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President of AMO, Tecumseh mayor, says time to be bold and support basic income

By Roderick Benns

The mayor of Tecumseh, Ontario, who also serves as president of the Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO), says it’s time to be bold and fight poverty with a basic income guarantee, not continue to “tinker at the edges.”

Mayor Gary McNamara, who recently led Tecumseh Town Council to support a basic income guarantee motion, says he is glad to see so much support for the policy happening across all three levels of government. This includes recent comments from Jean-Yves Duclos, the Minister for families, children and social development, who is looking at a basic income guarantee from a federal perspective, and Francois Blais in Quebec who has been asked to investigate the policy for Quebec Premier Phillipe Couillard.

The basic income motion supported by Tecumseh has its origins in Kingston, Ontario. Its council unanimously passed a motion calling for a national discussion on the issue, hoping this would 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, which Tecumseh has done.

“It’s getting some great traction,” McNamara tells Leaders and Legacies.

He says it has also been discussed at the AMO level, where communities range in size from 173 to just under one million.

“We all want to figure out how we get ourselves in a position where every Canadian has a basic living amount…and if this is to be successful, we need all three levels of government to make it happen,” says the mayor.

McNamara says the policy people at AMO are busy researching the issue, “to approach it in a sensible and sustainable way.”

The mayor says Kingston has created a “foundational piece” at the municipal level and that it’s “growing.”

“The good news is, it appears to have gotten to the (federal) minister’s desk.

McNamara says he has spent his last two terms as mayor wondering thinking more about how to help “the working poor” and those who are fully dependent on social services.

The mayor says he has spent 25 years in municipal politics and has been blessed with a good life. But even looking at the costs he has faced over the years, including his own kids’ post-secondary education costs, he wonders how families with only one or two minimum wage jobs can get by.

“I’m saying to myself, how the heck did these people survive? How do we get over the hump to create more opportunities for people?”

McNamara says he’s “just a small town mayor.”

“But I know when you want real change you have to be bold. I don’t think we can just tinker at the edges of social policy anymore.”

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