Perry says focus now on class action lawsuit in wake of basic income cancellation

By Roderick Benns

Mike Perry, left, with two of the four applicants, Tracey Mechefske and Dana Bowman.

In light of an Ontario court decision that states it has no authority to force the PC government to continue with basic income, the focus now turns to the class action lawsuit.

This, according to Mike Perry, the Lindsay-based lawyer and social worker who took on this case pro bono.

“While the applicants are understandably disappointed with today’s decision, they respect the court and the legal process and have asked me to thank the court for its consideration of their application,” Perry tells the Advocate.

The applicants are Dana Bowman, Grace Marie Doyle Hillion, Susan Lindsay, and Tracey Mechefske, all from Lindsay.

“We will now be focusing on the class action lawsuit for damages,” Perry says, “incurred by the participants resulting from the government’s decision to cancel the basic income pilot.”

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.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice Divisional Court noted in their statement that the applicants made clear and cogent submissions with “respect to the importance of the pilot project in collecting data to better understand the effect of a guaranteed annual income on those who are most vulnerable,” and the harm the applicants say they suffered.

In their decision Justices Thorburn, Reid, and Myers write, that “the pilot program is a government funding decision…this Court has no power to review the considerations which motivate a Cabinet policy decision.”

As well, the Justices write in their concluding remarks, “the inevitable effect of an order to quash the decision to cancel the Pilot Project would require the respondent [the government] to continue funding, which, it is agreed, this Court has no authority to do. The distribution of government funds per se is a political not a judicial function.”

“For these reasons, the application is dismissed.”

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 address the question of whether the Court can quash the government’s decision.”

More than 1,500 of the 4,500 basic income pilot recipients agreed to help the Basic Income Canada Network (BICN) and the Ontario Basic Income Network continue working for a basic income policy.

BICN conducted a survey of those people. Now, 424 responses have come back, representing more than nine per cent of those receiving basic income in Ontario. The Lindsay Advocate is pleased to be the media partner highlighting these stories. Names have been changed to protect identities.

Basic income was helping participants in many ways, including:

  • More than 32 per cent of respondents to a survey about the Ontario Basic Income Pilot were going back to school to further their education.
  • More than 20 per cent could finally afford transportation to get to and from work.
  • Nearly nine per cent started or expanded their own business.
  • Close to six per cent could afford some child care expenses to be able to work.

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