One B.I.G. leap for humankind

Defund the Patriarchy

Five years ago, Jessica Topfer had goals and ambition but was struggling to find a path forward.

The 20-year old was working the full-time, overnight shift on the line at General Motors in Lindsay, ON, and frequently hearing rumours of impending layoffs. Determined to build a more fulfilling and stable work life, she enrolled as a full-time student at Trent University with the idea of spending her days studying and her nights still working to ensure she could cover tuition costs. By the end of her GM shift, she would often be so exhausted that she would need to pull into a parking lot to nap on the trip home, causing her to often be late or miss classes. Her mental and physical health were suffering. In 2016, just as she had feared, she was part of a lay off by GM.

In the following months, Jessica worked at various part-time or contract jobs, some that overlapped, to make enough to live on. It wasn’t always enough. She drained every penny of her savings and accumulated credit cared debt.

Still in school in her third year and working two part-time jobs that enabled to her barely get by, she took a bold step.  She applied to become a participant in an exciting initiative by the Ontario government aimed at testing the value and viability of a new approach to alleviating poverty and increasing income security.

BIG pilot project

In April 2017, the Province launched a basic income guarantee (BIG) pilot project, offering low-income residents in three communities (Hamilton, Thunder Bay and Lindsay) almost $17,000 annually to individuals or up to about $34,000 for a couple with two children along with additional payments for people with disabilities. These no-strings-attached payments would help the government determine whether a guaranteed annual income would lead to people becoming healthier, better housed, and better educated.

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