Kathleen Wynne speaks on cancelled basic income pilot in Hamilton

Participants in the now-cancelled basic income pilot project shared their stories and heard from former premier Kathleen Wynne on Monday at a public event in Hamilton.

“It’s really the first time, certainly since the election, we’ve had the chance to hear from [Wynne] about her thoughts on the impact of the pilot,” said Tom Cooper, director of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction.

CBC Hamilton live streamed the event on Facebook starting at 9:30 a.m.

Ontario’s basic income pilot project officially ended this week, after the Ford government broke a campaign promise and cancelled it in July.

The former Liberal government announced the pilot in April 2017 to provide guaranteed monthly funds to people with low incomes. 

About 4,000 people were involved, in communities including Hamilton, Thunder Bay, Lindsay, Brantford and Brant County. 

The intention was to have a three-year study, however, the Ford government’s decision to scrap the project early left participants feeling shocked, betrayed and robbed of dignity.

At Monday’s event, Cooper said they want to show appreciation for those who participated in the pilot.

People will discuss the project’s vision and impact, he said, and look to the future.

Former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne spoke in Hamilton on Monday, after the basic income pilot project her government announced officially ended this month. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

“Even though things didn’t turn out the way people expected… we really think the pilot itself and the people who were participating in it made a huge difference,” he said. “We’ve seen some really inspiring and important stories emerge.”

Cooper said it’s important to hear from Wynne about her vision for the pilot and “where she saw things going.”

“This was a really important research project. It took political gut to bring it to fruition,” he said.

Basic income advocates from other countries will also speak via video, he added.

Cooper expects around 70 participants from the basic income pilot to attend. The event takes place at the central branch of the Hamilton Public Library from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

About 1,000 Hamiltonians were receiving guaranteed income through the study.

Under the program, recipients received up to $16,989 per year for a single person, less 50 per cent of any earned income, and $24,027 for a couple. People with disabilities received an additional $6,000. 

One of the families who participated in the program shared their story with Jessie Golem, a photographer who shot a portrait series called Humans of Basic Income. (Humans of Basic Income/Jessie Golem)