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Kawartha Lakes asking for a federal conversation on basic income

DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: The City of Kawartha Lakes is encouraging the federal government to have a conversation about a possible Guaranteed Basic Income program.

At a meeting on Tuesday, April 20th, councillors saw correspondence from Kawartha Lakes Food Coalition Chair Heather Kirby, Kawartha North Family Health Team Executive Director Marina Hodson and Point in Time Centre for Children, Youth and Parents Executive Director Marg Cox in support of Bill C-273, which is a private members bill. The bill would create a national strategy for the government to enact a guaranteed basic income.

One of the letters stated, “poverty is not solely an individual’s responsibility; it is systemically rooted in inadequate and insecure income, and the inability to meet the basic needs of life (i.e. housing, clothing, and food).”

“This problem has unquestionably become worse with the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a February 2020 Statistics Canada report, there were approximately 3.2 million Canadians living below Canada’s Official Poverty Line–people who do not have enough money to pay rent, buy clothing or put food on their tables. At 13.1 percent, 9,625 of Kawartha Lakes households are considered low-income,” the letter continued.

A Guaranteed Basic Income is a social welfare system meant to ensure all citizens can afford the basic necessities. Ward 3 Councillor Doug Elmslie made a motion to have the City send a letter to MP Jamie Schmale and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland in support of Bill C-273.

According to the motion, this “would provide much-needed answers about how a Guaranteed Basic Income could work in partnership with the Provinces, what effect it would have on the efficiency of Government, how it could support entrepreneurship and job creation in a new economy, how it would impact labour market participation and civic action, and how it would impact recipients and their communities at large.”

Councillor Elmslie explained his motion would be used to simply “get a conversation going.”

“We are writing a letter and asking that a conversation take place and that a study [be] done to see if this is something worthwhile,” Councillor Elmslie said. However, Ward 2 Councillor Kathleen Seymour-Fagan questioned council’s jurisdiction in this matter.

“It’s just not our business, and I think we should stay out of this, as we’ve stayed out of the other federal-provincial business,” she said.

Ward 5 Councillor Pat Dunn doesn’t think this is something the federal government can realistically do at this time because of the current deficit.

“The federal government doesn’t have any money. They’re just going into debt and destroying the economic prospects for generations to come,” he stated.

But, after hearing the comments, Councillor Elmslie felt this was still a worthwhile initiative.

“All we are asking here is [to have] a conversation take place, [have] somebody look at it and see if there are merits to it,” he explained.

Councillor Elmslie added he feels this is council’s business “because we look after our citizens.”

Council later voted to approve the motion.

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