Guaranteed Annual Income
The pilot project is already creating a huge impact.
Hunger Awareness Week invites us to not only talk about the problem of hunger in Canada, but to think about how we can address it. At the Ontario Association of Food Banks, our long-term vision has always been a hunger-free Ontario. Next summer, this dream may inch a little closer to becoming a reality.
The Basic Income Guarantee is a strategy for poverty reduction that is simpler and more effective than our existing social assistance systems. Quite simply, individuals whose incomes fall below a certain level get topped up to a level that would meet basic needs.
As the job market continues to contort and contract through the shifting of jobs, wages, and stability -- there is a growing voice, a growing question -- how do we make sure people across this province have the means to eat, to live, to thrive? How can we ensure that Ontarians are able to meet their most basic needs?
What we have done for far too long is simply not working. Even with all the social supports in place, the resulting income is often only enough to maintain a family in poverty. At their worst, existing policies and programs actually entrap people in poverty. This is why we need a new way. A basic income would work as a tax credit administered through the taxation system similar to the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors. If someone earns less or has less than the poverty line, they would simply be topped up to a point above the poverty line.
Food bank use currently hovering at record levels. Food Banks Canada's HungerCount report shows that the food bank network acts as an unofficial Canadian safety net, trying to fill the gaps left by low-wage jobs and radically inadequate provincial social assistance programs.
"This is a program that ensures that everyone can live with dignity."
Could the Guaranteed Annual Income -- once considered radical notion -- now be an idea whose time has come? It has been supported by generations of economists and welfare theorists, from the left and the right. So why are such a broad group of people pushing such a program?
In Canada, the possibility of a guaranteed annual income is a topic that seems to never go away, yet the prospect of a national program remains elusive. The way the Fraser Institute approaches the issue outlines what's wrong with the discussion: they treat the idea of a basic income program like it's a cash grab by the desperate.