By Roderick Benns
Waterloo Region in Ontario has become the largest municipality in Canada’s largest province to support the movement toward establishing a Basic Income Guarantee in Canada.
The motion – which originated with Kingston City Council and was sent to all municipalities across Ontario – called for a national discussion on the issue, urging the provinces and federal government to work together to “consider, investigate, and develop a Basic Income Guarantee for all Canadians.”
Momentum continues to build for this new shift in social policy, which would ultimately usher in the end of the welfare system and the beginning of a guaranteed income from the government that would keep people above the poverty line.
The policy would ensure everyone an income that is sufficient to meet their basic needs, regardless of work status through direct cash transfers using the income tax system. Essentially, a basic income would ensure that no Canadian would ever drop below the poverty line.
John Green, founder of Basic Income Waterloo Region, said it is “significant to have large, prosperous municipalities like Waterloo Region acknowledge that despite their successes, they still have too many people living in poverty.”
Green says poverty has a negative effect on everyone’s prosperity, since inequality is understood to be bad for economies overall.
“Passing this resolution shows that Waterloo Region recognizes the potential of Basic Income to increase the prosperity of the region by ensuring that everyone is able to participate, contribute and enjoy high quality of life and well-being,” says Green.
The Waterloo resolution report noted 12.7 percent of people in the region subsist on low incomes. The region was listed as the sixth most food insecure health unit out of 36 in the province in a 2015 report created by Cancer Care Ontario.
In addition to the municipal level support, nine provincial and territorial capital leaders support basic income or at least pilot projects, with innumerable smaller city and town mayors across the nation declaring their support as well.
Ontario announced a Basic Income pilot project would begin in 2016. The Province recently appointed long-time Basic Income advocate and retired Tory Senator Hugh Segal to provide advice on the design and implementation.
Green points out that Waterloo Region is known for being progressive and innovative and hopes this will help its chances of being considered as a possible test site when the Province announces the new pilot’s location.