Myth busting two big lies as we fight to keep basic income alive

By Joli Scheidler-Benns

Joli Scheidler-Benns is a PhD candidate in Health Policy and Equity at York University. She is a sessional professor for UOIT's Faculty of Education. She serves in a Research, Strategy, and Community Development role for The Lindsay Advocate while also serving as a Writer-at-Large.

Just 87 people in Canada have more wealth than 12 million Canadians.

As advocates, we are fighting hard to keep the basic income program alive here in Lindsay. We are heartened by the strong support coming in, and yet we are also dismayed by comments that constantly circle around two big lies.

One is the idea that we can’t afford the pilot program.

The other is that the poor are ultimately lazy.

The truth is that not only can we afford the pilot, but we can afford a more universal plan for all Canadians as the pilot has already revealed many success stories in its infancy. Here in Ontario our GDP has only grown and this is an extremely wealthy province. It’s not really about affording something — rather it’s about the budget.

When the richest people can avoid paying taxes and the middle class carries the load for social programs, our redistribution policies are less effective. The budget is limited because we are refusing to tax the richest – which includes corporations — and ask them to pay their fair share. The richest people in Canada also have nothing to do with taxing the residents of Kawartha Lakes.

Columnist Joli Scheidler-Benns.

In a report released two days ago from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the answer becomes much more clear .

Just 87 people in Canada have more wealth than 12 million Canadians.  That means that 32.5 per cent of Canadians combined own less than 87 people. This is astonishing – and unacceptable.

These 87 people have 4,488 times more wealth than the average family. Middle-class families are losing rapid ground while, with no inheritance tax in Canada, it ensures that the richest families pass on their dynasty to their children and the cycle of richness continues.

To hell with the cycle of poverty, why shouldn’t we care about the cycle of privilege even more?

Because of this richness, this level of wealth provides easy access to legal counsel and accountants that encourage and assist them in finding as many loopholes as possible to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. If you want to take action to stop this privileged cycle you can sign the petition here.

These richest people tend to gain wealth through investments, bonds and stocks, not through actual labour, like most of us do.  Their wealth assures their stature in society, not the success of society itself.

We can afford a program for everyone, not just a pilot, if the right social structures are in place. Instead of focusing on this truth, many instead are side-tracked with the idea that the poor are lazy, don’t want to work, and are getting a hand-out through the program.

Luckily 72 per cent of Canadians now feel that people are poor based on life circumstances rather than bad life choices or character flaws according to polling just released. Only 28 per cent of people still blame the poor for being poor. Those that have these negative and often hurtful things to say are by far the minority in our population.

Those of us who have made it through life without a devastating life circumstance are very fortunate. Life-changing events can happen through death, injury on the job, the movement toward precarious work, and increasing instability and unavailability of good jobs in general. Those who have retired and lived through the many years since the Second World War were supported by a very generous social system compared to today’s reality, whether under Conservatives or Liberal governments.

Now, 65 per cent of Canadians also feel that too little is being done about the growing poverty rates in Canada and also feel that wealthy people are wealthy because of advantages, not because they worked harder.

Why don’t we care how much the rich are working?

Why is it only the poor who we target to scrutinize?

These are fundamental questions for the fabric of society when we would rather pick on someone who is down on their luck or through life circumstances, rather than hold those with enormous earnings accountable.

Further, a full 82 per cent of the people say that this growing gap between the wealthiest and everyone else is intolerable, and 74 per cent of the people indicate that they are struggling to maintain a middle-class life.

It is important to realize that this issue is not going away. The problems are only growing and will soon include more woes of the middle class whose backs have been carrying the taxation of redistribution services for many years. It isn’t the poor people who are at fault for this; it is the way that at least 87 people – not to mention corporations — aren’t taxed appropriately.

The negative perspectives of the people who are poor has been changing as more of the middle class is feeling the strain too. More understanding of the situation that we are all in is creating empathy and support for possible solutions…which is why initiatives like the Basic Income Pilot Program are being brought forward.

