An open invitation from Hamilton to federal party leaders about basic income

Ontario's former Basic Income pilot participants are eager to share their experiences on the program and discuss why Canada needs a National Basic Income.

The next time they are in Hamilton on a campaign stop, Federal Party Leaders have an open invitation. The Basic Income Canada Network and Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction have invited Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May to join Ontario's former Basic Income pilot participants to hear their stories and discuss why Canada needs a National Basic Income.

The Ontario Basic Income pilot ran from late 2017 until its early cancellation in March, 2019. The pilot was cut short by the new Ontario Government, but the impacts on local participants involved in the pilot were profound. Basic Income participants were hoping to break the cycle of poverty and enhance employment opportunities, stabilize housing, eat healthier and improve their health.

The Ontario Pilot gave many participants a glimpse of the future: opportunities that were sadly yanked away. "Many participants had disabilities that prevented them from fully working or participating in social activities. Receiving a basic income restored the feeling of dignity for many" said Laura Cattari, a former Basic Income participant and campaign coordinator with the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction.

A survey conducted of former Basic Income pilot participants by the Basic Income Canada Network in the spring showed 88 per cent of respondents were less stressed and anxious, and 73 per cent had less depression. Some 28 per cent of those surveyed said they stopped using food banks, and 74 per cent said they made healthy food choices. More than half of respondents reported improvements in their housing situation, while nearly a third went back to school or sought skills training to improve employment.

“Basic income allowed me to receive an education that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to receive,” wrote one respondent.

"The Ontario program was never the end goal in basic income advocacy, but it could have been a 'shot in the arm' to get a national initiative started. This has to be national to be really successful,” said Sheila Regehr, Chair of Basic Income Canada.

The invitation for Party Leaders to meet with former Basic Income participants when they next visit Hamilton, comes with three weeks left in the Federal Election Campaign. The NDP and Green Party have highlighted Basic Income in their election platforms, while Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said in December, 2018 "At some point, there will be a universal guaranteed minimum income in Canada for all Canadians.”

For more information, please contact Tom Cooper, director Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction at 905-512-7863.