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Scott says basic income would be too costly if expanded to all Ontario
Minister of Labour Laurie Scott and Mike Perry, Basic Income advocate.

Laurie Scott, PCs, say basic income too costly if expanded to all Ontario

in Community/Local News/Poverty Reduction by

Local MPP and Minister of Labour Laurie Scott says there were “too many concerns” about the Ontario Basic Income Pilot to let it go on — but then also noted if it were successful it would have been too expensive to implement Ontario-wide.

Scott, who was responding to questions provided by the Lindsay Advocate, made the seemingly contradictory remarks in her emailed response, although she wasn’t the only one. The lead minister on this file, Lisa MacLeod, said the same thing yesterday, in an effort to stem the growing pressure to see the decision reversed.

The Advocate asked the following questions to Laurie Scott: 

How hard did Minister Scott fight to retain this program for Lindsay in her riding?

What did she say about it?

Why wasn’t she successful?

How can she tolerate this when she knows there are so many people in her riding who are depending on that money — from entrepreneurs, to single parents, to working poor people?

Laurie Scott’s response, in its entirety, is as follows:

“The decision to wind down the Ontario Basic Income pilot project comes as a result of too many concerns about the program.  The winding down of the project will be done in a compassionate way and with a runway.  Lindsay residents on the program will continue to receive their benefits for the next several months, and will be transitioned back to Ontario Works/ODSP or OSAP for students.

Since taking office as a new government, we’ve been working hard to deliver on immediate priorities for the people of Ontario, and we will continue to do so as we make the proper resolution of this program a priority.

A toll-free call centre has been established to provide information and answer questions from those on the program.  The call centre can be reached at 1-844-217-4516.

The cost to expand the program would be $17 Billion – which would amount to adding 6 to 7 cents to the HST.  That would hurt the very people we want to help.

It makes a lot more sense to use what we learn from the study so far, and take a more affordable, responsible approach.

With the current system, almost half of all people who leave Ontario Works end up back on it – with 90 percent of those people ending up back on assistance within a year.  One in five people on Ontario Works stays in the system for over five years.  One in 14 people continue to live in poverty.  10,000 more people go on ODSP every year, and caseworkers spend up to 90% of their time on paper work.

Our plan will also cut gas prices by ten cents per litre, lower hydro rates, scrap the carbon tax and provide tax relief to minimum wage earners and working parents – all of which will benefit low income people.”

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Last year, the Advocate interviewed Laurie Scott who noted then she was “glad Lindsay was chosen” and that she welcomed the basic income pilot. From a local business standpoint, the MPP thought then the basic income pilot would certainly help the local economy.

“Money in people’s pockets is money they’ll spend, my father used to say,” she said at the time, referring to the late former federal Member of Parliament, Bill Scott.

“This is certainly the right sized community for it to develop the local economy.”

Mike Perry, who was chair of the Kawartha Lakes Food Coalition at the time, successfully led his team on a quest to convince the Province that the basic income trial should be in Lindsay. He is angry the new government has ripped this away from so many citizens.

“We are standing up for the program, but most importantly for the people here,” he tells the Advocate.

“This has personal impact for so many – not just a dry policy decision,” he adds.

Perry says advocates for the program are “doing everything we can to show why cancelling this is a bad idea.”

“We’re calling on the government to do the right thing,” and restore the pilot.

The Basic Income Canada Network (BICN) and the Ontario Basic Income Network (OBIN) address the government’s cost argument in a recent press release.

“The Ontario government may well determine that this program requires federal cost-sharing, but that is a matter for public discussion and should be based on the evidence and experience derived from the pilot project,” stated Sheila Regehr of BICN and Joe Foster of OBIN.

“Better yet, the government could lead by beginning conversations now about how a national program, like the ones for seniors and children, is a feasible path that warrants exploration,” they said, referencing the Canada Child Benefit and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

“We are heartbroken at the thought that women, men and children have started to regain hope and rebuild their lives around a government promise that is being dishonoured so abruptly. It is devastating,” says Regehr and Foster.

“Out of human dignity and decency, we sincerely hope the Ontario government will reconsider its path and avoid perpetrating a cruel, misguided breach of trust.”

(* Full disclosure: Lindsay Advocate Publisher Roderick Benns has been a member of OBIN and continues to work with BICN to further the cause of basic income.)