The fight is not over for the pilot program yet, but if we don’t succeed in reinstating it, then we don’t have any means to at least test what could possibly work right now for our poor and our community.

That’s why we must fight hard, together, for this policy to continue, or social policy initiatives won’t happen again on a broad scale for a very long time. The idea is to show its potential on a small scale so we can make it a pan-Canadian program – just like we did with health care long ago.

This is our window. This is our moment.

Let’s fight this together.


  1. bob says:

    good idea…take away wealth with an inheritance tax so future generations of families that actually worked and built some wealth for their families can be poor like the rest of society…
    how about look at reality….it is these poor people that spend their money on tobacco and alcohol not to mention drugs…..whilst the so called rich invest and work overtime to success rather than have a good time every weekend ..the cycle of poverty can only be broken when poor people get their act cleaned up and get off their vices . then maybe they will stop the self pity and make a life for themselves instead of doing drugs and making babies they can’t afford….if you get welfare you should be sterilized as well so you font bring more of your kind into the world. …they should make a big enclosed camp up north where it won’t bother anyone…then invite all these welfare cases to free drugs alcohol and tobacco….let them do drugs until they kill themselves and give them weapons to kill each other …..or the option to go get a job. I bet most will go for the party

  2. bob says:

    all you idiots that feel sorry for these poor welfare garbage should give them your paycheck …go live with with them for a few months and document what they do all day.
    it won’t happen. are too busy looking for something to whine about. if they really wanted to help these poor people they would give them a free education food and housing in exchange for boot camp training and education. .they shouldn’t be able to leave these training places until they can live in society on their own…….if you can’t manage your life then it should be managed for you …..

  3. bob says:

    it will be funny when we have sharia law and Islam controls government totally instead of just partly as they do now….you will be able to see welfare recipients have their heads cut off in public….
    it’s coming to a town near you soon. ….Trudeau is leading the way for it.

  4. TheRut says:

    Bob…Amen …. I’m 57 work my arse off every day to pay my Bill’s and live. I’ve raised my family.. 3 children with good old fashioned work. Never taken from the taxpayer. Now my lonely cheque is not only supporting me, but all these others who choose to ride the free life train. And I live 15 minutes from Lindsay. This pilot project only increased alcohol and cigarette sales Oh and taxi sales.. now they can take taxi’s to the beer stores and get food delivered to their doors. So ridiculous. So I agree with you Bob . .. why can’t they open more daycares and have welfare mothers work them for free since they get free money from the government anyway. Then the people who can work can get low daycare fees and work? Win win. Or have them do community work to help… the government pays them anyway. Make job training.. something. Staying home, pumping out kids is NOT a job, have the fathers be responsible.. why is it our problem. ODSP .. now many I know.. collect… but still work under the table for cash.. so collect both… the government really needs to police this crap
    Its frustrating when you see it every day while you work your butt off.. sleep all day, smoke, drink and STILL whine about their lives.. smh. The gravy train needs to stop and this includes the pilot project which was useless. Just look at Indeed jobs Lindsay ontario.. lots of jobs available.. problem here.. they dont want to work… it’s easier to just collect baby bonus and government cheque……. disgusting

  5. Heather says:

    I’m not impressed how Gord gets voted in and then starts trashing basic income and when Trudeau sets something in place …he ignores him and trashes that too …I’m sick of all his lies and promises …he should be impeached just for making accusations that he never had any intention doing in the first place …taking money out of schools …taking advantage of all the low income people …lie after lie ….just to get voted in ….now Ottawa I’m hopeing you will see that this through and stop his out of control craziness…plz take this in your hands now and make this basic income happen to make our people in poverty live like normal human beans …not animals .p.s….get Ford out of politic hes not educated for the position …
    Bring back Wynn…

  6. Craig says:

    Wow. Some of the comments on here are just nuts. Rude, ignorant, and stupid.

