Ontario’s association of health units green lights basic income as policy

Medical officers of health and boards of health members from across Ontario are now officially calling for provincial and federal governments to bring in a basic income guarantee – more momentum on an issue that is attracting national attention.

The Association of Local Public Health Agencies (alPHa) is a not-for-profit organization that provides leadership to the boards of health and public health units in Ontario. They voted on Monday to endorse a proposal that stemmed from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s support of basic income.

In their resolution, alPHa points out that “1,745,900 Ontarians, or 13.9 percent of the population, live in low income according to the 2011 National Household Survey after-tax low-income measure.”

They define a basic income guarantee as a “cash transfer from government to citizens not tied to labour market participation,” enough to ensure “everyone an income sufficient to meet basic needs and live with dignity, regardless of work status…”

The resolution also points out that basic income “resembles income guarantees currently provided in Canada for seniors and children, which have contributed to health improvements in those age groups.”

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Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s Associate Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Lisa Simon, is involved with a health equity working group, where there are joint members between alPHa and the Ontario Public Health Association. After this group facilitated a panel discussion recently on basic income at an Ontario-wide public health conference, she then brought it to her own board of health. They endorsed the concept in Simcoe Muskoka and supported her submission of the Ontario-wide resolution and backgrounder.

Simon says her health unit committed in 2012 to focusing on the social determinants of health as the best strategy for public health advocacy. Within the social determinants list, ‘income and income distribution’ is the first determinant considered to ensure good health.

In an earlier interview with Leaders and Legacies, Simon says she is hopeful for more movement from the adoption of this proposal by alPHa.

“We provide expertise in the area of prevention and in the health of the population so when we make a policy recommendation that we feel is aligned” with these goals, “we hope it will be considered strongly,” says Simon.

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