Member of Provincial Parliament Laurie Scott says she is certain that as incomes increase under a basic income, or through finding a better job, this will lead to improved health for Lindsay-area residents.
The Progressive Conservative MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock says she is “glad Lindsay was chosen” and that she welcomes the basic income pilot.
A basic income ensures everyone an income sufficient to meet basic needs and live with dignity, regardless of work status. The three-year study that Lindsay was chosen for will test how a basic income might expand opportunities and job prospects for those living on low incomes, while providing greater security for them and their families. About 10 per cent of Lindsay residents will receive a basic income guarantee.
Scott, who was a registered nurse before she began her political career, says the link between poverty and income is clear. In fact, income has been identified by Health Canada as the single most important determinant of health.
“If you can lift people up, be it through a job, or in this case basic income, I’m sure their health will improve,” she tells The Lindsay Advocate.
“The group who brought this forward made a good case for Lindsay,” she says, referring to former Kawartha Lakes Food Coalition Chair, Mike Perry, and his team.
One thing Scott is interested in observing as the three-year pilot unfolds is how much people will still rely on their social workers, if they are already on Ontario Works or ODSP. She says her understanding is that if basic income were brought in as a full policy, it would eliminate the welfare system. She’s not sure how clients of this system would fair, however, without their case workers.
“They might still be better off having some independence and confidence, but maybe they just need that little bit of assistance” that a social worker could provide, she says.
Scott notes that when some people turn 65 who have been on Ontario Works and ODSP for a long time, they sometimes have difficulty adjusting. That’s because all along they have had a social worker, she says, and then suddenly they are cut off from that service once they start receiving their pension.
“Many feel lost. Some people have mental health issues and need more social support,” she says.
One study, though, shows self-reported rates of physical and mental health improved considerably after the age of 65, once people become eligible for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.
From a local business standpoint, the MPP thinks the basic income pilot will certainly help the local economy.
“Money in people’s pockets is money they’ll spend, my father used to say,” she says, referring to the late former federal Member of Parliament, Bill Scott.
“This is certainly the right sized community for it to develop the local economy.”
However, Scott thinks goods and services are going to increase, too, mitigating some higher incomes, because of some Ontario Liberal policies.
“The cost of living has gone up in my riding. The cost of hydro here is at a tipping point in terms of poverty. Food banks use is up. Grocery prices are up.”
She says policies like the higher hydro prices and the upcoming cap and trade plan will, cumulatively, “drive more people into poverty.”
Millennials and Second Careers
One of the related aspects of the pilot will be researching whether or not more people find work — or better work — than they have now, if they are given an income floor that supports them through basic income.
The MPP isn’t sure why so many employers are having a hard time filling jobs right now, though, considering there are so many available, especially for young people. She says from employers like Kawartha Dairy to agri-businesses, to truck driving, there are many opportunities.
“This is where I don’t understand the disconnect” between an apparent skills shortage in the area versus some entry level jobs that sit unfulfilled, Scott says.
She says this is the second year in a row she has been hearing from employers that they “can’t get anyone to work.”
“There has to be a gap here with our young people. Is it millennials not wanting to work certain jobs?” she asks.
For other job seekers, she knows the skills issue is absolutely true, especially with people looking for second careers.
“We can do better here.”
The MPP says there are great “second career” jobs for people who may be a bit older.
“Maybe someone with factory skills or a handyman doesn’t want to go back to school,” Scott says, “but perhaps they would consider a career in trucking” where there is great demand.
She noticed recently that one major company that offers the needed courses in re-training for a trucking career only offers courses during the day. This might not work for many people, especially if they have to work at another job right now to make ends meet while trying to figure out a second career.
The MPP says she will be calling that company soon to ask if they can make some classes available in evenings for people who want to make the transition to a career in trucking, which tends to pay very well.
“This might get them (the company) more people to train,” she says.