On Tuesday, Ontario’s Minister of Children, Community, and Social Services Lisa MacLeod announced they would be ending the province’s experiment with Basic Income. (CTV News)
The province will also wind down Ontario’s basic income pilot project, which provided payments to 4,000 low-income people in communities including Hamilton, Brantford, Thunder Bay and Lindsay. Single participants receive up to $16,989 a year while couples receive up to $24,027, less 50 per cent of any earned income.
Asked how the government determined the pilot was ineffective before it was over, MacLeod simply said the program was “not doing what it’s intended to do and it’s quite expensive.”
This goes against campaign promises made by the Progressive Conservative party of Ontario leader Doug Ford to continue with the experiment as proposed. the announcement comes on the heels of Finland’s decision in April to not renew its guaranteed income program when the current policy expires in January 2019. Unlike Finland, though, Ontario’s experiment will be cut short two years sooner than its proposed three year course. (The Star, Time)
While hailed by many as one of the first efforts toward Universal Basic Income, Ontario’s program fell far short of the ideal. Instead of being distributed unilaterally, 4,000 of Ontario’s 13 million residents were given a monthly grant, with penalties subtracted for employment and enrollment in certain government benefits. During the three years that group was to be studied alongside a control group to see if the additional income would increase the mental and physical well being of the recipients. This, of course, would have a different outcome than if all residents were granted the same amount: one gives a small group additional spending power while the latter sets a new median income for group. (Basicincome.org, Ontario.ca)
However, the participants had been promised the income for three full years and many had planned accordingly. They had enrolled in school, had signed leases for better apartments. With the expected income cut off, many people will be left with greater debt than they entered the program with.
Surely a balance could have been found between throwing money into a deeply flawed study and rescinding agreed-upon payments. Instead, the Doug Ford administration will have to answer for both reneging on campaign promises and leaving poor citizens of Toronto in dire straits.