Effective March 2019 we are winding down the basic income pilot project. Learn more.


In March 2016, we committed, in the Ontario Budget, 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.

In June 2016, we asked the Honourable Hugh Segal for advice on how we could design, deliver and evaluate a basic income pilot. Segal submitted a discussion paper, which we used to consult with people in Ontario about the design of a Basic Income Pilot.

Those consultations took place from November 3, 2016 to January 31, 2017 and you can read the report back to learn more about what we heard during the consultation.

The Ontario Basic Income Pilot (OBIP) was announced by Premier Kathleen Wynne in Hamilton in April 2017 and the first phase to enroll participants, was successfully completed in April 2018, with full participation across the three pilot sites.

What is a basic income

A basic income is a payment to eligible couples or individuals that ensures a minimum income level, regardless of employment status.

Different than social assistance, a basic income can be:

  • given to anyone who meets the income eligibility criterion
  • given to someone who may be working but earning below the basic income level
  • generally simpler to administer

How the pilot works

Two groups of eligible applicants were asked to participate:

  1. The Basic Income Group are receiving monthly basic income payments for up to a three-year period.
  2. The Comparison Group do not receive monthly Basic Income payments, but will actively participate in the research study.

People in these two groups are regularly asked about their health, employment and housing through surveys. Third-party evaluators then compare people in these two groups to see whether a basic income helps people living on low incomes better meet their basic needs and improve their education, housing, employment and health.

Participants from Lindsay are not being assigned to a comparison group. In Lindsay, the Pilot will measure the community-level outcomes of a basic income, e.g. hospital usage.

Participation in the comparison group is essential to the success of the Ontario Basic Income Pilot. Participants in the comparison group are an important part of the study — it also provides the opportunity to be a part of a ground-breaking pilot. Participants are compensated for their time and effort.

Pilot locations

The Pilot is being run in:

  1. Hamilton, Brantford, Brant County
  2. Thunder Bay, along with the Municipality of Oliver Paipoonge, Township of Shuniah, Municipality of Neebing, Township of Conmee, Township of O’Connor, Township of Gillies
  3. Lindsay

The province has enrolled over 4,000 people in the pilot and in addition over 2,000 people will be participating in the comparison group. This group will not receive monthly Basic Income payments, but will actively participate in the research study.

We chose a mid-size community as well as urban, rural and urban/rural mixed areas so the pilot would be representative of Ontario’s population. We assessed regions based on their economic need and indicators, demographics, and availability of local resources and services.

What will be measured

The government will test how a basic income might help people living on low incomes better meet their basic needs, while improving outcomes in:

  • food security
  • stress and anxiety
  • mental health
  • health and healthcare usage
  • housing stability
  • education and training
  • employment and labour market participation

Pilot evaluation

The pilot will be evaluated by a third-party research group, made up of a team of leading researchers, experts and academics led by St. Michael’s Hospital and McMaster University.

We’re also creating:

  • the Minister’s Advisory Council, led by Susan McIsaac, former President and CEO of United Way, Toronto and York Region, to give advice and recommendations about the pilot study to the Minister of Community and Social Services and the Minister Responsible for the Poverty Reduction Strategy
  • a Research and Evaluation Advisory Committee, led by Dr. Kwame McKenzie, Special Advisor to the Ontario Basic Income Pilot and CEO of the Wellesley Institute, to monitor the pilot and ensure it’s conducted with integrity, rigour and meets ethical standards.

How participants were chosen

Participants are:

  • 18 to 64 years old for the duration of the pilot.
  • living in one of the selected test regions for the past at least 12 months or longer (and still live there):
    • Hamilton, Brantford, Brant County
    • Thunder Bay, along with the Municipality of Oliver Paipoonge, Township of Shuniah, Municipality of Neebing, Township of Conmee, Township of O’Connor, Township of Gillies
    • Lindsay
  • living on a low income (under $34,000 per year if you're single or under $48,000 per year if a couple)

Payment amount

The payment will ensure a minimum level of income is provided to participants. Aligning with the advice of Hugh Segal, payments based on 75% of the Low Income Measure (LIM), plus other broadly available tax credits and benefits, would provide an income that will meet household costs and average health-related spending.

Following a tax credit model, the Ontario Basic Income Pilot will ensure that participants receive up to:

  • $16,989 per year for a single person, less 50% of any earned income
  • $24,027 per year for a couple, less 50% of any earned income

People with a disability will also receive up to $500 per month on top.

Working and going to school during the pilot

Participants can go to school to further their education or begin/continue to work while receiving the basic income. The basic income amount will decrease by $0.50 for every dollar an individual earns through work.

Impact on seniors

Seniors are not included in the pilot because most seniors (65+) receive more money through the current seniors’ benefits including:

  • Old Age Security
  • Guaranteed Income Supplement
  • Ontario Guaranteed Annual Income System

Impact on other benefits

Child benefits

Participants currently receiving child benefits, such as the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) and the Ontario Child Benefit (OCB), will continue to be eligible to receive them during the pilot.

CPP and EI benefits

Participants receiving Employment Insurance (EI) or Canada Pension Plan (CPP) payments will have their monthly basic income payment reduced dollar for dollar.

Drug and dental benefits

People receiving support through social assistance needed to withdraw from Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) to participate in the pilot and receive Basic Income. People who leave Ontario Works to participate in the pilot  continue to receive the Ontario Drug Benefit. People who leave ODSP to participate in the pilot continue to receive the Ontario Drug Benefit and dental benefits.