Premier Kathleen Wynne announced Monday a plan to study basic income in Ontario, in a three-year pilot project based in Hamilton, Lindsay and Thunder Bay.
The province will explore the effectiveness of providing a basic income — no matter what — to people who are currently living on low incomes, “whether they are working or not,” Wynne said.
Wynne said the pilot will provide the basic income to 4,000 households chosen from applicants invited “randomly” by the province in the coming weeks.
A single person could receive up to about $17,000 a year, minus half of any income he or she earns. A couple could receive up to $24,000 per year. People with disabilities could receive up to $6,000 more per year.
“People are anxious about their jobs; they’re anxious about their futures,” she said. “They’re worried about the soaring costs of renting or buying a place to live.”
People are especially concerned for those who don’t start out wealthy, she said.
“Many people are concerned about what the world is promising for their kids,” she said. “It’s a world of global competition, reduced benefits, more and more part-time employment.”
‘We need to address the concerns of those who worry about falling behind, even as they work so hard to get ahead.’
– Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne
The premier said the three-year project will start with people making “just under $17,000 a year, but even that amount may make a real difference to someone who is striving to reach for a better life.
“We have chosen these communities intentionally because they are the right size and they have the right mix of population,” Wynne said.
“We need to address the concerns of those who worry about falling behind, even as they work so hard to get ahead.”
The amount is not “extravagant,” she said, but it sends a message:
“It says to them, ‘Government is with you; the people of Ontario are with you,'” she said.
4,000 households to be studied
Joining Wynne were Minister of Community and Social Services Helena Jaczek and Chris Ballard, the minister responsible for the province’s poverty reduction strategy.
Jaczek said that people in the program will be randomly contacted from each region’s low-income population and invited to apply.
The program will cost $50 million a year for each of the three years and 4,000 households will participate. That will include 1,000 people from the Hamilton, Brantford and Brant regions.
People who receive medical and dental benefits from the province under other welfare programs would not have to give those up.
The ministers have been spearheading the province’s effort to experiment with basic income. The strategy for reducing poverty involves “a system of automatic transfers for those beneath an income threshold,” according to a discussion paper on the topic commissioned by Wynne and the ministers last summer.
The province has said it will launch the pilot project providing money to…