Hamilton councillors in a unanimous vote Aug. 17 condemned the cancellation of the Basic Income project by the Ontario government. The project began in April 2017 by the former Liberal government. – Kevin Werner/Metroland/file
Hamilton joined a chorus of other voices in slamming the Ontario Progressive Conservative government for eliminating the Basic Income Pilot project.
In a motion unanimously approved by councillors Aug. 17, council “denounced” the cancellation of the three-year pilot project that began in April 2017.
Mountain Coun. Terry Whitehead said the project “created hope, created opportunity,” and the Progressive Conservatives during the provincial election campaign “made a commitment” to keep the project operating.
“But the rug was pulled from underneath them,” said Whitehead. “We want to see this program completed.”
Premier Doug Ford’s government cancelled the program earlier this month before the $150-million pilot could complete its three-year time frame. Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod said it was failing to help people “become independent contributors to the economy.”
The program provided payments to 4,000 low-income people in Hamilton, Brantford, Thunder Bay and Lindsay.
Even though Ancaster Coun. Lloyd Ferguson supported the motion, he questioned the effectiveness of passing it, especially when Hamilton has a tenuous relationship with the province. He said Ontario has every right to make the decision.
But Ward 4 Coun. Sam Merulla, who introduced the motion, said by not doing anything Hamilton would be “turning a blind eye to something that is wrong in so many ways.”
Flamborough Coun. Judi Partridge remained defiant the city needed to protect the 1,000 Hamilton residents who were enrolled in the program.
“At no time should our city roll over and just accept when people are treated so harshly,” she said.
Partridge said during the election campaign Doug Ford promised to keep the program.
“Promise made, promise broken,” she said.
Hamilton councillors listened a few days earlier when 12 people, most of them enrolled in the project, praised how the program had transformed their lives.
Alana Baltzer said for the first time in years she had a refrigerator full of food, was able to buy a winter coat and attend a movie. She had enrolled at Mohawk College, but with the program ending, she may not be able to go to school.
“It provided me with hope,” she said.
Tom Cooper, executive director of Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, said over 25,700 people have signed a petition demanding the government reinstate the program.