Hamilton city council right to support basic income

Hamilton city council right to support basic income
Hamilton city council right to support basic income

By Spectator Editorial, The Hamilton Spectator.

See original post here.

Hamilton city council did a smart thing this week by unanimously supporting a motion from Coun. Ted McMeekin calling on this city and others of a like mind to support basic income.

Cities can’t make this happen alone. It requires the financial and political support of at least one senior government. McMeekin’s resolution stated: “That the City of Hamilton encourages other municipalities across the province and the country to join in advocating for a Guaranteed Livable Basic Income as a key policy tool in the fight against poverty and inequality and to this end, Hamilton City Council will advocate through its representatives at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the Canadian Federation of Municipalities for Guaranteed Livable Basic Income resolutions at meetings of those organizations.”

Why is this motion worthwhile? Because Hamilton and other cities like it stand to benefit enormously from basic income, be it a pilot project or something more permanent. With our demographic and socioeconomic challenges, basic income could literally change the trajectory of so many vulnerable citizens.

We know this, because it did, right here in Hamilton.

Basic income is not new. The concept has been bandied about for decades. It is not solely a child of the progressive centre and left, it actually has considerable support from conservative economists and politicians. There was a dramatic experiment in Manitoba in the ’70s, called “Mincome,” that yielded impressive results.

In Ontario, after sustained pressure, the Wynne government finally agreed to fund a basic income pilot project in several communities — Hamilton being one. The three-year pilot saw participants receive between $17,000 and $24,000 annually.

Along came the election that eventually turfed the Liberals. The Ford Conservatives said during the campaign that they would maintain the pilot project and were eager to see the results.

Turns out that was just campaign blather. As with many other promises (Greenbelt, anyone?) Doug Ford broke it shortly after becoming premier, killing the project two years before its end. Too expensive, and it wasn’t working, Ford said. This in spite of not having any research or data to show whether it was working or not.

The pilot was intended to show whether basic income could improve health, support mental well-being, facilitate education and stabilize housing. More than 1,000 Hamiltonians signed up in good faith and found their plans and hopes dashed by a government more interested in conservative ideology than facts.

Fortunately, a group of researchers at McMaster University didn’t give up. They surveyed pilot participants and found basic income allowed participants to upgrade job skills and education, improved their housing and food security, reduced their use of the health care system (notably ER visits) and improved their state of mental health. After only a year, basic income was working.

Hamilton’s motion alone won’t move senior governments, certainly not Ford’s. But if enough municipalities join together through representative groups like the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, they could get basic income back on the federal and provincial radar. It’s a worthy effort.

Record wildfires and the resulting smoke pollution were on every Canadian tongue this week. But not in our seats of government.

Oh, it came up at Queen’s Park. The Opposition NDP raised the crisis and asked the government to officially link the growing wildfire threat to climate change. Ford declined, accusing the NDP of politicizing the crisis and arguing that the fires were started by humans, not climate change.

And in Ottawa, Pierre Poilievre was filibustering the federal budget, which he had no chance of stopping or even slowing down. Wildfires and smoke weren’t even on his radar.

Climate change isn’t starting wildfires. It is making the season longer, making them bigger and more frequent. You would think even hard-core partisans like Ford and Poilievre could get their heads around that, but you’d be wrong.

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