City of Kawartha Lakes residents react to final payment from Ontario Basic Income pilot project

Click to play video 'Residents protest the end of the basic income program in City of Kawartha Lakes' Residents protest the end of the basic income program in City of Kawartha Lakes
It's the end of the line for Ontario's basic income pilot program. The government was giving 4,000 clients up to $33,000 per year. And half of those clients were in the City of Kawartha Lakes. On Monday those recipients got their last cheques. And as Dan Nyznik reports, they're not pleased – Mar 26, 2019

It’s the end of the line for Ontario’s Basic Income Pilot (BIP), which was intended to improve the lives of those in poverty.

In April 2017, the previous Liberal government announced it was giving 4,000 people — half of them in the City of Kawartha Lakes — up to $33,000 per year to find work or better their education.

Under the program, single residents got just under $17,000 annually while couples received approximately $24,000. The BIP was rolled out in three Ontario cities.

However, the Ford government pulled the plug on the BIP last year. Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod said the program was failing given there are nearly two million Ontarians living in poverty.

READ MORE: Ontario government defends move to cancel basic income pilot project

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This week, BIP recipients will be getting their final cheques, and many are not pleased.

Karen Lynn Belanger opened a little store last November with the money she got from the BIP.

“I have to figure out how we’re going to make it without the basic income and possibly let go of the store,” she said.

The single mother of two was not alone. Outside the Lindsay constituency office of Laurie Scott, Conservative MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, a handful of men and women carried placards in protest.

Scott was not there and was unavailable for comment on the matter.

READ MORE: March 2019 to mark end of Ontario’s basic income pilot

Tracey Mechefske had a business plan for the three years during which the program was supposed to run.

“We will have to refinance the home to pay for all of the expenses that I’ve incurred over the year and a half (since the program started),” she said.

Dana Bowman is a single mother who also came to the protest.

“I’m not looking to be rich. I was just looking to eat healthy and to have some family time and pay my bills without having to steal Paul to pay Peter and then back from Peter to pay Paul again,” she said.

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READ MORE: Guaranteed basic income for all Canadians would cost $43 billion a year — PBO

“We’re here today, on the day of the very last payment, to demand an apology from (Social Services Minister) Lisa MacLeod for throwing people under the financial bus and how people have been treated, the most vulnerable among us,” said local lawyer Mike Perry, who previously ran as an NDP candidate in the 2015 federal election.

Perry says he will launch a class-action suit for damages caused by the program’s cancellation.

“This is about social and economic justice for people who are struggling,” he said.