Basic income class action lawsuit gets certified by court

The class action lawsuit launched by four Lindsay residents who were enrolled in the Ontario Basic Income Pilot has now been certified by the court.

The Lindsay Advocate has obtained an email written to members of the class action lawsuit against the province, from the Toronto law firm arguing the case, Cavalluzzo LLP. The firm calls it “very positive news.”

There are three major stages in a class action, the firm reminds the parties involved. “The first stage is certification. This means the Court ‘certifies’ that the proposed legal questions are the types of questions that can be answered for all class members at the same time. The Court has now certified the Basic Income class action with respect to our contracts and unjust enrichment claims.”

“This is excellent news,” write Stephen Moreau and Kaley Duff, the two key lawyers involved in the case.

The lawsuit was initiated by local residents Dana Bowman, Grace Marie Doyle Hillion, Susan Lindsay, and Tracey Mechefske.

Subject to any appeals and some administration surrounding the first stage, the firm says they are now onto the second stage of the class action, which is the “common issue trial.”

“This is where we ask the Court to decide the legal issues that were certified. In this case, that means the court will determine (amongst other things) whether or not there was a binding contract between the government and all class members, such that the government owes damages for breaching the contract. If we are successful at the second stage, the class action will proceed to the third and final stage, which is when an adjudicator will determine how much money each individual class member is entitled to,” the lawyers write.

Mike Perry, a local lawyer and social worker, initially took on the task of launching the class action lawsuit before the Toronto firm offered to take it over.

“This is certainly a step toward justice for our local friends, family, and neighbours who received the basic income,” Perry told the Advocate. “This said, the class action lawsuit should never have had to be brought. When contracts are cancelled in business, they’re paid out. It’s about ethics. The government should settle this case now to make people here whole.”

The pilot was initiated by the province in 2017 under the Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne. It was set up in three areas – Hamilton region, Thunder Bay area, and Lindsay. Almost 4,000 people were involved, with 1,840 participants from Lindsay. It was set to run for three years. Payments ended prematurely in March of 2019, leaving hundreds of people scrambling.