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Napanee votes for basic income

September 28, 2023

By Michelle Dorey Forestell, Kingstonist

“Napanee supports fellow municipalities on basic income. The Council of the Town of Greater Napanee made some progressive political moves this week at its Tuesday, Sep. 26, 2023, meeting when Councillor Angela Hicks brought forward two pieces of correspondence from other Ontario municipalities asking for Napanee’s support on the provincial and federal stage.

First, Hicks brought forward a letter from the Council of the Corporation of the Town of Grimsby, which explained that at its meeting held on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023, councillors had passed a resolution petitioning the federal and provincial governments for a united effort in establishing a guaranteed livable income program. 

Grimsby Council’s letter outlined some grim statistics for their region, which led to the resolution. They noted that the Canadian livable wage for the Niagara Region two years ago was $19.80. In terms of annual income, this was $6,000 below that of a minimum wage employee. Meanwhile, residents on programs such as Ontario Works receive targeted fixed monthly incomes of $733, and Ontario Disability Support Services (ODSP) recipients receive $1,376.

At the current Ontario minimum wage rate, a person working 37.5 hours per week will earn approximately $2,500 monthly (before tax). The median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Grimsby as of August 2023 is $2,000 per month; rent is considered affordable when it does not exceed 30 per cent of income. In Niagara West, rent is approximately 272 per cent of Ontario Works, 145 per cent of ODSP, 75 per cent of minimum wage full-time, and 150 per cent of minimum wage part-time.

Grimsby’s letter to Ontario municipalities encourages them not only to collect data on housing and poverty in their communities, but also to examine their pending economic vulnerability as a result, and “join us in advocating on behalf of our communities with this data, and by writing a letter to the Prime Minister, Premier, and local politicians calling for a united effort in establishing a Guaranteed Livable Income program.” 

A ‘guaranteed livable basic income’ (GLBI) is a payment to eligible couples or individuals that ensures a minimum income level, regardless of employment status. It is different from social assistance, in that a basic income can be given to anyone who meets the income eligibility criterion who may be working but earning below the basic income level. It is also generally simpler to administer, according to an archived web page published under the previous provincial government.

Back in 2016, the province ventured to create a GLBI Pilot Project to “test a growing view at home and abroad that basic income could provide a new approach to reducing poverty in a sustainable way,” the archived material states. In June 2016, the Honourable Hugh Segal was asked for advice on how to design, deliver, and evaluate a basic income pilot.  …

According to the long-abandoned web page for the pilot, under the project, a single person could have received up to about $17,000 a year, minus half of any income they earned, while the maximum for a couple was about $24,000. People with disabilities could have received an extra $6,000. However, the Progressive Conservative government under Doug Ford, elected in 2018, scrapped the project.

Segal called this decision a “horrific” mistake and told CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning at the time, “I am embarrassed as a Progressive Conservative.” In 2019, Segal published the book Bootstraps Need Boots: One Tory’s Lonely Fight to End Poverty in Canada, which advocated for a guaranteed annual income for all Canadians. 

Councillor Hicks stated that, in going through her correspondence package, she found the Grimsby letter to be “quite enlightening.”

“I have always been in favour of a livable wage,” Hicks said. “I understand the minimum wage will raise on October 1 to $16.55 an hour [from the current $15.50 an hour], which would… bring in $2,500 a month a month before taxes… I think rent on an apartment in Napanee runs around $1,800 a month, and then you still have your heat, your hydro, a telephone of some sort, and food. So minimum wage is not a living wage.”

Hicks continued, “I would like to support Grimsby on this. I know that there’s opinions on both sides… but when you’re trying to feed a family and keep a roof over their head at minimum wage, it’s difficult to do. So that’s my two cents on that subject.”

After some consultation with Town Clerk Jessica Walters, a motion in favour of showing support for Grimsby’s proposal by sending letters of support to both the federal and provincial governments passed unanimously. … Read the full article here.

Here is a list of over forty cities and towns that have passed municipal resolutions calling for a federal basic income program, including Victoria, BC; Union of BC Municipalities; Moncton, and Fredericton, NB; St. John’s, NL; Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador; Charlottetown, PEI; Halifax, NS; Hamilton, Niagara Falls, and Guelph, ON.

Here is a key advocacy tool The Case for Basic Income for Municipalities created by the Ontario Basic Income Network.