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  • Think Upstream

If you fall, who will catch you?

Trish Hennessy

Emotions ran high in Hamilton last week as the community celebrated participants who took a leap of faith to join Ontario’s first-ever basic income pilot project—only to have the new provincial government pull the plug on the project this April.

It was an honour to be in the room with them.

Some participants had left social assistance programs to join in the pilot. Others had no safety net whatsoever when they joined. All of them had hopes and dreams dashed by the cancellation of the pilot mid-way through.

There was deep disappointment.

Howard Elliott, chair of the Hamilton Poverty Reduction Roundtable, called the cancellation “ideological and illogical.”

There were tears.

Kathleen Wynne, the former Ontario premier who implemented the pilot project, took to the stage to be accountable to the basic income participants, to express her dismay, and to give the participants a chance to talk with her in person.

“I’ll be honest, I’m fighting back tears,” said Wynne.“You had the faith to sign up, to take the step. I believe the basic income is an idea whose time had come and will come again.” You can watch the video of her talk here.

In the audience, there was gratitude.

One basic income participant thanked Wynne, saying he had struggled with anxiety, going from job to job, and because of the stability of the basic income, he took the leap to go to university.

Another basic income participant thanked Wynne, saying the basic income left her feeling more confident and more open.

A lawyer from Cavalluzzo LLP, which is representing the basic income pilot participants in a class-action lawsuit against the government for breaching its contract, told the audience:

“Class actions are what’s left when governments let us down. … What we’re saying in the class action is that the government ... breached its contract with basic income recipients. In fact, it breached a charter right to security of the person.” You can learn more about the lawsuit here.

Keep scrolling, because I’ve gathered some related reading on the basic income, social supports, and more.

If you fall, who will catch you?

Feed Your Head


“One time I lost an apartment because my roommate got a horrible flu that we suspected was maybe something worse because it stayed forever—she missed work, and I couldn’t cover her rent. Once it was because my car broke down and I missed work. Once it was because I got a week’s unpaid leave when the company wanted to cut payroll for the rest of the month. Once my fridge broke and I couldn’t get the landlord to fix it, so I just left. Same goes for the time that the gas bill wasn’t paid in a utilities-included apartment for a week, resulting in frigid showers and no stove. That’s why we move so much. Stuff like that happens.” — Linda Turado. Read her compelling essay on the reality of living hand to mouth.

“[T]here is another big storm coming. The storm I am referring to is the next recession, which will come in the next two years, the next five years or the next 10 years. But it will come and we are not ready. We are not recession-ready because EI is not recession-ready. Today, a majority are not insured against the possibility of being jobless in a time of mass joblessness.” — Colette Murphy, Atkinson Foundation executive director, on why Canada needs a better Employment Insurance system.

Hot Off the Press

Ron Labonté and Arne Ruckert’s new book, Health Equity in a Globalizing Era: Past Challenges, Future Prospects, examines the effect of neoliberalism on health equity and emphasizes access to key social determinants of health. Get it here.


Dennis Raphael’s talk on economic and social security, and how Canada stacks up. Watch the video here.


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