New report shows Ontario basic income pilot was on track for success

By Roderick Benns

34% found the basic income supported employment by affording transportation to work, child care or ability to start or expand a business.

The Basic Income Canada Network (BICN) today released a survey report, Signposts to Success, documenting the experiences of recipients in the Ontario Basic Income Pilot (OBIP). It provides compelling indicators of lives remarkably changed for the better. Responses from more than 400 recipients show that the pilot was working — enabling women and men to get and keep jobs, start businesses, pursue education and training, overcome barriers and improve health and well-being for themselves and their families.

“The Signposts to Success report is good news that has powerful significance for all Canadians,”says BICN Chair Sheila Regehr. “It clearly shows that when people have some basic security and genuine options, they make the best of them.” Canada has delivered forms of basic income for seniors and children for years, benefiting our society and economy. OBIP results show the potential it offers. “BICN urges federal, provincial and territorial governments to invest our money where it will get the most return — and a basic income is that kind of investment.”

Signs of success:

  • 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.

When cancellation was announced, the picture changed:

  • Almost 83% of people felt worried about the future, 80% felt previous problems returning and 61% had to cancel or change future plans.
  • Comments showed some recipients were supporting others, including ‘those who feel scared or suicidal’. Others had to leave school, move back to unsafe neighbourhoods or even face homelessness. Some, based on the contract they signed with the government, entered into leases and contracts that they will be obligated to pay long after March when the government claims its obligation to them ends.

“The report highlights the potential of basic income to improve health and well-being. Poverty causing ill health is a critical issue I see every day in my work, one that our health care system alone cannot fix. The cancellation of the pilot was a devastating loss – both for participants, and of invaluable research that would have been gained from allowing its completion,” says Dr. Alissa Tedesco, a physician in Toronto and Co-Chair of Health Providers Against Poverty Ontario.

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; it is set to end in March this year.

“This is an important and timely report from BICN,” notes Jamie Cooke, Head of RSA Scotland (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce). “For those of us working on this issue in Scotland, and across the world, the self-organizing of the participants in Ontario has been inspiring and is shaping our own thinking about experiment design. We will continue to work with Canadians to envisage a better, more secure future.”

BICN sent the voluntary survey to 1,500 recipients and received 424 responses, almost 10% of the total 4,500 recipients enrolled in the OBIP. To download the full report, click here. For more information about BICN, visit here.


  1. Dorothy says:

    It is beyond intelligent comprehension why this program was slashed. I knew two people enrolled in this study and both were moving forward at a remarkable pace. One was able to expand her business and was on pace to independence. I detest partisan politics. I detest ignorant politicians who slash and burn just because they can without regard for the facts.

  2. […] in conjunction with The Lindsay Advocate, released a survey report earlier this year, after the PC government cancelled the Ontario Basic Income pilot that was […]

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