The leader of Trillium Lakelands District School Board has positioned himself squarely in favour of Lindsay’s basic income pilot, saying there are “so many possibilities” for it to do community good.
Director of Education Larry Hope says his “personal belief is that we have to look at the big picture for our citizens and for society,” he says, referencing the basic income pilot that begins this fall in Lindsay.
“If we can step back and take a look at this, we cannot deny that this will be good for our community,” Hope tells The Lindsay Advocate.
Hope’s school board will be a pivotal part of the equation when it comes to measuring changes in the outcomes of the basic income pilot. The expectation is that once people who are currently struggling with lower incomes have an income floor that allows them more financial stability – in this case, about $17,000 a year – they will choose to make helpful changes in their lives.
This could mean returning to school to finish a high school diploma, gaining post-secondary experience, or upgrading their skills. Lindsay’s Ross Memorial Hospital, the town’s community social service agencies, Sir Sandford Fleming College, and other community groups will all be involved in measuring outcomes.
Hope says providing a basic income foundation for people who need it will build up people’s confidence to become “contributing and participating members of society.”
“Imagine how this will eliminate insecurity with a steady income, how our children will be fed and housed appropriately…this has to have a positive impact,” says Hope.
The Trillium Lakelands education leader was passionate as he spoke about all the intangible ways that basic income could help students.
“The way in which our students engage with their peers, the security of being included, how they will be given a hand up to become good citizens when they need it — my goodness, there are so many possibilities.”
Hope says he firmly believes that assisting people through basic income will mean that citizens will “rise up and contribute to society.”
“I look at this through lens of our schools and through the security of our children for the things they may often lack, like food security or housing. Basic income has got to be a good thing for our schools and our community,” he says.
When asked if he believes basic income will make people ‘lazy,’ as is often the charge from opponents of the policy, Hope shrugs this off.
“If we have a basic belief that people are lazy, then that’s what we’ll see. Sometimes there are folks who need a push in the right direction, or a hand up, and the pilot can put that to rest,” he says.
As to the cost of the basic income policy, Hope would rather focus on the impact that would occur from continuing along the same path.
“What are the costs to society if we don’t try to help people get on their own two feet? I think that cost is much more,” he says.
The director says he doesn’t think basic income will be something that people will be attached to forever. He views it simply as a hand up to new opportunities.
“Then ultimately, hopefully, they will stand on their own two feet.”
Hope isn’t under any illusions that there won’t be exceptions.
“A few people will take advantage of this. But most people will do well if they possibly can. That’ what we believe about students, too – that they will thrive and be good citizens,” he says.
Convinced that the pilot will get great data, the director says this is a unique opportunity to do something positive for Lindsay.
Out of the 4,000 participants, who will be invited to participate in the Ontario basic income pilot, 1,000 will be from the Hamilton/Brantford area and another 1,000 will be from Thunder Bay. However, 2,000 participants will be invited from Lindsay this fall, making it a vital part of the pilot to test behaviours, work patterns, health and mental health outcomes, housing stability, educational attainment, and how the community as a whole may benefit.
The Lindsay Advocate has learned that the first cheques will most likely begin rolling out in November.