Case Summary: Bowman v Ontario

  • October 14, 2022
  • Geetha Philipupillai

The Court of Appeal’s decision in Bowman v Ontario, 2022 ONCA 477, authored by Justice David Brown, provides guidance to lower courts and practitioners on conducting a correct analysis under the cause of action (s. 5(1)(a)) criterion of the Class Proceedings Act.

The Court of Appeal overturned, in part, Justice Stephen T. Bale’s decision refusing certification. The Court held that the class members’ breach of contract claim met the s. 5(1)(a) cause of action test and remitted the matter for the completion of the remaining aspects of the certification test.


In April 2017, Ontario initiated a basic income pilot program in three regions: Hamilton/Brantford, Lindsay and Thunder Bay. The premise of the pilot program was to provide payments to participants which were higher than what they would have received under other social welfare benefit programs, thereby raising participants’ income.

When the program was initiated, it was described by then Premier Kathleen Wynne as a three-year project. However, in late July 2018, after the provincial Progressive Conservative government was elected, Ontario terminated the basic income pilot program early and all payments ceased in March 2019.

The basic income pilot program was not a creature of statute or regulation. Rather, the program was implemented through the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services. In carrying out the program, the Ministry developed an information booklet for use by Ministry representatives who were meeting with prospective participants. The Ministry also used application forms in signing up participants for the pilot program. Over 4,000 class members enrolled to receive payments. In exchange for the payments, participants in the pilot were required to complete surveys at a lower rate of pay than members of the control group who did not receive the payments, disclose tax and other financial information, and generally accept the loss of privacy associated with participating in a major scientific experiment.