Hamilton/Brantford, Thunder Bay, and Lindsay to be basic income sites

Roderick Benns

Saying there are “new forces at play” in the economy, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced that Hamilton/Brantford, Thunder Bay, and Lindsay are the selected communities for the Province’s basic income guarantee project.

Wynne announced details of the Ontario Basic Income Pilot today in Hamilton. The three-year study will test how a basic income might expand opportunities and job prospects for those living on low incomes, while providing greater security for them and their families.

In her lead-up remarks to the announcement, the premier said although Ontario’s economy is showing many signs of improvement, there are also many people in the province who are not feeling that growth in their everyday lives and feel pessimistic about their life direction.

“That is different when I grew up,” she says, noting that back then, often one income was sufficient to make ends meet.

“There was more optimism then. But this is a new world, with new challenges. There are many forces at play,” she says.

Citing automation, for example, which has cut a swath through good manufacturing jobs across Ontario, as well as many U.S. states, the premier says new tools are needed to maintain social wellness.

With the rising cost of living and precarious employment that offers little job security or benefits, Wynne is hoping that a basic income policy can bridge the gap and give people the security and opportunity they need to achieve their potential.

“Governments must be a force for good,” says Wynne, who is also expected to lay out other progressive government measures in the months to come, from higher minimum wages to better labour legislation for the new economy she references.

Three Regions

Three regions will take part in the study. Pilots will start in late spring in Hamilton, which will include Brantford and Brant County and in Thunder Bay and the surrounding area. The third pilot will start by this fall in Lindsay, a small town of about 20,000 a half hour west of Peterborough.

The basic income model Ontario has developed will ensure that eligible participants receive:

  • Up to $16,989 per year for a single person, less 50 percent of any earned income
  • Up to $24,027 per year for a couple, less 50 percent of any earned income
  • Up to an additional $6,000 per year for a person with a disability.

A basic income supports people to begin or continue working, or to further their education. Participants in the pilot will be able to increase their total income by combining a basic income with 50 cents from every dollar they earn at work.

Through this pilot, people who earn less than the basic income amount through employment will receive regular payments to help them better afford basic needs such as housing and food.

The three test regions will host 4,000 participants eligible to receive a basic income payment, between the ages of 18 to 64. By late spring, people in these areas will begin receiving information about the pilot and how to participate. The province is partnering with these communities and other experts to make sure that the Ontario Basic Income Pilot is fair, effective, and scientifically valid.

Ontario is also in the early stages of planning a separate, parallel First Nations basic income pilot, co-created and designed with First Nations partners.