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Basic income class action law suit set for June, 2020 say Toronto lawyers

Class action law suit on basic income set for June, 2020 say Toronto lawyers

in Community/Poverty Reduction/Provincial by

The class action lawsuit launched by four people from Lindsay who were once on the Ontario Basic Income Pilot is moving ahead with a late June, 2020 court date.

The Toronto law firm of Cavalluzzo LLP was in Lindsay yesterday to hold two public sessions in order to update people who were on basic income and to let them know the current status of the class action lawsuit.

Mike Perry, a local lawyer and social worker, organized the update. It was Perry who initially took on the task of launching the class action lawsuit on behalf of Dana Bowman, Grace Marie Doyle Hillion, Susan Lindsay, and Tracey Mechefske, all from Lindsay.

About 70 people showed up at the Lindsay Legion in the afternoon, and about 40 in the evening session, most of them former recipients of basic income. They listened to the attending lawyers – Stephen Moreau and Kaley Duff — walk through the process of what it takes to organize and succeed in a class action. Paralegal Lauren Allan was also in attendance, who has spearheaded the organization of hundreds of documents.

The court dates are set for June 24-25 at the Lindsay court house, to be presided under Justice Stephen Bale.

Perry, who took on the case pro bono, initially tried to get the PC government’s decision to prematurely cancel basic income overturned in the courts. But the court decided it had no authority to force the PC government to continue with basic income, so the focus then turned to the class action lawsuit.

The Ontario Basic Income Pilot was initiated by the Province in 2017 in three areas – Hamilton region, Thunder Bay area, and Lindsay. Four thousand people were involved, with nearly 2,000 of them in Lindsay. It was set to run for three years. When the PC government was elected in the summer of 2018, it cancelled the program despite a campaign promise to allow it to continue, announcing that payments will only run until March of 2019.

However, the Court pointed out in its decision that their order “has no effect on the Applicants’ class action for damages for breach of duty of care, breach of contract…this order only addresses the question of whether the Court can quash the government’s decision.”

The fact that the Court went out of its way to point this out left Perry optimistic. Shortly after, the law firm of Cavalluzzo LLP offered to take the lead on the case. The Toronto firm is “dedicated to social advocacy and the protection of working people,” it notes on its website.

Before the Court will hear the class action lawsuit it must first “certify” it – which means determine that a class action is the best option to manage the multiple claims.

Essentially, as outlined by the lawyers in their handout, this class action is “alleging the government made promises to the participants of the Basic Income Pilot program that the payments would continue for three years.”

“We argue, for instance, that these promises amounted to enforceable contracts, or in the alternative, that the Government was negligent in making these representations to class members and then stopping the payments.”

The lawyers state that if this is successful, “we are asking the Court to award each class member damages, which might include the money that would have been paid to each participant had the pilot continued for the full three years, as well as other damages for additional losses class members suffered.”

Many spoke up at the Legion to say how the pilot’s cancellation had negatively affected them. The lawyers encouraged basic income participants to send them any and all documentation related to how their lives were forced to change after basic income was cancelled.

A class action lawsuit often takes years to settle, audience members heard, and often wind up being settled before it ever reaches the courts.

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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.

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