Thunder Bay·Audio

Basic income questions raised in Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay, Ont. residents had a chance to raise their questions about the province's basic income pilot project at a meeting in the city on Thursday night.

Public forum held Thursday to answer questions about new pilot project

A crowd of about 50 people attended a meeting at the West Thunder Community Centre in Thunder Bay, Ont, Thursday about the province's basic income pilot project. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

Thunder Bay, Ont. residents had a chance to raise their questions about the province's basic income pilot project at a meeting in the city on Thursday night. 

About 50 people attended the community information session, held at the West Thunder Community Centre. 

"We want to let people know what we're up to," said Karen Glass, the assistant deputy minister in charge of Ontario's poverty reduction strategy. "We want to let people know that the pilot has actually begun."

Now that the application process is underway, the government has been hearing more and more questions about things such as eligibility and how people will be chosen, she said. 

Reg Hogan attended the meeting hoping to get more clarification about his eligibility. He received an application in the mail, and would like to apply.

It would "probably change everything in your daily life, your food, your accommodations, probably your happiness," he said.

Reg Hogan holds the basic income application package he received in the mail. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

Robert Brtko said he is also hoping to apply, although he has yet to receive an application package in the mail. 

For about 30 years, Brtko said he's struggled to get by on the Ontario Disability Support Program.

"Every year it seems harder and harder to live on with rent, food prices, clothing necessities — you know, the bills." It leaves you with "next to nothing," he said. 

Brtko said he has questions about how the program will work for those who are chosen to take part, but also about how it will affect people who aren't chosen.

"Will there be a conflict there? Like jealousy," he said. "The people that will be getting [the payments], obviously they're going to be able to better themselves." 

Karen Glass, with the Ministry of Community and Social Services, says a common question about the basic income program is how it will affect people who currently receive other forms of social assistance. Recipients will be expected to exit other social assistance programs, she said, but clients would continue to receive prescription drug and dental benefits, if they are currently receiving them. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

About 1,000 people in Thunder Bay and some surrounding areas will be chosen to take part in the pilot project, which is also being launched in Hamilton, and will soon start in Lindsay, Ont. 

Some participants will receive monthly basic income payments over the course of the three-year study, while others will be part of a control group. 

The government will be looking at how the payments impact everything from food security to mental health, said Glass.  

Applicants are expected to be chosen, and the program fully underway in Thunder Bay, by the fall, she said. 

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