Class action lawsuit filed over cancelled basic income project

The statement of claim filed today argues the early termination of basic income payments amounted to a breach of contract.

Four recipients of the basic income payments are the initial plaintiffs in the action

A number of basic income recipients shared their stories at a rally in Thunder Bay, Ont. in a November protest of the project's cancellation. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

Four people who had been receiving a basic guaranteed income under a pilot project have launched a proposed class action against the Progressive Conservative government for canceling it.

The former Liberal government announced the project in April 2017 to provide a guaranteed annual income to participants in three Ontario cities -- Hamilton, Thunder Bay and Lindsay -- with the intent of making it a three-year study.

The Tories announced in July that they were canceling the project.

The lawyer for the proposed lead plaintiffs alleges in a statement of claim filed today that the early termination of basic income payments amounts to a breach of contract.

Lawyer Stephen Moreau writes that the pilot participants relied on the ministry to administer the payments, and the government owed them a duty of care.

Moreau says after the cancellation of the project, people suffered from panic attacks, anxiety and depression.

It will be the second effort to have the courts overturn the decision.

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

Harley Worden, 22, first heard that she would be part of the province's basic income pilot project in October, doubling her income, allowing her to get her own apartment in April. The province has scrapped the project, and Worden now says she stuck in a lease she won't be able to afford anymore without the project. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

A three-judge panel ruled 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," that decision said.

The program's official end is the last day of March.