As the job market continues to contort and contract through the shifting of jobs, wages, and stability -- there is a growing voice, a growing question -- how do we make sure people across this province have the means to eat, to live, to thrive? How can we ensure that Ontarians are able to meet their most basic needs?
The idea is gaining steam around the world, particularly in Europe.
What we have done for far too long is simply not working. Even with all the social supports in place, the resulting income is often only enough to maintain a family in poverty. At their worst, existing policies and programs actually entrap people in poverty. This is why we need a new way. A basic income would work as a tax credit administered through the taxation system similar to the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors. If someone earns less or has less than the poverty line, they would simply be topped up to a point above the poverty line.
Food bank use currently hovering at record levels. Food Banks Canada's HungerCount report shows that the food bank network acts as an unofficial Canadian safety net, trying to fill the gaps left by low-wage jobs and radically inadequate provincial social assistance programs.
Country hopes to reduce unemployment by making low-paid jobs more attractive.
"This is a program that ensures that everyone can live with dignity."
The Stop has been running a food bank for over 30 years. With help from students at the University of Toronto's School of Public Policy, we recently asked community members about our emergency response. We provide healthy food, but our monthly hampers last three days. We wanted to know what happens the other 27 days. Food insecurity is not an "emergency," but the predictable result of poverty, a slow-burning fire, affecting one in eight Canadian households. More than 30 years on, we refer to food banks as emergency response. Is that what we mean? Is it time to call out this dangerous misnomer and the inadequate national response it has fostered?
What makes people sick? Infectious agents like bacteria and viruses and personal factors like smoking, eating poorly and living a sedentary lifestyle. But none of these compares to the way that poverty makes us sick. Prescribing medications and lifestyle changes for our patients who suffer from income deficiency isn't enough; we need to start prescribing healthy incomes. The upstream factors that affect health -- such as income, education, employment, housing, and food security -- have a far greater impact on whether we will be ill or well. Of these, income has the most powerful influence, as it shapes access to the other health determinants.
The Dutch city of Utrecht is giving welfare recipients a no-strings-attached "basic income" as part of an economic experiment
"Time to end poverty in Canada" has been the message from the Salvation Army coming across our TV screens this holiday season. A great idea from an organization that fights poverty every day in our country -- but is it realistic? Yes, it is. Poverty doesn't just cost the poor their dignity and a reasonable standard of living, it costs us all.
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