Lisa MacLeod Admits Ontario Tories Broke Election Vow By Scrapping Basic Income

Lisa Macleod

Ontario's new Progressive Conservative government ushered in the first of what it promised would be major reforms to social assistance on Tuesday, reducing a planned increase in support rates and cancelling a pilot program that provided payments to low-income people in certain communities.

The government also announced that Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program rates would be increased 1.5 per cent, half of the three per cent commitment the Liberals made in their final budget.

The basic income pilot project was introduced in April 2017 and was tested in Hamilton, Brantford, Brant County, Lindsay and Thunder Bay and the surrounding area.

The pilot project was expected to cost C$50m per year and included 4,000 households.

"I knew it was coming every month", she said.

As anti-poverty advocates denounced the Ontario government's decision to scrap a basic income pilot project, the province defended the move Wednesday by suggesting the program discouraged participants from finding work.

Eligible participants selected for the program were receiving up to $16,989 per year for a single person and up to $24,027 per year for a couple, less 50 per cent of any earned income.

On Wednesday, when asked about breaking that promise, Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod told the legislature "we made a tough decision that is going to be right for the people, but it was a hard decision to make".

Garvey said she is waiting to hear more information about what those changes could look like and what MacLeod meant when she referred to the income supports as a "patchwork". "Hell no", she said.

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, which had been critical of the project, said cancelling it only a year in "demonstrates a reckless disregard for the lives of almost 4,000 people.who planned their lives on the assurance of having a set income for three years". Numerous program's participants seemed shocked and frustrated to learn that their monetary plan for the next three years was being thrown out the window.

Opposition parties said MacLeod's claim the promise wasn't broken is a desperate attempt at damage control by a PC party that is now forcing through legislation to cut the size of Toronto city council - something that also wasn't in the Ford campaign platform.

Advocates for basic income initiatives said such programs are more effective in lifting people out of poverty than social assistance and require less bureaucracy to run.

Mendowegan said the basic income program allowed her family to see a future where they would no longer need social assistance.

"It's not just about money, it's about security", she said.

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