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Governments urged to implement basic income guarantee

By Valerie MacDonald, Northumberland Today

COBOURG - 

The Green Wood Coalition’s paper on a Basic Income Guarantee in Ontario was to be presented to a Social Services Ministry consultation event in Cobourg Wednesday evening.

Written by spokesperson David Sheffield, who also was scheduled to make an oral presentation, it supports Senator Hugh Segal’s recommendation that “the Government of Ontario immediately raise the Ontario Works rate for a single individual to $1,320 per month and raise ODSP rates by at least $500 per month.”

At this time, a single person on Ontario Works gets $720 monthly (and this just went up) and someone on the Ontario Disability Support Program typically gets just under $1,200, Sheffield said in an interview prior to his presentation.

“It is the position of Green Wood Coalition that eliminating poverty is an urgent health, human rights and social justice issue that requires action on the part of the municipal, provincial and federal governments. As a street-level, charitable organization that uses a community model of caring to walk alongside people living with poverty, mental illness, addiction and other disability, in Port Hope, Green Wood Coalition has observed, first hand, the detrimental effects of poverty on individuals and families.

“We are asking for the immediate implementation of a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) to provide a minimum annual income at a level that is sufficient to meet basic needs and allows individuals and families to live with dignity, regardless of work status.”

Sheffield stressed in his presentation (for which people had to pre-register with the Ministry to participate) that there has been a lot of discussion and consultation on the issue of reducing poverty but “very little action” to date.

“We fear that further consultation could be viewed as a diversionary tactic to avoid tackling poverty.”

He went on in the presentation to describe a Basic Income Guarantee model as an “unconditional cash transfer from the government to citizens to provide a minimum annual income and (that it) is not tied to labour market participation, is an essential component of a strategy to effectively eliminate poverty, ensures all Canadians have a sufficient income to meet their basic needs, and live with dignity and to eliminate health inequities.”

The presentation states that it is “more prudent” to spend on prevention that dealing with the “social and economic costs of poverty” and notes that with the advent of Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplements, senior poverty dropped to 5.2% in 2011, down from 21.4% in 1980.

“Green Wood Coalition urges our Municipal, Provincial and Federal government representatives and leaders to act immediately to implement a basic income guarantee and address the human rights and social justice violations caused by negligence of poverty issues in our country,” Sheffield petitioned.

The consultation Wednesday night is one of a series taking place in Ontario which local riding MPP Lou Rinaldi says is to ultimately design a pilot project and test it in an area of the province later this year.

vmacdonald@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/NT_vmacdonald