Woman on basic income opens new business – right beside MPP’s office

By Roderick Benns

Woman on basic income opens new business – right beside MPP's office
Karen Suggitt has opened Sew Little Time Emporium beside MPP Laurie Scott's office. Photo: Erin Smith.

A local woman who is on the Ontario Basic Income Pilot in Lindsay, knowing it will end soon, has opened a small fabric business – right beside local MPP Laurie Scott’s office.

Karen Suggitt says when they cancelled the pilot she was just on her second month and “very tense about what would happen.”

She had been gathering fabric-related items while she was working and purchased a small inventory with the little she had in savings and credit. She found some rental space at 6 Lindsay St. N., right beside Lori’s Family Hair Care, and just a couple units away from Scott’s office.

Suggitt’s new business – Sew Little Time Emporium – is “a tiny store, but it’s a start,” she says.

“This is a leap of faith.”

When the new PC government cancelled the Ontario Basic Income Pilot, it left about 2,000 people in Lindsay high and dry, wondering how they would cope.

Many of these same 2,000 people had voted Conservative, given the Party’s assurance on the campaign trail they would let the three-year pilot run its course to gather the crucial data needed to evaluate basic income. (Another 2,000 people who were on basic income are located in Thunder Bay and Hamilton areas.)

Scott, who also serves in Cabinet now as minister of labour, had spoken up in favour of the basic income pilot in the past. Since the cancellation she has backtracked, claiming the Party line that there were too many “concerns” about the program, without identifying what those concerns were. As well, Premier Doug Ford has claimed publicly the cost of the pilot was $17 billion when in reality it was $150 million over three years.

Suggitt says her business is primarily fabric, and not just for quilters. She has a large assortment of upholstery and polyester mixes – about 300 bolts — suitable for home sewers wishing to make their own garments.

She also has “old Singers” she has collected, “including the Red Eye, and Featherweight.”

Prior to collecting basic income, Suggitt had been working for 10 years, right after her husband left her, driving for the Toronto  Star seven nights a week. Her work day began at 1:30 am.

Suggitt, who is “older,” did the job in all kinds of weather, driving 160 to 180 kms per night.

“I was the only driver. My parents had this route and I have managed it several times, this being the longest,” she tells the Advocate.

Health wise, it was taking its toll on her. She has injuries from the job, she says, but received no benefits.

When the basic income pilot became an option, she was so relieved.

The cost of maintaining vehicles and her shrinking commissions, on top of her health concerns, had become too much for her.

While she couldn’t get any business loans, after the termination of basic income several helpful people in the community and members of her family stepped forward to help her make this transition to her small business, which opened last weekend.

“My only (other) option would be ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program), as I’m older and my health is not great,” she says.

“Companies are not waiting to hire people approaching retirement,” Suggitt points out.

Suggitt says she can’t understand why the government “doesn’t honour their commitment,” and let the pilot finish, since she sees it as a way for people to get back on their feet.

“If they don’t, the taxpayer will pay more” in the end, with higher social assistance rates and poorer health for people.

Now, all Suggitt can do is hope that enough local people will go visit her little shop to make her leap of faith a success.

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