Wynne government disappoints families counting on basic income: MPP Paul Miller

QUEEN’S PARK—During question period today, NDP Poverty Reduction critic and Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MPP Paul Miller declared that the Wynne government’s Basic Income Pilot Project may leave families struggling in poverty.

“This morning the Liberal government announced that 400 people have so far signed up to its Basic Income pilot project, in Thunder Bay, Brantford and Hamilton,” said Miller. “New Democrats have raised concerns that the amounts received are not adequate for participants and could keep them struggling in poverty if the basic income is subject to garnishments and debt collections.”

Ontario families were shocked to discover that anyone signing up for basic income may be subject to liens and debt collections on that income—current Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Works (OW) recipients are exempt from these conditions. As a result, ODSP and OW recipients in Hamilton, Brantford Thunder Bay may actually receive less income if they opt into the Basic Income Pilot Project. Some poverty advocates are even encouraging families to reconsider participating in the pilot because of these conditions. 

“This is unacceptable,” said Miller. “Many Ontarians struggle under household debt, but, for people in poverty-debt, it can be a crushing endless loop.”

“Will she [the premier] commit to making necessary changes to ensure that this isn’t the case?” asked Miller.

In her response, Wynne failed to commit to making changes to improve the pilot project and make it work for low income families. In his follow-up question, Miller pressed the Wynne Government on Bill 6, the Ministry of Community and Social Services Amendment Act, which will help alleviate poverty immediately by creating a Social Assistance Research Commission.

“By creating a Social Assistance Research Commission, annual recommendations can be made to determine what social assistance rates need to be in each region of the province, “said Miller. “Moving Bill 6 forward will still give the province the ability to experiment with this minimum income project.”