As It Happens

Why 100 CEOs are asking Doug Ford to bring back basic income

If the economy fails to grow because people are stuck in precarious or low-income jobs, "we're all kind of in trouble," says Floyd Marinescu.

C4media's Floyd Marinescu pens open letter to province signed by Canadian business leaders

Floyd Marinescu, CEO of C4media, has penned an open letter to the Ontario government urging it to rescue the province's basic income project. (Submitted by Floyd Marinescu)

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If the economy fails to grow because people are stuck in precarious or low-income jobs, "we're all kind of in trouble," says Floyd Marinescu.

That's why Marinescu, the CEO of software and conference company C4media, penned an open letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford's government, urging it to save the province's basic income pilot project.

The letter was signed by 100 CEOs of Canadian companies. 

"These are people who themselves would be paying more in taxes if we had a basic income, and they supported it for the reasons we outline in our letter," Marinescu told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"Automation, globalization, the conversion to more of a gig economy, precarious work, the monopolization of certain industries, like the way Amazon is on retail — all these things are putting downward pressure on wages of everyday Canadians.

"We all want to grow the economy, and the economy consists of people."

Ontario Premier Doug Ford scrapped the basic income pilot project shortly after taking office. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

The basic income pilot project was launched under the previous Liberal government and was set to run for three years, providing payments to 4,000 low-income people in communities including Hamilton, Brantford, Thunder Bay and Lindsay.

Single participants receive up to $16,989 a year while couples receive up to $24,027, less 50 per cent of any earned income.

The Ford government announced in August it would axe the program, sparking outcry from participants, international researchers and municipal leaders.

Dave Cherkewski was part of the basic income pilot project. When it was cancelled, he told CBC News: 'I'm in shock. I had a three-year plan and now it's gone.' (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

People will receive their final payments on March 31, 2019.

That gives plenty of time for participants to prepare, a spokesperson for Ontario's social services ministry said in an emailed statement.

"Our focus now is to support a smooth transition," said Kristen Tedesco. "For example, if someone left Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program to join the pilot, they will be reinstated to that program, if eligible."

'We could learn from this data'

"When Doug Ford cancelled the experiment, I was very upset," Marinescu said. 

"We could learn from this data. We could finally put to rest some of the arguments either for or against basic income and see what's really going on."

The letter, which was co-authored by Pythian Inc. CEO Paul Vallée, echoes the call for data. 

"If the Ford government truly believes that basic income will discourage work, then you should allow the pilot program to continue so you can have data on your side," it reads.

"If however it encourages work, then this idea is one that all parties can build off."

'The ambition we could unlock'

While Marinescu wants to see what kind of information the project yields, he personally supports the idea of a universal basic income, which he believes would encourage innovation by liberating creative people from dead-end jobs.

"Imagine if you ... knew that you would never starve. You have this money coming in and there's no shame around the money. Everyone gets it," he said.

"There's no shame in using that money to stop, take a breather, think of your life and think of what you want to do next. Imagine the confidence, the self-reliance, the ambition we could unlock, the entrepreneurship we could unleash if everyone could take a longterm perspective on their lives."

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Canadian Press. Interview with  Floyd Marinescu produced by Richard Raycraft.