Demonstrators rally against basic income cancellation in Thunder Bay

About 30 people braved the cold weather on Tuesday afternoon to raise their voices at an anti-poverty rally outside city hall in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Program 'gave me the ability to hope and dream for a better future,' said one participant

Demonstrators set up tents outside Thunder Bay City Hall on Tuesday to symbolize their concern that changes to social assistance in the province will lead to more poverty and even more homelessness. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

About 30 people braved the cold weather on Tuesday afternoon to raise their voices at an anti-poverty rally outside city hall in Thunder Bay, Ont. 

Demonstrators held signs and set up tents at the event, which was organized by the grassroots group Disrupt and held to protest changes to provincial social assistance programs, including the cancelation of the basic income pilot. 

"We're having a public demonstration just to bring attention to the abject poverty that is currently occurring in our city and the fact that it's going to get worse with all of the changes that the Ontario government is making," said Angie Lynch, one of the organizers of the event. 

"And we have the tents here as a visual demonstration of what our city's going to be looking like if we don't start dealing with this poverty now."

Angie Lynch of Advocacy North said people in Thunder Bay are worried about a number of changes happening in Ontario that will affect vulnerable and low-income people. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

Lynch said people are worried about changes to labour law, as well as recent social assistance reform that included a change to the definition of disability

But front-and-centre at the event were concerns about the end of the basic income program, about which a number of people shared personal stories. 

"It gave me the ability to hope and dream for a better future," said basic income recipient John Cimprich, adding that the payments were making his life less stressful and allowing him to buy better food and pay his bills without worry. 

John Cimprich said he was glad to see the turnout at Tuesday's anti-poverty rally. "It just goes to show you that people do care about other people, and that low-income people do matter," he said. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

Although he works part-time, Cimprich said it hasn't been enough to make ends meet. 

"So when premier Doug Ford said that the best solution to the cancelation of this program is to go out and get a job, well I'm one of those people that has a job. And unfortunately, with the minimum wage being also capped at $14 an hour, it's not a living wage." 

He'd like to see the government reconsider its decision to end the program, he said, and instead see it through so that it can be assessed based on a full set of data. 

A number of basic income recipients shared their stories at a rally in Thunder Bay, Ont. on Tuesday. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

Lynch said she's hopeful that as people continue to speak up about their concerns, the government will take note. 

"If there's enough people standing together in solidarity ... they have to change, because they're supposed to be representing the people," she said.