Basic income denied in Ontario: Interview with Jessie Golem

Open Democracy

Jessie Golem is a photographer and was, for a short time, a basic income recipient in Ontario. Beyond Trafficking and Slavery caught up with her at the 19th Global Basic Income Congress in Hyderabad, India, to chat about what the programme did for her, and what it meant to have it cut short.

Beyond Trafficking and Slavery: You were, for a short time, a recipient of a basic income in Canada. What was the program you were part of?

Jessie Golem: In 2017, the Ontario provincial government under the Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne introduced a three-year basic income pilot. They chose 4,500 people in four cities in Ontario, all of whom were making under C$30,000 a year, to receive an unconditional guaranteed basic income. The size of the income was put on a sliding scale. You could receive up to C$1,400 a month, but if you were working then it was reduced by 50 cents to the dollar. Because I was working, I received about C$700 a month.

What did receiving a basic income change for you, for good or ill?

It changed a lot for me in really tremendously good ways. Before I was on basic income, I was working four jobs and they were all contract work. I was living right in the middle of the gig economy and that was my entire life. I would be up in the morning and wouldn't get home until late at night. I was trying to build my business as a freelance photographer but was really struggling to do so. I just didn't have the time to put into my photography because I was so busy working.

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