Canadian province scraps ‘not sustainable’ basic income program pilot

Ontario's Children Community and Social Services Minister Lisa Macleod attends Question Period at Queen's Park in Toronto on Tuesday

Ontario's new government says it will bring in major changes to social assistance, starting with reducing a planned increase in disability support rates and cancelling a basic income pilot program.

Lisa MacLeod, the Progressive Conservative minister of children, community and social services, said the program "clearly not the answer for Ontario families" when she made the announcement at a Queen's Park news conference.

The provincial government will reduce the previous government's planned three per cent increase to social assistance rates to just 1.5 per cent.

MacLeod also announced the province would be "winding down" its basic income pilot project, which gave payments to low-income people in certain communities.

There are approximately 4,000 people enrolled in the program. "That fake news that was in the news today totally mischaracterizes what we're doing", she said.

Those eligible for the experimental program were unemployed or with an annual income below 34,000 Canadian dollars ($26,000) - or under 48,000 Canadians (US$37,000) dollars if they are a couple - less 50 percent of any earned income.

"Social services are already grossly underfunded, with Ontario Works recipients 60 per cent below the poverty line", said Ziegner.

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Basic income programmes are being tested out around the world. Earlier this week, she said it would continue in August, but Thursday said payouts would extend into September.

A Canadian province has chose to scrap its universal basic income pilot after lawmakers decided it was "quite expensive" and "not sustainable", The Guardian reported.

MacLeod said the province is working on a plan to revamp the system.

Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser said the Tories had done nothing but tear things down and would continue to do so.

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.

Some advocacy groups have also denounced the move, as have some who received support through social assistance or the basic income program.

In a TVO panel on health care the Green Party says now deputy premier Christine Elliott confirmed that her party would keep the pilot program. "It's knowing that no matter what else happens in life, you've got something that helps you deal with that".

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