Court reserves judgment on basic income case

Roderick Benns

An Ontario Court has reserved judgment on the high profile basic income case which was argued by Kawartha Lakes lawyer and social worker Mike Perry in a Toronto court room today.

However, the court also recognized this was a time sensitive matter, given that the program will end as of March, 2019.

Many believe this will be a matter of days, not weeks, before the court rules.

The challenge heard today was the application for the court to overturn the decision to cancel the Ontario Basic Income Pilot. A pending class action lawsuit will only be heard if the court decides not to overturn the Province’s decision and the pilot doesn’t continue.

If needed, the court will later hear a class action lawsuit for damages over breach of contract for the new Ontario government cancelling the basic income pilot project prematurely.

In April of last year, the Ontario Liberal government announced it would be testing a new social program – basic income – in Hamilton area, Lindsay and Thunder Bay area. The program provided up to $16,989 per year to about 4,000 Ontario residents who qualified, with no stipulation as to employment status.

On July 31, the Ford government announced the basic income pilot program was to be cut. The government later specified the program will end as of March, 2019. Nearly 2,000 of the participants were from Lindsay.

The basic income has had a profound impact on participants. One of the representative plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Tracey Mechefske of Lindsay, had used the additional income to pay marketing and sales space fees for her small business. Now she will soon not be able to purchase the supplies to make her products to sell.

Another plaintiff, Grace Hillion, was able to enroll in school to train in broadcasting. Hillion had planned the tuition payments on three years of basic income.

Participants from Hamilton and Thunder Bay have shared similar stories – buying more professional clothing for work, putting their car back on the road to job hunt, feeding their kids better, renting a safer apartment (with windows) – which reveal how the basic income pilot had been working to inspire people, get them back included in society, and break the cycle of poverty.

As basic income recipient and plaintiff in the lawsuits, Dana Bowman, shares: “I felt accountable again. I was more independent and felt more self-worth as I could budget my finances rather than having no extra money after rent and a bit of food each month on ODSP. I paid my bills and was able to join my working friends for lunch sometimes. I was also looking into a two-year college program to get back working and help others.”