My Experience with Ontario's Basic Income Pilot

Raise the Hammer

I was one of the 4500 citizens in Canada to be given a basic income (BI). I applied for BI while working at a bank in downtown Hamilton. Part-time employment is all that is available as a modern bank teller.

The top priority given to us by our managers was to teach customers how to use our online banking platform and cell-phone application. The better I did my job, the fewer faces I saw coming into the branch. I was in the midst of a job-performance paradox, witnessing and facilitating the replacement of my job by technology. And moving up the ladder didn't make much long-term sense either, seeing as financial planners are now being publicly shafted in Super Bowl advertisements by automated robo-banking platforms like Questrade.

As I counted the coins emptied from the hats and cups of homeless customers onto the bank's imported Italian marble countertops, I had plenty of time to think about how we as a society could better provide for the mentally ill, sick, poor, and the precariously or underemployed. That's when I discovered Ontario's 4500-person basic income pilot study, a concept that had been introduced to me as an economics student at McMaster University. I thought about how it might help those I saw struggling everyday, and so I encouraged as many people as I could to apply for the program.

I thought about all of the passionate, creative people, stuck in cubicles, selling their valuable time and energy for the sake of a barely livable wage - people like myself. With housing, rent, and food costs continuing to rise as wages stagnate, the prospect of losing those jobs is unsettling to the most capable among us.

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