Ontario PC voter worried about family's future without basic income pilot
Andrew Shaver says 'it's dirty pool to just yank the carpet right out from under people'
Ontario's new Progressive Conservative government announced on Tuesday it is winding down a basic income pilot project, breaking an election promise not to scrap the program that was brought in by the Liberals.
Single people in the pilot were getting up to $17,000 a year. For couples it was $24,000 — with few strings attached.
The idea was to study how the money affected people living on very low incomes, or provincial support programs. It was set to last three years. But just 15 months in, it's over.
Andrew Shaver lives in Thunder Bay and he was part of the initiative.
Shaver spoke to As It Happens guest host Piya Chattopadhyay about how he and his family will manage without the financial support from the provincial government.
Here is part of their conversation.
Mr. Shaver what was your reaction when you heard that Ontario's basic income pilot program is being cancelled?
I was shocked and angered — and kind of bewildered, as well. Because when a government program says that this is guaranteed for three years, and people start building their lives around that and counting on it, you don't expect that that's something that can or should be able to be revoked.
So, in your circumstance, how much extra money were you getting each month through this program?
Just under a $1000 a month.
And how did that help you?
Prior to the program, I was just about breaking even — like paying all my bills and having nothing left over at the end of every month. So, on one level, it eased the stress of finances quite a bit.
But it also allowed me to save. It allowed me to pay down some of my mortgage and it allowed me to help better support my wife, who is disabled and in the hospital in Hamilton right now.
So now that the program will be cancelled what will it mean for you and your family?
It means we're back to being very tight financially. It means I might have to seek a new job. I'm very happy in the job I'm in but I work for a non-profit and it doesn't pay well.
I was also looking at potentially doing a one-year MBA at Lakehead University and I definitely won't be able to do that now. So just the options that that money created in life are just all gone.
I'm really stressed out. I'm trying not to be but it's been a huge joy the last number of months, since I think I got on this in October, that finances weren't a worry, which made me actually better at my job.
It made me, I think, probably better as a father and a husband because it was just one thing I wasn't stressing about. So, now we're right back in that soup.
As you know, there are people who think a program like this one is just a free money giveaway. It's not fair to those who are actually going out and looking for work, or working hard in low-income jobs. What do you say to that?
I would be one of the people that originally thought that this was ill-conceived. I'm fiscally very conservative. But we were a family in need and this was a genuine help for us. I know that there are certain ways that a program like this could be abused.
I can't speak for anyone else, but for me, it was a huge help. But I do understand where people are coming from who think that it's ill-conceived. Even if it is such, I think it is even more ill-conceived to just cancel it in the middle.
In announcing this yesterday, Minister Lisa MaCleod said the basic income project was expensive and "clearly not the answer for Ontario families." What do you say to that?
In the grand scheme of things, this pilot project is probably not that expensive — making it a province-wide project, would be. That's maybe where they're coming from. But cancelling the pilot project seems almost spiteful.
And if you had the ear of Premier Doug Ford, as a PC supporter yourself, what would you like to say to him?
I'd like to say that, to me, when I got into this project it was as if the government was making a promise to me. I know it was a different government but when people are building their lives around a promise made by the government then the government should be forced to keep that.
And it's dirty pool to just yank the carpet right out from under people.
And during the campaign the Progressive Conservatives...
Yeah, they said they weren't going to cancel it.
And here we are.
Yeah. So, not terribly happy with them right now.
Written by Nathan Swinn and John McGill. Produced by Nathan Swinn. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.