Court turns down request to overturn Ontario basic income cancellation

An Ontario court has dismissed an attempt by basic income recipients to get a judicial review of the program's cancellation — and it used a Red Hill Valley Parkway ruling to do it.
About 4,000 people were getting basic income in Ontario as part of a three-year pilot program. An Ontario court has quashed an attempt at a judicial review into the program's cancellation. (Humans of Basic Income/Jessie Golem)

An Ontario court has dismissed an attempt by basic income recipients to get a judicial review of the program's cancellation.

A three-judge panel ruled Thursday that the court can't review a provincial policy decision. So it can't review the Ontario government's decision to cancel the project.

"The responsibility for the management of the public funds rests with the government and not the court, as does the correctness of the government's decisions and policies," the decision says.

The Doug Ford PC government cancelled the program in July, about a month after it took office. It was one year into the three-year pilot project. McMaster University was studying the data to determine the program's effectiveness.

The previous Liberal government launched basic income in 2017 with 4,000 residents. One thousand were in Hamilton. The rest were from Lindsay and Thunder Bay.

(Ontario Basic Income Pilot Baseline Survey: Preliminary Analysis/Laura Cattari)

Under the program, recipients received a maximum of $16,989 per year regardless of their employment status. Many recipients were people with low-paying jobs.

Those in favour of the program say basic income helps people's health, self esteem and employment prospects, and is more cost efficient than traditional social assistance. The province says the program is too expensive.

Recipients have also filed a class action lawsuit for breach of contract.

The decision Thursday cited Hamilton's controversial Red Hill Valley Parkway-related case as a precedent for why the court couldn't intervene.

Justices Thorburn, Reid and Myers cited a 1991 ruling between Region of Hamilton-Wentworth versus the Minister of Transportation. The region went to court get provincial funding to build the highway reinstated after the Ontario NDP government cancelled the money.

Four Lindsay basic income recipients filed the superior court application through lawyer Mike Perry. It was heard Jan. 28 in Toronto.


Samantha Craggs is journalist based in Windsor, Ont. She is executive producer of CBC Windsor and previously worked as a reporter and producer in Hamilton, specializing in politics and city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca