Basic Income is up for debate

Ontario’s proposed basic minimum income does not come without a difference of opinion.

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The conversation around money is not an easy discussion to have.

The Carleton University chapter of the Ontario Economic Development Society (OEDS) held a panel discussion Thursday evening to discuss the implications of introducing a Basic Income Pilot Project in the province of Ontario.

The notion of such a plan was introduced by former senator Hugh Segal and proposes a basic income of $1 320 per month.

In their policy report, OEDS recommended the Ontario government adopt a pilot that caters to Canadian citizens living in poverty, in the Toronto area who can prove they have applied for other social service programs.

Additionally, OEDS recommended a benefit in which those earning less than $30 000 per year receive a 50 per cent tax break.

Mancini Ho, a member of OEDS said the success of the pilot should be measured by housing stability and the impact it has on health and education.

Kevin Kozo agrees. He said a basic income has the ability to change a mindset.

After packing up and leaving his home of Toronto in 2014 Kozo ended up on the streets of Vancouver for nearly two months. Kozo said he could have been stuck in the cycle of homelessness, but was helped by social programs.

“If your prosperity goes up, your general well-being goes up,” Kozo said.

Now a first year law student at Carleton, Kozo said going from a basic income of $8 000 per year to the proposed near $16 000 changes everything.

“I have what I need so I can pursue what I want,” Kozo said of the benefits of a higher income.

Marc Gallant works with each of his clients at The Ottawa Mission so they, like Kozo can get off the streets.

He said money cannot buy happiness, but without a change in finances of the poor in our community he said the cycle will never end.

“The main thing that keeps people in poverty is finances,” Gallant said.

That’s because his clients are always faced with a choice. The money they get from the government doesn’t add up to meet their needs he said.

“It’s always about choosing one or the other,” Gallant said.

This pilot is not going to solve the problem, professor and economist Stanley Winer said.

“I think poor people will be worse off under such a scheme,” Winer said.

He points to similar federal government pilots that have been introduced and not went ahead because of the basic issue of cost.

“The taxpayers of Ontario and the taxpayers of Canada will not be prepared to provide a satisfactory basic income,” Winer said.

He said the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB) with no basic income guarantee, that only subsidizes those who work and encourages others to do the same is an alternative that should be considered.

Those in attendance agreed change is necessary. How that change takes place is still up for discussion.

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