Silence from MPP Laurie Scott deafening for those losing their basic income

By Joli Scheidler-Benns

Joli Scheidler-Benns is a PhD candidate in Health Policy and Equity at York University. She is a sessional professor for UOIT's Faculty of Education. She serves in a Research, Strategy, and Community Development role for The Lindsay Advocate while also serving as a Writer-at-Large.

On March 25, nearly 2,000 people in Lindsay lost their basic income cheques due to a broken promise of the PC government. On April 25, some will be back on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), or Ontario Works. Still others will receive no money top-up to stay out of abject poverty and will rely on precarious work, hoping to avoid homelessness.

Single people on ODSP get a maximum of $1,151 – $662 is for basic needs and $489 for shelter. Their total annual income with other benefits is only about $15,000 per year, which is more than $7,000 below the poverty line. Because of an ineffective changeover from basic income back to ODSP – the opposite of the smooth transition that was promised – some people were left in the lurch when it came to their important medications. Thankfully pharmacists stepped in to help.

Joli Scheidler-Benns.

Landlords are scrambling as people no longer have the means to afford rent. Local businesses are seeing a decline in purchases as 10 per cent of our local people no longer have enough money for extras let alone to pay for their basic needs. The basic income pilot added an additional $50 million to our local economy.

What does local MPP and Minister of Labour Laurie Scott have to say to our people and our community? Nothing at all.

On March 25 several people attended a sit-in at Laurie Scott’s office requesting an apology from Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, Lisa MacLeod for the premature ending of the pilot. The group was led by lawyer and social worker Mike Perry, but many of us were involved.

We also asked for a comment from Scott’s office, not just McLeod’s. Although we were forced to sit outside in the cold weather after the first day, the sit-in continued until Friday when the Class Action lawsuit was announced publicly. Not one word of condolence or concern was given to basic income participants or the community during that week.

After several follow up calls in person and by phone from a number of people, the following message was shared on April 10 to all those who participated in the sit-in  (nearly two and a half weeks after the initial request.)

Good Afternoon…

Thank you for stopping into the office yesterday afternoon. The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services has advised that the best way to correspond with Minister MacLeod is by e-mailing her office at .  Again, thank you for following up. Kind Regards, Erika.

Not wanting to assume, I reached out to Perry to see if this was adequate and if he had emailed MacLeod.

“Hell, no! Email the Minister is not satisfactory. You don’t “e-fix” poverty. And you don’t just email about our local people who are suffering from a government’s decision.”

This morning I called Scott’s office to ask for further comments from Erika Robson. A couple hours later Robson returned my call to tell me that I needed to talk with Scott’s press secretary, Christine. Why wasn’t this suggested over the last three weeks? Why now?

Needless to say, the press secretary didn’t get back to me.

To disregard the lives of nearly 2,000 local people with no comment at all for their well-being or the well-being of our town is unconscionable.

We do have two new foodbanks in our City though. Was that meant to solve the problem?

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