Dunn: Basic Income Scrapped "Out Of Spite"

The Downtown Mission's Ron Dunn sees the decision to scrap Ontario's basic income pilot program as one made out of spite.

"I'd like to say I'm surprised but, I'm not — and that's also a sad statement," says Dunn.

The Executive Director of the non-profit says his group sees the real world affects of poverty with 1,100 people a month coming to the Mission food bank in Windsor.

"It's disappointing that the government, just out of spite, because it was somebody else's idea — whether it was a good idea or a bad idea we can argue all day — but, because it was somebody else's idea it's been scrapped without a better plan," says Dunn.

On Tuesday, social services minister Lisa MacLeod announced the PC government was doing away with the previous Liberal government's exploratory program.

MacLeod also announced the government was cutting the planned annual 3% increase to Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program and replacing it with a 1.5% increase in support rates.

Dunn sees a 1.5% increase offered by the province as "salt in the wound."

"$625 a month — I know people who would spend on that on take-out and coffee in the morning," he says. "If you're living off of $625 a month, you can barely avoid to find an apartment, nevermind find an apartment, furnish it, eat."

The provincial government says it will develop a new social assistance program in 100 days.

"I think if they had a plan they would've announced it," says Dunn.

He thinks the most vulnerable in society will suffer because of, as he sees it, the government's political posturing.

"There's no government help out there that's actually lifting them out of poverty," says Dunn. "They're quite content to leave people living in poverty and I don't understand it."

The basic income pilot was budgeted at $50-million a year.

The program has been touted by some academics and studies as a more effective and efficient way of reducing poverty.

During the election campaign, the PCs had committed to seeing the basic income pilot through and stated the party was eager to see the results.

"I was optimistic at least that somebody was trying something new," says Dunn.

The basic income pilot gave up to $17,000 to singles and $24,000 to couples to over 4,000 people in Hamilton, Thunder Bay and Lindsay — no strings attached.

Dunn stresses the basic income program may not have been the answer, but is disappointed the study wasn't followed through and there was no consultation leading up to the decision.