Smiths Falls passes resolution supporting Basic Income

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Posted on: March 26, 2024

During Monday evening’s busy Committee of the Whole meeting in Smiths Falls, Mayor Shawn Pankow presented a resolution in support of a Basic Income Guarantee across Canada for working-age adults. “Numerous municipalities have passed resolutions recently supporting the need for Universal Basic Income including Kingston, Napanee, and Belleville. 

We are asking the Federal Government to provide a structure for Universal Basic Income, and we are thinking of the possibilities that this would open for the members of our community.” The mayor shared some estimated costs as well: The estimated cost of funding Basic Income in Canada is $90 billion. The estimated cost of poverty (ODSP, health care costs, housing, etc.) in Canada is $80 billion.

Before reading, the mayor paused and reminded the committee that one of council’s guiding principles is: Helping Marginalized People Move Out of Poverty. “The impact of poverty on our community is deep and broad. It leaves a legacy of hopelessness that commonly extends for generations.”

“While this is a national issue, I want to discuss poverty in our community. 1 in 6 people in our community lives in deep poverty,” said the mayor.” In Smiths Falls, 16.4% of our community lives in poverty; provincially that number is 5.3%. 20% of our households have an income of less than $30 000 annually. 40% of our families are trying to make ends meet on less than $50 000 annually.”

The draft resolution in support of Universal Basic Income is copied in its entirety at the end of this article. 

Councilor Peter McKenna was the first to respond. “Many more intelligent people than myself have studied this for decades. I think the time has come, and I agree with the mayor. 

I am very much in favour of Federal and Provincial governments collaborating on the design and implementation of this.”

Councilor Stephen Robinson disagreed. “Implementation of this program would increase dependency on government support. Funding a program like this would require significant financial resources. I cannot support Guaranteed Basic Income.”

Councilor Jay Brennan shared his thoughts. “I agree with Councilor Robinson. The $93 billion that would be required to fund such a program is more than double what Ottawa puts out to help transfers to the province. I’m not sure where that will come from, but it will come from taxpayers’ pockets. The County delivers the social services; and we pay them for it. I agree that this is a huge problem, there are support programs in place. GBI is not a magic bullet that will solve everything. I will not support it.”

Councilor Dawn Quinn expressed herself as well. “As everyone remembers, I did not support this when it came forward a few years ago and I still believe that way. I believe there are many ways to help people develop and grow. We know we need doctors, teachers, nurses, plumbers, clerical workers, auto mechanics, daycare workers, and many more.

Some of these people need mental health help. I deal with one man who cannot get mental health help, let’s look at that as a starting point. We had Skills and Initiatives in town where people could make a cup of coffee, use the computer, even get some health help. 

What this town needs is a bus service. Community gardens. Our parks need to be upgraded for more enjoyable use for everybody. Don’t put them in a situation where they can’t develop and prosper. You do not solve problems by putting money at it.”

While acknowledging that everyone has a right to hold their own opinion, Mayor Pankow replied in defense of systemic change being needed. “I am disappointed by these comments. We are talking about 1 in 6 of our citizens who live in deep poverty. Without system change, that will continue for generations in perpetuity. For people living in poverty, the reality is, if you’re worried about how you’re going to eat / pay rent / survive, you’re not thinking about how you can get an education or start a business. Without hope, hope doesn’t present itself without some degree of change. 

“The cost of poverty is $80 billion. The solution is $93 billion. There’s not a huge difference there to change the outcome for millions in our [country].”

The mayor shared some statistics from the Basic Income Pilot in Ontario from 2017-2018. 

26% of recipients started education and training programs so they could get a better start for their lives. 40% volunteered more. 38% of employed participants got higher paying jobs. 17% quit smoking. 5% quit drinking. 83% ate more nutritious food.

Councilor Chris McGuire’s reply was brief. “I appreciate Mayor Pankow’s reasons for supporting this, I won’t reiterate them. This is probably the right thing to do for social reasons, but there are also good reasons economically to support it, and I want to support it.” 

Councilor Jennifer Miller, who chaired the meeting, declared quietly, “this resolution will pass. Having a safety net like Basic Income can be just the foot up that a family right here in Smiths Falls needs.”

The town of Smiths Falls will join other Ontario municipalities in calling for a Basic Income Guarantee for all Canadians.

Hometown News
Author: Hometown News

One thought on “Smiths Falls passes resolution supporting Basic Income

  1. Drury

    Hear hear, Council. Gutsy move, but a sane one. Here’s hoping that you do not face too much of a backlash for taking a courageous stance on this important issue.

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