By Jenn Watt
April 4 2017
This month the provincial government is set to introduce a plan for an expansive pilot project to test the efficacy of guaranteed basic income. The details aren’t out yet only that several towns would be chosen taking in southern and northern Ontario and that an urban site would also be included.
Although the idea of basic income guarantee or BIG has been around for a while it’s made a resurgence in recent years with our local health unit advocating for its implementation.
The idea is that the government would guarantee a certain level of income for everyone. It wouldn’t be so high as to make unemployment attractive but it would ensure that those who are unemployed received enough money to eat clothe themselves pay for shelter and heat their homes without having to navigate the charity system of vouchers and food banks and applications for billing relief.
It’s worth noting that a single person on Ontario Works receives $700 a month which would hardly pay for rent in the Highlands let alone food and a handful of bills.
BIG is an interesting idea that has not been costed or tested in the province but could offer a possibility in how to address poverty. This week we report on the climbing costs of nutritious food which puts additional pressure on those with low incomes or on social assistance.
The health unit and other anti-poverty advocates have recommended that as a society we move away from the charity model to address hunger and other poverty issues and start focusing on improving incomes.
At this point it’s not clear enough what kind of program Ontario would adopt or what levels of income supplementation the province can afford but there is a strong argument to be made that improving incomes is the answer.
No one can live a healthy life on $700 a month in this province. And those on disability or working minimum wage are in a similar situation. If prices climb faster than incomes we either resign ourselves to a growing poor population or find innovative means to prevent homelessness and hunger.
We start April without longtime reporter Angelica Ingram who is now on maternity leave awaiting the newest addition to the Ingram family. She’s been gone for two weeks and we’re already missing her cheery personality and touching feature stories. However we are also thrilled to be able to welcome a few new faces.
This week Sue Tiffin takes over the reporter role (see page 5). Many of you already know Sue who has deep roots in the Highlands and is an experienced reporter in her own right. You can get in touch with her at the office or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also welcome back Sharon Lynch who will resume her column Down Our Road once a month. Sharon wrote for the Echo for many years and we’re looking forward to having her short stories back in these pages.
Our sister publication County Life will also have a new writer starting next week. George Farrell will be covering arts entertainment and culture for that publication which you can find in your mailbox or pick up around the county on Thursdays. He joins contributors Steve Galea Jerelyn Craden Janet Trull and Belinda Gallagher along with our reporters in covering the county each week.