Sit-in at MPP’s office to renew tomorrow morning after no word on apology

By Roderick Benns

A police officer hands protesters their coffees after ending the sit-in.

They waited all day for an apology from the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, Lisa MacLeod, about the cancellation of basic income, but that wait will spill over to tomorrow after police put an end to the sit-in.

Lawyer and social worker Mike Perry led a small group to protest in front of local MPP Laurie Scott’s office beginning at 9:30 am. After peacefully demonstrating outside for awhile, Perry and a small group went inside to ask for the apology, indicating they wouldn’t be leaving until they heard back from the minister.

“This is not a business-as-usual issue,” Perry say. It’s about fairness, justice and standing up for what’s right.”

He says the apology is for the government’s treatment of participants in the basic income pilot program.

The office of local MPP Laurie Scott closes at 4 pm throughout the week but protesters — including two Advocate writers — stayed put until 5:13 pm, despite a few warnings from the MPP’s staff members.

Staff members from Scott’s office asked the small group to leave on two different occasions. The group politely refused. On their third ask, staff members told the protesters they were now “trespassing.”

Finally, a police officer from Kawartha Lakes Police Service showed up from the back entrance of Scott’s office and asked everyone to leave. He gathered their assorted items, including some take-out coffees, and handed them back to the protesters.

“The minister (MacLeod) said she’d be pleased to meet with people about basic income and poverty,” Perry tells the Advocate, indicating to “check the Hansard,” as she made the comment in the legislature and it’s in the official record. “But she never did.”

Perry also notes the Minister was invited to Lindsay in August to meet with local participants when the program was cancelled, but ultimately there was no reply.

“There was also no reply to offers to discontinue the first court action,” says Perry, with participants noting that countless emails and letters also went unanswered.

“You can’t send people back to poverty and that’s what this has done.”

Lisa Gretzky, NDP MPP for Windsor West, demanded MacLeod apologize in the legislature today for the premature cancellation of the Ontario Basic Income Pilot. At one point MacLeod yelled that she will “never apologize.”

The sit-in at Scott’s office will resume tomorrow morning at 9:30. All are welcome to join in.

Today marks the final basic income payment, given the Ford government’s early termination of the three-year program. Ending the program early, and without informing participants directly of the reason, abruptly sends participants back well under the poverty line.

The ongoing three-year income was cancelled just after a year when the Ford government took office last June. The pilot program provided a basic income of up to $17,000 (for single people) with the goal of helping them take steps to get ahead out of poverty and was abruptly cut last year.

The government’s own ethics board did not approve how the program was ended. A legal action was filed last fall seeking the court’s reversal of the cancellation on the grounds it was irrational, unethical and made in bad faith. The court ruled it lacked jurisdiction to overturn a government policy decision. However, a class action lawsuit, initially led by Perry, is going forward in April.

The Toronto law firm of Cavalluzzo LLP has taken on the class action lawsuit for damages to the basic income participants as a result of the early cancellation of the basic income program. The firm is “dedicated to social advocacy and the protection of working people.”

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