$200M class-action lawsuit filed over cancellation of Ontario basic income pilot project

Protesters gather outside MPP Laurie Scott's office in Lindsay to express concerns about the province ending the basic income pilot project. Monday was the last day for the project. Dan Nyznik/Global Peterborough

Four Lindsay, Ont., residents in the province’s recent basic income pilot project have filed a $200-million class-action lawsuit against the Ontario PC government over its early cancellation of the project.

Filed in Lindsay court, the lawsuit alleges the cancellation of the project amounts to a “breach of contract” after the previous Liberal government introduced the $150-million, three-year pilot in April 2017.

The lawsuit lists Dana Bowman, Grace Marie Doyle Hillion, Susan Lindsay and Tracey Mechefske as the plaintiffs.

The statement of claim can be found here: Class Action Lawsuit

The pilot project aimed to provide 4,000 Ontarians living in Lindsay, Hamilton and Thunder Bay with a monthly basic income (up to $17,000 per year) in exchange for regularly completing surveys and agreeing to be part of a research project to determine if fixed payments could be implemented in the future.

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WATCH: Residents in Lindsay protest the end of basic income pilot

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

The plaintiffs also claim the Doug Ford-led government was “negligent” and breached its undertaking and common-law duties in deciding to cancel the project only one year into the three-year term.

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Lindsay lawyer Mike Perry filed the initial notice of class action, noting the Toronto law firm Cavalluzzo LLP has agreed to take on the case. Perry will be staying to work on the case pro bono.

“We want the best possible representation for the participants who had damages and were harmed by the government’s decision to cancel the basic income early,” Perry stated. “Cavalluzzo has the expertise, experience and passion to ensure this happens.”

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The last payments for the pilot project are this month.

“Participants were given no reasons directly for the early cancellation and were left scrambling to recover their financial lives. Participants were low-income earners, students and people living with disabilities.

Perry said an application was made to the court last fall to ask that the decision to cancel the project early be overturned, but the court ruled that it had no jurisdiction to change the policy and spending decisions of governments.

Perry noted in the ruling, however, the judges noted that their ruling in no way impacted the rights of the participants to bring legal action for damages for any harm(s) they may have incurred as a result of the early cancellation of the pilot.

Lawyer Stephen Moreau, a partner at Cavalluzzo, is now lead counsel on the legal action.

“I and my firm are committed to social justice, which is why it was important for us to take this action on,” he stated. “The thousands of Ontarians who have been impacted by the government’s decision to terminate the basic income pilot have been left with very few options but to seek this redress. We look forward to working with Mr. Perry and with the class members to ensure a just outcome.”

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More to come

WATCH: Reaction to the cancellation of the basic income pilot project

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