Along with many Ontarians, I was disappointed to hear that the Government of Ontario made the unfortunate announcement that it will be terminating the Basic Income Pilot, as well as reducing the planned increase to Ontario's social assistance programs from 3 percent to 1.5 percent, meaning it will no longer coincide with inflation.
On August 1, the Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) released the following:
“Yesterday afternoon, the Government of Ontario announced its plans to terminate the Basic Income Pilot, as well as reduce the planned increase to Ontario’s social assistance programs by 50 percent. The Ontario Association of Food Banks is disappointed and alarmed by these unexpected changes and is concerned about the impact that it will have on low-income Ontarians.
Food banks across the province have long advocated for increases to Ontario’s social assistance programs and the continuation of the Basic Income Pilot as an evidence-based solution to poverty in our province. The enactment of these cuts would be a step backwards in our collective effort to create a healthier and hunger-free Ontario.”
As the Coordinator of the Golden Town Outreach, I concur with the OAFB. I work with people living in poverty, and have a glimpse into the world they face. Each individual is unique, and unique in the challenges they face and why they are faced with poverty. I believe that everyone deserves the right to live a dignified life, and that communities have the ability to ensure this. Part of living a dignified life is ensuring that everyone has enough to meet their basic needs. In today's world, this means that people need to have enough monetary income. There are many factors that impact mental and physical health, and these are called the social determinants of health. Having enough income is a social determinant of health, and is linked with other social determinants, such as housing, food, transportation, and access to education and health-care services.
Although there was no final report on the 'Mincome' experiment in Manitoba during the 1970s, University of Manitoba economist Evelyn Forget conducted an experimental analysis that compared health outcomes of Dauphin residents with other Manitoba residents. From 1974 through 1978, about 30 per cent of the population of Dauphin was provided with a 'Mincome', which the guaranteed level of income came to be called. Evelyn Forget found that hospital visits dropped 8.5 percent, with fewer incidents of work-related injuries, and fewer emergency room visits from accidents and injuries, that hospitalizations for mental health issues were down significantly, and that teenagers stayed in school longer as a result of the initiative. Evelyn said that her research suggests that people appear to live healthier when they don't have to worry about poverty - makes sense, right?
How can someone succeed, and pursue their goals and dreams, if they are constantly worried about bills, food, and the costs of living? Having enough consistent income to meet your basic needs means that one is living a life with a greater sense of abundance, and has more control over their life with a more predictable platform on which to make life choices. It can help to pull one out of poverty, and give one more time to better their lives and contribute positively with their gifts to the economic landscape.
Premier Doug Ford's decision to scrap Ontario's Basic Income Pilot project was made before any results could be gleaned from the program, making it impossible to determine whether it was a success. Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod said the government decided to end the program after being informed by ministry officials that it was failing to help people become "independent contributors to the economy." I think that it is short-sighted to think that the Basic Income Pilot should be cancelled, after not yet a year of running, because it is thought that it was failing to help people become "independent contributors to the economy". The Basic Income Pilot has the potential to do so much more than that, such as decreasing mental health issues, as was found in Dauphin. Over the course of the past year, approximately 22% of the clients of the Golden Town Outreach Food Bank who are over the age of 18, who chose to report their employment status, were either employed part- or full-time. If the number of individuals who were unable to work due to disabilities were not included, the percentage of those working part- or full-time would be much higher. What I have found is that most clients of the Food Bank want to share their gifts and be "independent contributors to the economy" - everyone has a purpose, and a gift to share. Some people can use help and guidance, and the Golden Town Outreach helps to lift people up towards meeting their goals, including finding employment, and to contribute their gifts and talents to the world.
I call on the Ontario Government to provide support for their decision to scrap Ontario's Basic Income Pilot, and to reconsider their decision to scrap the Basic Income Pilot altogether and to reduce the planned increase to Ontario's social assistance programs from 3 percent to 1.5 percent.
Jaden Calvert, Meaford