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Tracey Mechefske and Dana Bowman, plaintiffs, Mike Perry, lawyer and social worker, Roderick Benns, Lindsay Advocate publisher.

Class action lawsuit filed, seeking justice for basic income recipients

in Poverty Reduction/Provincial by

As expected, four people from Lindsay who had been receiving payments through the Ontario Basic Income Pilot have launched a proposed class action against the PC government for its premature cancellation.

The three-year OBIP began in 2017, with international eyes on it as among the most comprehensive pilots in the world, but the current government cancelled it in 2018, before gathering its own follow-up information from participants.

The applicants are Dana Bowman, Grace Marie Doyle Hillion, Susan Lindsay, and Tracey Mechefske, all from Lindsay. A statement of claim was filed today by the Toronto law firm of Cavalluzzo LLP. The firm is “dedicated to social advocacy and the protection of working people.”

The firm stepped forward to offer their services after Lindsay lawyer and social worker Mike Perry first tried to legally force the government to continue with the basic income pilot. The Ontario court decision was that it did not have that authority, pointing out in their decision last month that the pilot program is a government funding decision and that the Court had no power to review such considerations.

It was then that the intent was made clear that a class action lawsuit would be the next course of action.

The lawyer for the lead plaintiffs alleges in a statement of claim that the premature termination of basic income payments amounted to a breach of contract, and that they relied on the Ministry to administer such payments.

There were many early signs of success with the Ontario Basic Income Pilot, according to the Signposts to Success report:

  • 88% of respondents reported less stress and anxiety and 73% had less depression (the baseline survey reported that at the start of the pilot 81% of participants were suffering from moderate to severe psychological stress);
  • 58% improved their housing situation;
  • 34% found the basic income supported employment by affording transportation to work, child care or ability to start or expand a business;
  • 32% of respondents were able to go back to school or upgrade skills (note that a majority of employed participants in the government baseline survey – recipients and control group – said they were in dead-end jobs);
  • 74% were able to make healthy food choices and 28% stopped using food banks;
  • 46% were able to pay off debt;
  • 52% were able to see friends and family more often, 55% were physically more able to do activities, and 45% reported fewer health problems;
  • Many respondents talked about working hard their whole lives, often at multiple jobs, but never really having a life, until basic income made that possible.

–More to come.

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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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