Mayor Shawn Pankow and other representatives of the Town of Smiths Falls had the opportunity Feb. 21 to share their views with provincial officials on the topic of a guaranteed minimum income.
The mayor, along with Councillor Chris Cummings and Lanark County Warden Bill Dobson, met with Chris Ballard, the Minister Responsible for Poverty Reduction Strategy, and his staff. The mayor wrote to the provincial government last year expressing interest in the town of Smiths Falls being included in an upcoming pilot project to study the feasibility of introducing a guaranteed minimum income for residents of Ontario.
“We actually had about a half-hour with the minister and a couple of his staff,” Pankow reported at a March 6 council meeting. The mayor said the time was used to discuss the demographic profile of the community, and “to understand the objectives of the pilot.”
Pankow said the minister indicated that the province is still in the process of finalizing the criteria to be used in selecting sites for the pilot project, and that these sites are to be announced by mid-April.
“Certainly he was very supportive of our efforts,” Pankow added.
Cummings agreed that “the staff and the minister seemed to be very receptive and appreciative.” He said they were also aware that the issue of Smiths Falls being included in a pilot study had generated controversy.
The pilot study, announced in the province’s budget early in 2016, would see people between the ages of 18 and 65 in Ontario living below the poverty line receive a basic income of $1,320 per month. Individuals with disabilities would receive $500 more. Four communities are to be chosen as sites for the three-year pilot project. Trial participants would be randomly selected to receive the basic income benefit. There would also be a control group that would not receive the benefit. The control group would be studied over time to help understand the impact that the Basic Income benefit has on other groups.