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Basic Income Guarantee (Big) – Ontario

Denise Bérubé, CND

Last week Rosemary Brosseau and I attended a meeting hosted by the Kingston Action Group for a Basic Income Guarantee held at St. George’s Anglican Cathedral. The hall was packed – a sign that there is a lot of interest in this issue. We heard from two wonderful advocates of this proposed program: Hugh Segal (former parliamentarian and Senator) and Reverend Michael Oulton, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Ontario.

Federal and provincial governments have argued for decades that poverty is a complex problem. Mr. Segal argue that it is simple and in the end, poverty is about one thing – a person not having enough money to meet basic needs of food, shelter, clothing and transportation for self and family. Moreover, the link is well documented between poverty and poor health, low education outcomes, substance abuse, family violence and other costly social ills. Both speakers noted that our present welfare system frustrates and is demeaning and does not address the issue of poverty in a positive way. If BIG were to be introduced, being poor would be a problem we all buffered in the same way as we buffer all Canadians relative to health care and seniors through the Guaranteed Income Supplement, the latter reducing senior poverty from 35% to under 5% since it began. The success of these two initiatives gives us optimism for this issue as well.

To the question, ``Can poverty be eradicated?” Bishop Oulton responded a resounding “YES”, but that it will take courage, faith in the basic human and spiritual values we hold, partnerships with others, a combined community will, and the dream that when successful in Ontario, BIG would spread like wildfire to the rest of Canada. Imagine what a Canada that would be!


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