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Roderick Benns is the publisher of The Lindsay Advocate. He is the author of 'Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World,' and is also Vice Chair of the Ontario Basic Income Network. An award-winning author and journalist who grew up in Lindsay, Roderick has interviewed former Prime Ministers of Canada, Senators, and Mayors across Canada. He also wrote and published a series of books for youth about Canada's Prime Ministers as teens.

7 Comments

  1. While I do not live in the Lindsay area, I have promoted the Lindsay Advocate specifically because of its reporting on the Basic Income project. This reporting has not only been looked at by local people but around the world … since my readership tends to be multinational. So your local MPP and Minister of Labour Laurie Scott should be aware that this decision was perhaps made in haste and she as well as Children, Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod (will be acknowledged around the world) as part of a government who failed to meet the mandate of safeguarding the lives of their constituents.

    “The cost to expand the program would be $17 Billion – which would amount to adding 6 to 7 cents to the HST. That would hurt the very people we want to help.”

    It is important to complete the project and properly evaluate the results before worrying about expanding the project. It is like a baby abandoning the exercise of attempting to walk … because Mount Everest is too tall.

    Over the next few years, technology is going to displace about 30 percent of the workforce making them unemployable. While most people have seen a mention of autonomous vehicles (Olli: https://youtu.be/K564rXrlZbc ), what about autonomous house builders?
    Automated Bricklayers: https://youtu.be/5bW1vuCgEaA
    Automated 3D Concrete Houses: https://youtu.be/xktwDfasPGQ

    Already 10 percent of people are not employable in our society. What happens in the not too distant future when the first criterion to get a job will be a Bachelor Degree? The importance of running the pilot was not to learn if people can spend money (I am sure everyone understands that) but what choices do they make and if it results in a long term benefit to the recipients. Cancelling the project deprives us of this information.

  2. As a mental health professional in the City of Kawartha Lakes I can say with certainty that the manner in which this decision has been made and announced has created unnecessary cruel and inhumane suffering. As a professional I am also aware that it was far too early in the program to have obtained any meaningful data. The decision was made of ideological bias and will always represent the right wing bias against those in the most vulnerable sectors of our country.

  3. This is very obviously an ideological decision and Hugh Segal’s dismay over it coming from a PC government is telling on how badly the PCs have slid over the years. Minister MacLeod talks of an ‘ethical’ wind-down of the program. It is obvious that the Fordnation government may know the word but has no concept what it means. The only way to ethically wind down the pilot is to let it finish the way it was designed and let others analyse the results. It is patently obvious that this government would not know what to do with any analysis since it would so obviously bust the myths that Minister MacLeod initially based the cancellation on. It is shameful the way they have behaved and I am hopeful that they can be further shamed into restoring it and letting those 4,000 individuals get on with building their lives up.

  4. Considering that 70% of the parpicipants are working class poor. Forget the buck a beer. Use the tax off pot, that would cover it easily… Laurie, here ya go..i have 3 grandkids im raising plus a daughter and a wife that has been denied disability. I work for the guy who rented the PC party the space for your campaign office…i make 500 a month…what am i goinig to do… I could take another job but most employers wont let you leave when needed..without prior notice… There are ways to keep this going but obviously doug seems to want to follow trump and ruin ontario… Thanx for helping your constituents

  5. To add to my previous comment…what was the decision based on…cant say it was from information gathered from the surveys…we havent done any other than the original…im glad to see that more people signned the petition than actually voted gor Laurie… We have all made 3 year plans and most with health problems related to diet, have had our lives improved in the last few months

  6. Ford won a significant majority to not only implement the specifics of the platform he ran on but also to carry out the general objective of cutting costs in a province in serious debt. The sample was too small for its data to be a reliable and valid predictor of the needs of our greater growing underclass and anyway, we already have adequate data on which to make GI law including the Manitoba study, In From the Margins, and WHO data. GI law should be federal but not the same as OAS as people of working age have different needs than ailing seniors. And it should be generous enough to replace the costly welfare programs that now see so many single men become homeless. It should be administered by CRA software and go directly to the needy without any means-policing. Those who scam the system are a criminal justice not a welfare problem. Support the poor and stay out of their lives, I say.

  7. So, those on ODSP/OW/OSAP will go back on those programs. What about those of us, like me and my family, that can’t qualify for programs like that? Something like 2/3 of Basic Income recipients are working, so we are just having hundreds a month taken away. When three years were promised, three years were prepared for. I don’t think anyone invested in having the project continue past that, we just want the three year pilot continued.

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