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Provincial Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod said yesterday that Ontario would be ending the "quite expensive" experiment.

The Ottawa Food Bank says it's disappointed in the decision by Ontario's PC government to cancel a basic income pilot project, and to pull back on planned increases to social assistance rates.

The province's newly installed Conservative government announced this week that it will be cutting the trial short, breaking an election promise to keep it around.

"When you're encouraging people to accept money without strings attached, it really doesn't send the message that I think our ministry and our government wants to send", said Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod, who said the decision to scrap the program came after consultations with ministry staff.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner, meanwhile, said the basic income program had previously been touted by conservative economists, who saw it as a small-government solution to help people out of poverty.

That system will be developed over the next 100 days and implementation will occur sometime after that, she said. Ms. MacLeod said the Ford government's new assistance program would be focused on jobs.

About 247,000 people are on Ontario Works (which is aimed at people who could be employed but aren't) and about 372,000 are on the Ontario Disability Support Program (for people who have disabilities that prevent them from working). "That's peanuts compared to what poverty costs the health system", she said.

In their pre-election budget, the Liberals set the increase for social assistance at three per cent. MacLeod suggested the basic income pilot was a disincentive to people to find work. The point of the pilot project has been to see how costs and outcomes compare to the existing system in larger and smaller Ontario communities. "It will support people with disabilities to work when they are able", she said, adding that the planned changes would "get them on their feet and restore dignity in their lives". Single persons under the plan could have received up to $17,000 per year, minus half of any income he/she earned.

Mike Schreiner, Guelph MPP and Green Party leader, considers the increase to be a cut to the social assistance rate.

Ms. Power was troubled because Mr. Ford promised during the campaign not to cancel the pilot project.

The research team also compared seniors' guaranteed income with conditional income assistance programs.

The Ontario pilot had already diverged to some extent from other models of basic income programs.

Winding down: The government has not yet indicated how or exactly when the test will be halted, but, in a statement that doesn't inspire much confidence, it said it intends to do so "ethically".


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