Death of Basic Income a Sign of Things to Come

WE SHOULD have seen it coming when one of the first acts of the new Ford government was to fire the provincial science officer.

This rejection of science, the systematic study of the physical and natural world, puts an exclamation mark on this government’s clear intention to reject any fact-based decision-making.

Instead what we will be experiencing is government by ideology. It’s the same unsupported core beliefs that keep justifying massive tax relief to the wealthiest in society while punishing those less able to fend for themselves.

Clearly Doug Ford’s definition of the little guy doesn’t mean people who are actually struggling.

The recent announcement of the cancellation of the basic income program is in so many ways a metaphor for how this government will think and act over the next four years.

Just slightly more than a year into the three-year pilot program the government has decided without any actual evidence that it is a failure.

In announcing the end of the program, Minister of Social Services Lisa MacLeod said the government took the action after hearing from ministry staff that the program didn't help people become "independent contributors to the economy.” This notwithstanding the obvious and measurable facts show that 70 per cent of participants have a job of some kind and many have gone back to school to upgrade skills.

The reason you do a pilot project is to test the viability of a concept. In this case the Conservatives are clearly afraid of what it might reveal.

The real truth is that the Ford Conservatives have never supported the idea and couldn’t wait to get rid of it. There has been no analysis, there is no report, no real justification for killing it and no plan to replace it with something better in 100 days or 100 years.

The heavy-handed broken promise is not a trifling matter for those who are part of the program.

People made decisions based on the commitment made by government. They signed leases for apartments and homes, they committed to phone plans, they paid tuitions, they registered kids for sports and programs and enrolled some in daycare.

It’s clear from all early indications that the Ford Conservatives view any form of social assistance, no matter how it’s provided, as getting something for nothing. And it galls them.

It’s also why many of the early actions of the new Ontario government go after those most in need of help.

It’s why further increases to minimum wage have been cancelled, the youth prescription drug program rolled back and privatized and increases in funding for disabled and social assistance have been cut.

It’s no coincidence the government has warned civil servants against leaking any information about the governments plans and activities.

It’s why they’ve launched Ontario News Now which some dub as Ford TV. It is using taxpayer dollars to create fake news while attempting to avoid being answerable to an independent media.

It is why they bring paid staff to press conferences where they literally applaud a government announcement. They want to control all information to the public.

A government for the “little guy” should be accessible and responsive to the little guy. It is becoming clearer every day that Doug Ford’s definition of the little guy excludes the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.

What kind of government set “buck a beer” as a priority over housing, food and jobs?

Dan Oldfield is a former CBC reporter and lead negotiator for the Canadian Media Guild and currently a partner in Syzygy Learning and Facilitation. He divides his time between Oshawa and Thunder Bay.

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