot project provides payments to low-income people in a number of communities, including Hamilton, Brantford, Thunder Bay and Lindsay.
Single individuals receive up to $16,989 a year while couples receive up to $24,027 – with 50 cents clawed back from the benefit for every dollar earned from a job.
“I would like to take this opportunity today to call on the federal government to step in and fund the remainder of the basic income pilot project in Ontario,” Singh said Tuesday in a speech to the Council of Canadian Innovators.
“Vital data” will be lost if the pilot is not allowed to run its course, he added later.
“We can actually have a wholesome data set ... and we can look at some of the challenges and some of the benefits that are raised (from a basic income program). We can actually have evidence to make a decision as opposed to just what the Conservative government in Ontario is talking about, just hypotheses or just stereotypes.”
More importantly, Singh said it’s “morally very reprehensible” to abandon the 4,000 low-income individuals who signed on for a three-year pilot project.
“People make plans, they make life decisions around knowing what’s going to happen and having this project stripped away from those 4,000 low-income recipients I think is the wrong thing to do, I think it’s hurtful.”
In the House of Commons later, New Democrat MP Peter Julian repeated the call for the federal government to fund the final year of the pilot project.
Liberal MP Adam Vaughan, parliamentary secretary to the social development minister, said Liberals “share the disappointment” over Ford’s decision to scrap the pilot a year early.
He called it a “critical experiment” that was “going to produce results all of us could benefit from as we put together government policy” but he did not commit to federal funding for it.