Important new survey: The Ontario Basic Income Pilot chronicles

By Lindsay Advocate

After basic income, ‘rapid reinstatement’ back to previous program: Province

When the new Ontario government announced it was cancelling the basic income pilot, it threw many recipients into turmoil. It also dimmed hopes for research potential that had captured the interest of people across Canada and around the world.

Participants in the pilot and supporters of basic income are not going quietly away, however.

“Some recipients took the very courageous step of identifying themselves publicly in order for us all to better understand how much basic income was improving lives,” notes John Mills, a member of the Basic Income Canada Network (BICN) and the Ontario Basic Income Network (OBIN), who organized media training for some of these individuals in Hamilton.

Other recipients, just like the many Canadians who receive seniors’ or children’s benefits, exercised their right to protect their own and their family’s privacy.

But over 1,500 of the 4,000 pilot recipients also agreed to help BICN and OBIN continue working for a basic income. BICN is conducting a survey of those people. Over 400 responses have already come back, more than 10 per cent of those receiving basic income in Ontario.

In a special series we’re calling the OBIP Chronicles, we are starting to share some of this exclusive, powerful information with you, in a way that protects identities and allows more voices of experience to be heard. The first chronicle (link) looks at answers to the survey question on social inclusion.

“I think everyone seeing the charts of survey results and reading the chronicle stories will recognize some aspect of themselves, or their families and friends,” says Sheila Regehr, chair of BICN. “I hope readers will realize that basic income is not about someone else, it creates opportunities for all of us, as individuals and as a society.”

The Lindsay Advocate, working in cooperation with BICN, is pleased to be the media partner highlighting these stories. We hope that other media will also pick up this information to help advance understanding of the potential of a basic income for everyone in Canada.

The Ontario Basic Income Pilot was initiated by the Province in 2017 in three areas – Hamilton region, Thunder Bay area, and Lindsay. Four thousand people were involved, with 2,000 of them in Lindsay to see if there would be a community-wide effect, given the smaller population (20,000 people) of the Kawartha Lakes centre. It was set to run for three years. When the PC government was elected in the summer of 2018, it cancelled the program despite a campaign promise to allow it to continue, announcing that payments will only run until March of 2019.

A form of basic income was established in 1967 with income guarantees for seniors. Shortly afterwards, in 1971, the idea of a wider basic or guaranteed annual income was the key recommendation in a Senate report on poverty (the “Croll report”). Also in the 1970s, both Canada and the United States ran extensive pilot programs, including a unique site in Dauphin, Manitoba. In the 1990s a modest form of basic income for families with children was introduced and has grown in amount since. A Senate Committee in 2009, noting growing inequality and persistent poverty in Canada, said it was time to put a guaranteed income back on the public agenda.

1 Comment

  1. What’s better than an unconditional basic income of $X/week? A punitive “vacancy tax” on vacant land and unoccupied buildings, which property owners are so keen to avoid that it *reduces rents* by $X/week. Why is this better? Because:
    (1) Nobody asks where the money is going to come from. (Even the tax, in order to do its job, doesn’t need to raise any revenue.)
    (2) By definition, the benefit of lower rents isn’t competed away in higher rents — as all increases in welfare spending tend to be. (You don’t see this problem with “pilot” basic incomes paid to a small sample of people. But you *will* see it if the basic income becomes universal.)
    (3) Avoidance of the tax generates job-creating activity. Moreover, if jobs are to be created, the employers must be able to afford business accommodation, and the employees must be able to afford housing within reach of their jobs on wages that the employers can pay. Lower rents therefore create jobs — addressing a key issue driving calls for a basic income.
    (4) If the reduction in rents doesn’t serve *all* the purposes of a basic income, it reduces the size and cost of the basic income needed to serve the remaining purposes.
    (5) The economic activity driven by a vacancy tax broadens the bases of other taxes, allowing their rates to be reduced — offsetting the tax impact of a basic income, if you still insist on introducing one!

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