Save the Basic Income Pilot Project


[republished from the KitCon Blog]

Back in 2015, 122 Ontario doctors pressed then Ontario Liberal Minister of Health Eric Hoskins to adopt Basic Income because income (or lack thereof) is a serious health issue.   The Wynne Government took its sweet time about it, and I have no doubt at all their Basic Income Pilot was intended to result in re-election.   Still, WRGreens own Stacey Danckert pointed out the last Liberal Budget provided no funding to do anything after the pilot would have ended.

During our recent provincial election campaign, the Liberal, NDP, Green, and Doug Ford’s PC Party all indicated they they would continue the Ontario Basic Income Pilot after the election.

Universal Basic Income

The idea of Universal Basic Income is actually an old one, dating back to the Fourteen Hundreds. Far from being a left wing, socialist or communist idea, the concept spans the political spectrum, no doubt in part because poverty does too. There are left (human dignity) and right (stop theft) arguments for such a system, particularly in capitalist nations like Canada that are already investing vast sums in a piecemeal social safety net that has not managed to make a dent in citizen poverty.   In Canada politicians of every political stripe have agreed we need to eliminate child poverty, and yet poverty is still with us.

Even American Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman advocated for a basic income alleviation of poverty.

"Suppose one accepts, as I do, this line of reasoning as justifying 
governmental action to alleviate poverty; to set, as it were, a floor under the 
standard of life of every person in the community."

—Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom

In his role of economic adviser to Republican President Richard Nixon, Friedman supported a negative income tax as a means of creating that floor and eliminating poverty. Had Nixon’s government not fallen in scandal, such a regime may have even been implemented in the US.

The international resurgence of interest in the idea of a Universal Basic Income gathering steam in the early 21st Century is growing fast for a host of reasons, including the collapse of manufacturing due to so called “free trade” agreements combined with the rapidly approaching decimation of the job market by ever increasing loss of human jobs through automation.

Read more about the Conservative Argument For UBI in “Four Reasons Why Conservatives And Libertarians Should Support Basic Income|Those who support limited government and free markets should support fighting poverty by giving more money to the poor” and “The Libertarian Case for a Basic Income.

All of this is why it was reasonable to take Premier Ford’s promise to continue the OLP’s Basic Income Pilot Project if his party came to power.  Whether for or against the idea, it only makes sense for any government to complete a project that has already cost the taxpayers of Ontario so much to get the data at the end of the rainbow. Any decision to take the matter further or toss it out could then be made based on facts rather than partisan rhetoric.

Sadly it seems Mr Ford prefers rhetoric. Rather than forging sound public policy in order to govern “for the people,” his new Government has opted to cancel Ontario’s Basic Income Pilot.

More than 20,000 people have signed this change.org petition asking the Ford Government to Save the Ontario Basic Income Pilot Project.  But the Ford Government isn’t listening to the people.

But all doesn’t need to be lost.

The Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction has appealed to the federal Liberal Government:

“We already have the infrastructure. They should adopt the program.”
Tom Cooper, Director, Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction

The mayors of the municipalities that have been piloting the Ontario Basic Income have likewise asked feds to take over Ontario’s basic income pilot

Federal NDP  Leader Jagmeet Singh calls on Liberals to save Ontario’s axed basic income pilot.

It isn’t exactly such a crazy idea.

The Liberal Party of Canada has a long history with Basic Income, and in fact it was Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s Government  that co-authored the 5 year Mincome Pilot in Dauphin Manitoba in the 1970’s. Unfortunately, as often happens with long term projects under short sighted FPTP voting, Mr Trudeau’s Government fell and the data from the just completed pilot project was shelved and buried, only emerging for consideration many decades later.

And lately, the Federal Liberals have been flirting with the idea of Basic Income as well.

We believe there is tremendous national value in finishing this project. Every province is grappling with how to provide a strong social safety net that allows people to lead dignified lives without creating excessive administration. We are in desperate need of preventative approaches that will reduce the burden of poverty on our health care, education, and criminal justice systems.

Elizabeth May and Mike Schreiner, Schreiner and May ask Trudeau to rescue Basic Income pilot

Instead of starting their own Basic Income project from scratch, the Justin Trudeau Liberal Government need only spend $50 million dollars to complete the Ontario Basic Income Pilot project.  That would be an incredible bargain basement price for data that would prove invaluable for making federal economic policy.

What can we do to help?

We can write our own letters to the Prime Minister and our own MP (and remember– physical letters travel postage free to the federal government.)  But we can also sign every petition… like the one just begun by our friends at The Council of Canadians:

Petition: Call on the federal government to take over Ontario’s basic income pilot project.

Every little bit helps.

 

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