While Ontario Premier Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservative government continue their efforts to scrap the three-year basic income pilot project, a proposed class action lawsuit filed in a Lindsay court Monday claims the cancellation of the project is “negligent” and a “breach of contract.”
Lawyer and social worker Mike Perry is taking on the case pro bono and is representing four plaintiffs from Lindsay, Dana Bowman, Grace Marie Doyle Hillion, Susan Lindsay, and Tracey Mechefske, who are all participants in the income project and receive on average $1,400 per month.
Perry says it’s a proposed class action lawsuit representing all 4,000 people who are involved in the pilot. Half of those participants are located in Lindsay. The remaining participants are located in the municipalities of Hamilton and Thunder Bay.
“We take no joy in this. It’s not fun, having to have to sue the government,” Perry said. “When we can’t get justice from our elected officials, the courts stand ready to hear claims. … That’s why our courageous representative plaintiffs are bringing forward this class action lawsuit.”
The PC government announced in late July the income project would be scrapped prematurely, leaving those involved, such as Mechefske, worse off than before. She claims she has already spent additional income and money she was planning to receive to set up a new business in her home.
“I’m worse now than I was when I was when I was on ODSP,” Mechefske said. “I made a three-year plan and when the rug got pulled out from under me, I thought, What am I going to do now?”
Medical issues have kept Bowman from working full time, so she’s relied on disability and ODSP payments and has struggled to make ends meet. The program meant she was able to stop relying on the food bank and can now buy fresh food from the grocery store. She says it contributed to better health.
Bowman wants to the project extended, and for everyone to see the data that comes from the study. That way, both the public and governments can decided what’s neeed, she said.
“The past models have not worked,” Bowman said. “I’ve been on everyone one of them. I’m proof … they don’t work.”
We reached out to Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott, who declined to comment on the matter and referred us to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services for comment.
As for Perry and his plaintiffs, they say there is a simple solution to the lawsuit: allow the basic income pilot project to continue and the plaintiffs will drop the case.