Heart-breaking stories pour into Advocate as PCs break basic income promise

By Roderick Benns

"It will be devastating."

They are young and old, parents and grandparents. They are business owners who needed a leg up and disabled people who thought they had a chance to live in dignity, thanks to the Ontario Basic Income Program.

Instead, they have been blind-sided by an ideological decision from the new Progressive Conservative government to cancel a three-year-pilot already underway — but advocates aren’t giving it up without a fight. Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Lisa MacLeod has admitted to media this is the first broken promise of the new PC government. Meanwhile, The Lindsay Advocate has yet to hear from local MPP Laurie Scott who was recently appointed Minister of Labour in the new government.

The basic income pilot project, which launched last year and was set to run for three years, provided payments to 4,000 low-income people in Lindsay, Hamilton area, and Thunder Bay. Single participants receive up to $16,989 a year while couples receive up to $24,027, less 50 per cent of any earned income. Statistics released by the previous government showed that about two thirds of those enrolled in the program had a job.

Anne Grozelle contacted the Advocate and said the decision by the government is going to turn her life upside down.

“It will be devastating, coming around the time my dependant turns 18. So I lose $700 (without basic income) and shortly after almost $800 because he will be 18.”

Grozelle says she rents and pays all the utilities.

“My child wants to go to college close to home and I will be supporting him without that $1,500 that I depend on now. I am diabetic and now will have to go back to eating the trashy food afforded on ODSP. How can we even afford to move anywhere cheaper?”

Kathy McCabe says basic income was providing her with that little extra “to help me make ends meet.”

“I work full time but only make ten cents above minimum wage. After paying my bills and living paycheque to paycheque I was able to afford groceries but not healthy choices. Once I started receiving basic income I was able to afford healthier choices,” she says.

McCabe says Premier Doug Ford “needs to sit down and rethink his decision to cut this program.”

“What happened to his motto “here for the people?’”

Catherine Webb Widjedal told the Advocate via social media that the people she knew on basic income were “hard working people in low paying jobs.” These were people who “planned the next three years of their life on this monthly money and now this is literally taking food from the mouths of babes.”

Webb Widjedal says people should go see MPP Laurie Scott and she points out as Minister of Labour maybe Scott can let people know where are all these good, full-time jobs are in our area that can support families.

She also called for electoral reforms. “Mean spirited, hate driven, selfish policies will not support a nation.”

Ian McKechnie, who writes the monthly ‘Just in Time’ local history article for the Advocate, is also an historian at the Olde Gaol Museum in town. He was also collecting basic income.

McKechnie points out that recently Minister MacLeod stated that “The best social program is a job.”

“I fear, though, that the Ford government’s definition of a ‘job’ doesn’t include work in the cultural sector — despite ample evidence that investing in cultural heritage is good for local economies, for enhancing the public education sector, for drawing attention to marginalized topics and peoples. As Kawartha Lakes continues to attract retirees and families, a cultural economy will probably develop in earnest, and it’s high time that governments of all levels gave careful consideration to happily investing in such an economy.”

The local historian says ultimately he signed up for the Basic Income pilot project “because of a perennial failure on the part of government at all levels to invest consistently in the sort of work that myself and many other people in this community and elsewhere do. The work is there, the funding is not.”

Cheryl Inksetter Nobrega spoke to the Advocate via social media and noted it is the responsibility of those who live in a First World democracy to take care of their most vulnerable.

“Just because some of us are privileged enough to make more money than these people doesn’t mean we deserve it more. We should always remember that it’s simply luck that keeps us separated from those who can’t fend for themselves.”

Nobrega says it was “obviously a means of buying votes for Ford as well because he promised to keep it and many people voted for him for that reason, and now they are heart broken and will be worse off because of the commitments they have made based on this three-year basic income guarantee.

Nobrega says all the money that has been put into the start-up and implementation of the basic income program would be lost if they scrap it, and “that is a waste of tax payers money, not the program itself.”

“Calling people lazy and telling them to get a job, showing their entitlement and…greed has just made it spiral even more towards feeling like this is a malicious attack on those less fortunate,” Nobrega says.

She says if MPP Laurie Scott is truly an advocate for those affected by human trafficking, then she will see that this could benefit those victims, along with many, many, others.

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