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Health unit urges citizens to press their MP, MPP to support basic income

in Around Town/Health/Poverty Reduction by

In the fight against food insecurity the local health unit says boosting income is the only real solution to helping people gain access to healthy food.

To raise awareness of food insecurity, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is launching a new campaign called Rethink Poverty: Change Minds, Change Lives – and they’re urging citizens to press their MP and MPP for a basic income policy.

Health unit urges citizens to press their MP, MPP to support basic income
Aisha Malik, Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit.

The Progressive Conservative MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, Laurie Scott, previously told The Lindsay Advocate she is “glad Lindsay was chosen” and that she welcomes the basic income pilot.

MP Jamie Schmale told The Advocate that he is on board with the policy idea, provided Ontario Works is eliminated, as well as so-called boutique tax credits.

This campaign launch by the health unit comes on the eve of the Ontario Basic Income Network holding a public event about basic income in Lindsay, including a panel discussion.

More than one in 10 local households are in a situation where people are not getting enough food, or there is anxiety there will not be enough to eat because of lack of income.

The Rethink Poverty site includes resources and videos about food insecurity, and most importantly a template letter that residents are encouraged to email to their MPPs and MPs. The letter asks area politicians to continue supporting and pushing for income-based solutions like a higher minimum wage, better employment standards and a Basic Income Guarantee.

A higher minimum wage has already been announced by the Province, rising to $15 an hour in just over a year, and the Province did also tighten up some employment standards in favour of employees.

As for a basic income, Ontario is embarking on a three-year pilot in Lindsay, Thunder Bay, and Hamilton area. Many advocates say everyone should have access to a basic income, though, without needing further evidence from a pilot study.

“The basic income guarantee is timely and worth supporting,” says Aisha Malik, a registered dietitian with the local health unit, “as it would ensure everyone — regardless of work status — is guaranteed a minimum level of basic income, greatly helping to address food insecurity here and across Ontario.”

Malik says the health unit is aware that many low-income earners in the City of Kawartha Lakes are food insecure, especially those working in low-paying, unstable jobs.

“Working full-time hours at minimum wage no longer guarantees someone can afford basic needs, including food and rent,” she says.

While ‘food charity’ (such as food bank use) may address food insecurity in the short-term, it is not a long-term solution. Poverty is the root cause, and the only way to fix the problem is to provide people with more income, Malik adds.

The health unit’s message for people to ‘rethink poverty’ is bolstered by findings from its annual Nutritious Food Basket survey for 2017. The basket tracks the affordability of healthy foods for individuals and families in the area.

According to the Health Unit’s calculations, on average it costs approximately $882 per month for a family of four (two adults, one teenager and one child) to eat healthy in the City of Kawartha Lakes, Haliburton County and Northumberland County in 2017.

Health unit urges citizens to press their MP, MPP to support basic incomeWhile the Health Unit’s costing for 2017 is very similar to the 2016 finding, increases in other monthly expenses mean people’s incomes are not keeping pace.

“We continue to see situations where rising costs for rent, utilities, hydro, clothing and some food make it difficult for people who rely on social assistance, disability benefits and minimum-wage jobs to pay all their bills,” Malik says.

“This is leading some low-income earners in our community to put off buying healthy food so they can pay for other basic needs of life.”

She says lack of healthy food leads to poorer health and higher medical costs, which makes a stronger argument in favour of income-based solutions like a higher minimum wage, better employment standards and a basic income.

“Food insecurity affects all of us, and income-based solutions are an investment that pays off in improved well-being for residents and lower health care costs,” Malik says.

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Roderick Benns is the publisher of The Lindsay Advocate. He is the author of 'Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World,' and is also on the communications team of the Basic Income Canada Network. An award-winning author and journalist who grew up in Lindsay, Roderick has interviewed former Prime Ministers of Canada, Senators, and Mayors across Canada. He also wrote and published a series of books for youth about Canada's Prime Ministers as teens.


  1. I’m a big supporter of the basic income program. Although I have been disappointed with several of the decisions made by our current COKL Council, by far the the biggest disappointment was that they chose to not support this program …they didn’t even want to talk about it. Their rejection on this topic from a Council that tells us how important it is to be open-minded to change and we should be receptive to looking at new and better ways to do business. Shame on them.

  2. I attended the panel discussion on 3 November at Mackies and while I share the enthusiasm for a national guaranteed income policy, I also have some reservations.

    My first reservation is the way I heard citizens who support freedom as an overriding social value referred to as “they” (the other) in a clearly disapproving way. I heard one of the presenters say the initiative is multi-or non-partisan but I don’t know how that will work if thinkers on the political right are considered the enemy. My personal bias is that guaranteed income is a humanitarian concept and should engage and include the like-minded from all political stripes.

    I want guaranteed income to serve human dignity. I want it to be primarily an income augmentation program. I strongly oppose it being tied to housing, financial planning, mental health, and ideological compulsions of any kind. If income security is tied to these sorts of social compulsions, it will do nothing to relieve poverty oppression. It will instead promote the misbelief that mental illness, drug addiction, criminality etc. cause poverty instead of vice versa.

    I do not think guaranteed income can successfully be sold to Canadians if it is tied to social control initiatives. I think when we give money to the poor, it’s theirs, full stop.

    The biggest reservation I have is how guaranteed income will impact income maintenance, housing, shelter, food security and other staff of social programs guaranteed income will duplicate in some measure. Canadians will not buy a big new expenditure which is what it will be if we maintain the current provincial programs.

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