    I do have a couple of concerns/questions after reading the article though. I may be off base a little but first off the article blames the entire mess on the Liberals, and Conservatives. I get the fact that for the most part, they have been the party’s in power, and also that Mike Perry is NDP, a huge supporter of the Basic Income Project, and the Lindsay Advocate (and by all accounts a really good guy) but in fairness when the NDP had their shot under Bob Rae what did they do for the system? One of my family members took a pay cut in the form of unpaid days off affectionately called Rae Days. I do agree that the Liberals and Conservatives have had many more years to fix this mess, but let’s not pretend that the NDP didn’t have a chance.

    Also a lot of what I read revolved around “The Rich”, and corporations not paying what some believe to be their fair share of taxes. If companies are finding ILLEGAL ways to shelter money then shame on them and that needs to be fixed, however, if what their accountants are finding are LEGAL methods then can you really blame the companies? I don’t think so. Every year at tax time I have an accountant do my income taxes and I certainly hope he finds me every cent that he can LEGALLY. Now if you think that the ways the accountants find of saving money are the problem, then I suggest part of the push should be on closing those opportunities.

    When it comes to taxes too, the article eluded to inheritance being taxed. Sorry, but whatever I have left at the end of the Game Of Life will be mine to leave to whoever I want, and only to who I want. I do not want that taxed. If I have enough I will leave some to charities as well as my kids and other family but I will decide who gets the money I’ve earned, not the government.

    As well, I refuse to paint all poor people with the same brush. People who are poor are not all lazy people who are out to cheat the system and anyone who thinks that they are is an idiot. Conversely, you cannot paint every single person who was in line for the benefit as all hard working honest folks either. When I read an article like this it seems to lead the reader to believe that the abusers do not exist. Well the fact is, (and we all know it whether we want to admit it or not) there are people who do exactly that, and there are people out there who can’t wait for that cheque to come so they spend it at the Beer Store or LCBO, or on illegal drugs. I do not believe that those are the majority of people, or even close to it, but can we please at least acknowledge that those people do exist for the sake of an objective discussion. I guess the bottom line is that there is no way to ensure that people who are receiving the money are not wasting it. I don’t think there’s an accurate way to hold people accountable for what they do with the benefit.

    To be honest, I do not know whether the program would have been affordable or not. Maybe it would have been. I get the idea behind it, and it is well-intentioned. I understand that for people who had started on the program and were using the extra money as it was intended that they were seeing improvements in their lifestyle, and that was seeming to be reflected by comments I’ve read from professionals like doctors for instance. Seems the ones using the benefit as intended were becoming healthier overall which would be an ease on the health care system and I think that was one of the biggest anticipated savings. That is why I’m disappointed that the program got canceled without having a chance to play itself out, although I’m not certain that three years would have told you everything you need to know. I honestly don’t think you would know for sure until you look back over a generation..but admittedly that would be a long test.

    And while I think that I’m getting a pretty good grip on the money aspect of the program…up to approximatley $17,000 per individual, then repaying 50% of what they make above that, and then paying 20% in taxes of what’s left, I fail to see what is built in to incentify a person to get off of the program at some point. I’m not saying it’s not there but I don’t see it and would love for someone to explain that part to me.

    This is the hardest part for me to write because it’s personal. What I think I’m most disappointed in is the about face move that Laurie Scott has pulled here. While I have always said that there is no shame in changing your mind if you truly think an earlier decision was a mistake, looking back on Laurie’s history I feel that she is simply saying whatever the leader of the day wants her to say whether it’s John Tory, or Doug Ford. I applaud the Lindsay Advocate for printing the article earlier that ran her comments when the program was introduced, and after it was cancelled side by side. And then she made sure she was nowhere near Victoria Park on Tuesday (granted it would have been a tough crowd but if she truly believes that the program wouldn’t work then she should shown up to defend that).

    I consider Laurie a family friend and will always respect and remember the compassion that she showed as an ICU nurse for an ailing family member, and the comfort I got from her as a young guy at a critical time. As a nurse she was exactly what I needed at that time, but as an MPP now, not so much.

    I would like to say though that I do appreciate the coverage you guys at The Lindsay Advocate have given this topic, and the interesting community minded stories that you run. You have come a long way in a short period of time. Keep up the great work.

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