North American Basic Income Guarantee Congress kicked off Thursday

Hamilton Spectator

For Tim Button, a basic income has meant options.

The former security guard can now make choices — to buy healthier food, to pay to take transit, to meet a friend for coffee — since he enrolled in a provincial pilot project last October.

In the past, the 58-year-old, who lives in a rented room, said he would sometimes walk 20 blocks to eat one meal a day at a shelter.

Button is one of 1,000 local participants in a three-year, basic income pilot project launched by the province in April 2017.

Hamilton, one of three test sites that also include Lindsay and Thunder Bay, is at the centre of a social policy decision that is seeing 4,000 Ontarians receiving a guaranteed income — up to $17,000 a year for individuals and $24,000 a year for couples, less 50 per cent for income earned.

People with disabilities receive as much as an extra $6,000 a year.

Having received media attention from the U.K. and the U.S., the city and Ontario's pilot project are in the limelight again this week as the North American Basic Income Guarantee Congress kicks off Thursday and runs through Sunday at McMaster University.

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