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100 Canadian Business Leaders Urge the Government Not to Scrap Basic Income Project

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Basic income projects are gaining popularity across the world as a means to reduce poverty. Global Citizens can take action on the world’s biggest issues here to help end extreme poverty by 2030.

When Premier Doug Ford’s government announced in August that it would be cutting Ontario’s basic income pilot project, advocates, officials, and recipients pushed back. Now, Canadian business leaders are doing the same.

On Thursday, Floyd Marinescu, CEO of C4media, a software and conference company, sent Ford and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod an open letter, asking the government to continue with Ontario’s basic income project.

The letter was signed by 100 Canadian businesses, ranging from investment companies to breweries to technology companies and more.

Launched last summer, the basic income project was supposed to be a three-year pilot that would provide qualifying residents with monthly deposits.

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Residents from Hamilton, Brantford, Thunder Bay, and Lindsay communities who were 18 to 64 years old during the pilot and living on a low income (making under $34,000 per year if single or under $48,000 per year as a couple) could qualify for the benefit.

Individuals in the program would receive up to $16,989 a year, and couples would receive up to $24,027, minus half of any income they make, according to CBC.

Participants would receive the income from the government without the attachments of traditional government assistance programs, like Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program.

Months after the project was implemented, participants were reporting positive results in their health and housing in their everyday lives.

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But the program was cut when ministry officials indicated it was not helping recipients become "independent contributors to the economy," according to MacLeod.

Marinescu’s letter addresses this idea.

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

Ontario isn’t the first province to pilot such a program. A basic income project in Manitoba in the 1970s had good results — improvements in health, school enrollment, and work-life balance.

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There is actually a global trend of governments attempting to put a "universal basic income" or UBI into effect. Cities in Italy, the Netherlands, and Finland, for instance, have put UBI trials in place.

The simplest idea behind UBI is to use it as a means to help reduce poverty, something especially important as more jobs become eliminated due to automation.

"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," Marinescu told CBC.

As of right now, recipients of the program can expect their final payment on March 31, 2019.

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"Our focus now is to support a smooth transition," Kristen Tedesco, a spokesperson for Ontario’s social services minister, told CBC by email. "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."

Marinescu doesn’t just think the project could collect data and benefit the economy, he also believes that eliminating the need for money could unleash ambition and innovation, as people could focus on pursuing creative ideas they might not otherwise work toward.