A Lakehead University Social Work professor and his research team are releasing the results of research into the impacts of the Ontario Basic Income Pilot (OBIP) and its cancellation.
Dr. Ravi Gokani, Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work, Janice Thibault, an MSW student while working on the project, and current MSW student Bre Sweers interviewed 20 former OBIP recipients from Thunder Bay, as well as 13 key informants – community members who have knowledge of the impacts of the OBIP and its cancellation.
Dr. Gokani initiated the study in response to community need and in collaboration with Angie Lynch from the Kinna-aweya Legal Clinic in Thunder Bay.
“We were responding to the community-based need to know what happened during the Ontario Basic Income Pilot and after its cancellation,” Dr. Gokani said.
“Understanding these two elements, including the transition off of the OBIP, was all the more important given that the research-based elements of the Ontario Basic Income Pilot were cancelled almost immediately, even though payments continued well after.”
Dr. Gokani’s study revealed several things about income security programs in Ontario, including that the OBIP had a positive impact for the short duration it was in place.
“We also found that the existing Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support programs – and the precarious nature of a segment of the 21st century labour market – are insufficient to meet the monetary and non-monetary needs of Thunder Bay's poorest people,” he said.
In March 2016, the Ontario Government committed to create a Basic Income Pilot Project to test a growing view at home and abroad that basic income could provide a new approach to reducing poverty in a sustainable way.
The Ontario Basic Income Pilot was announced in April 2017 and the first phase to enroll participants was successfully completed in April 2018, with full participation across three pilot sites.
The pilot sites included Hamilton, Brantford, Brant County; Thunder Bay, along with the Municipality of Oliver Paipoonge, the Township of Shuniah, the Municipality of Neebing, the Township of Conmee, the Township of O’Connor, the Township of Gillies; and Lindsay.
The government was interested in how a basic income might help people living on low income better meet their basic needs, while improving outcomes in food security, stress and anxiety, mental health, health and health-care usage, housing stability, education and training, employment and labour market participation.
The province enrolled over 4,000 people in the pilot program and more than 2,000 people participated in a comparison group that did not receive monthly Basic Income payments while actively participating in the study.
The Ontario Basic Income Pilot ensured that participants received up to $16,989 per year for a single person, or up to $24,027 per year for a couple.
People with a disability also received up to $500 per month on top of the amount described above.
People who worked had their basic income reduced by 50 cents for every dollar they earned until their income reached $34,000 if single, or about $48,000 for a couple.
The Ontario Basic Income Pilot ended in March 2019.
Dr. Gokani and his team interviewed former OBIP recipients between November 2019 and March 31, 2020.
“Among other things, our study revealed that receiving the OBIP funds improved the mental and physical health of recipients and that recipients felt humanised,” Dr. Gokani said. “The cancellation of this pilot reversed the positive impacts.”
Findings of the study will be available to the public in the form of a short brochure as of Wednesday, Feb. 10 at lakeheadu.ca/users/rgokani.
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Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university with approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and over 2,000 faculty and staff at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead has 10 faculties, including Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Law, Natural Resources Management, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Science & Environmental Studies, and Social Sciences & Humanities. Lakehead University’s achievements have been recognized nationally and internationally, including being ranked, once again, among Canada’s Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities in Maclean’s 2021 University Rankings; as well as included in the top half of Times Higher Education's 2020 World Universities Rankings for the second consecutive year, and 98th among 766 universities from around the world in THE's 2020 Impact Rankings (which assesses institutions against the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals). Visit www.lakeheadu.ca.