Waterloo councilor wants city to support call for national basic income program

Program doesn't just support individuals but has 'ripple effects for communities,' Coun. Jen Vasic says

Waterloo councillor wants city to support call for national basic income program
Waterloo councillor wants city to support call for national basic income program

By Kate Bueckert

See original post here.

Waterloo Coun. Jen Vasic says there’s growing income inequality in the city that’s impacting the community as a whole and a guaranteed livable basic income program would help address the issue.

It’s why Vasic is bringing forward a notice of motion to Monday’s city council meeting on the issue. The motion, which will be discussed by councillors on Sept. 18, would be a show of support from the city for a national guaranteed livable basic income program and it would request the federal and provincial governments to work to establish that program.

“It benefits not only the individuals who receive a guaranteed livable basic income but the rest of us,” Vasic told CBC News, adding helping people by giving them enough money to live would have “ripple effects for communities.”

“These folks will have more time to spend in the community and supporting community members, more time to spend with their family and greater flexibility to pursue employment because many folks are working two to three jobs just to get by.”

Vasic says she’s heard from people in Ward 5 about how they want to help.

A House of Friendship shelter is located in the ward and she says while she hears concerns about shelters, “there’s also overwhelming support for helping people who are struggling the most in our community.”

Basic income pilots

Basic income is when the government provides individuals living in poverty with money to help them afford necessities, such as food and housing.

Manitoba ran a pilot project called Mincome from 1974 to 1978 in the rural community of Dauphin. A 2010 report into the project found the minimum income pilot led to better health outcomes for people in the community.

The Ontario government announced a basic income pilot in April 2017 by former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne and people were enrolled in the program by April 2018.

The pilot, however, was scrapped by the new Progressive Conservative government after they were elected in June 2018, with 4,000 people in Hamilton, Brantford, Thunder Bay and Lindsay receiving their final payments on March 31, 2019.

report from researchers at McMaster University and Toronto Metropolitan University in 2020 showed people who took part in the shortened basic income pilot project were happier, healthier and continued to work, with some moving on to jobs with better pay and working conditions.

‘Basic income is doable’

The concept has been discussed by local politicians before, including in 2016 when regional councillors called for a national discussion on creating a program.

The issue returned to regional councillors last month.

On Aug. 30, Region of Waterloo councillors passed a motion advocating for more supports to help people with lower incomes, including calling on a national guaranteed livable basic income program.

During that meeting, Waterloo resident Carol Stalker, who is with the group Basic Income Waterloo Region, addressed regional councillors and said a shortened basic income pilot in Ontario improved the lives of people who took part.

“We know a basic income is doable. It can be delivered efficiently to those who need it,” Stalker said.

She noted during the pandemic, the federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was a flawed process, but “we saw how money can be delivered quickly to those most in need.”

Regional Coun. Pam Wolf, who represents Cambridge, brought forward the motion to support a basic income program.

“We must stop thinking people choose to be poor and stop making rules about receiving help punitive and judgmental. A guaranteed basic living income could do this,” Wolf said.

Hamilton and Halifax have passed similar motions.

Kitchener and Cambridge are also expected to consider the issue supporting a national basic income program at future meetings.

Motion puts pressure on higher levels

Vasic says putting forward an advocacy motion like this can raise questions about how much good it will actually do.

“When you put forward an advocacy motion, it’s there is a bit of apprehension because you don’t actually have the power to change what you’re asking to be changed,” she said.

But, she added, it’s important for the city to make it known where they stand on the issue.

“The importance of these motions and about people in leadership roles in our community saying that this matters does … contribute to the momentum,” she said.

“The more awareness that you build, the more pressure there will be on higher levels of government to act.”

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