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Cornwall City Council endorses basic income proposal

By Roderick Benns

Often called the poorest city in Ontario, the City of Cornwall in eastern Ontario has passed a motion endorsing basic income guarantee policy.

Less than a month ago, the City of Kingston became the first municipality in Canada to call for the development of a basic income guarantee for all Canadians. Its council unanimously passed a motion calling for a national discussion on the issue, hoping this will lead the provinces and federal government to work together to “consider, investigate, and develop a Basic Income Guarantee for all Canadians.”

The Kingston resolution was forwarded to all municipalities in Ontario with the request that they consider indicating their own support for the initiative. Cornwall, a city of 46,000, agreed and it was “unanimously passed” according to Cornwall’s City Clerk, Helen Finn.

“Council passed it in support of eradicating poverty,” Finn tells Leaders and Legacies.

“Cornwall has a substantial problem with poverty,” she adds.

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.

Finn says that even those who have jobs are not free from poverty. “A large part of the population here are working poor,” she says, working for minimum wage and in precarious work that doesn’t offer full time hours.

In the motion that passed, Council pointed out a number of converging factors and reasons to support basic income, including income insecurity, precarious employment, inequality, and adverse public health outcomes for people living in poverty. All of which, in turn, can lead to low levels of education, chronic stress, and criminal activity, which is more costly than poverty in the long run.

The case for a basic income guarantee is Canada is growing. Other indicators across Canada that signals growing support for the policy includes:

  • The election of an NDP government in Alberta, which was once a Conservative bastion
  • Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, an economist by training, signalled strong support for a basic income guarantee in a 2008 Institute for Research on Public Policy brief, as first published in the Post.
  • The election of an Ontario Liberal government that is keen on bold poverty reduction measures
  • The support of an increasing number of health-related organizations, such as the Ontario Public Health Association and the Canadian Medical Association.
  • The poverty reduction report solicited by the Saskatchewan government and its recommendation to support a basic income policy
  • The election of a Liberal government in Prince Edward Island earlier this year that indicated its support for basic income during the campaign


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