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Canadian basic income recipients suing to stop program's cancellation


Plaintiffs claim government's decision to stop payments is unethical

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Recipients of a Canadian basic income pilot program are suing to keep the payments coming, arguing that the government's decision to end the failed project is unethical.

What are the details?

The province of Ontario launched an experimental basic income program in April 2017. It was set to last for up to three years, but officials decided to scrap it in August after determining it was " not sustainable." Within a month of its announced cancellation, recipients of the program filed a lawsuit to keep the gravy train moving.

Social advocate and attorney Mike Perry is representing the plaintiffs, and told the Peterborough Examiner that his clients want the program reinstated and are asking for damages. He argued that politicians "can't just make decisions off the top of their heads ... there needs to be backup research and data."

Plaintiff Tracey Mechefske credits the payments she received from the basic income with giving her the ability to start a business making all-natural bath and body products.

"I had a three-year plan," Mechefske told the Examiner. "Now, I won't be able to afford the ingredients to make my products, and all the money invested in the shows is gone." She and her (employed) husband receive $2,803 a month, which is set to stop at the end of March.

Program participant Tracey Crosson told CityLab she went from receiving $1,158 a month through the Ontario Disability Support Program to $1,915 when she switched over to the basic income program. She says if she has to go back to disability, "I'm either going to be homeless or I'm going to starve."

Crosson added, "I'm not ungrateful, but I did have a three-year plan."

Anything else?

During at hearing before Ontario's Superior Court last week, government attorney Christopher Thompson argued that basic income recipients signed documentation that they would receive the payments "up to" three years, and that it was not a "guarantee for three years," the Star reported.

According to the Star, Justice Fred Myers took issue with Thompson's argument, saying, "Are you here to suggest that the Liberal government under (then) premier (Kathleen) Wynne didn't intend this to be a three-year program? You are lawyering like crazy over two words."

He added, "Of course it intended to be a three-year program. ... It's perfectly obvious."

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