Regional councillors will discuss asking the federal government to start a dialogue about a basic income guarantee for all Canadians later this year.
Coun. Elizabeth Clarke asked that staff prepare a report and resolution for consideration by regional councillors. It’s expected to return to committee in late April or early May.
“There is a growing movement of municipalities, as well as provinces and territories, that are putting some pressure on the federal government to look at this,” Clarke said in an interview last week.
Although not a municipal issue, Clarke said municipalities are “picking up the bodies that fall through the cracks.”
In December, Kingston City Council unanimously passed a resolution asking for a national discussion and the development of a basic income guarantee for all Canadians. The resolution was forwarded to all Ontario municipalities.
“The federal government has said it’s committed to looking to reduce poverty, and economists across the political spectrum are saying the time is right to look at this sort of model,” Clarke said.
Clarke pointed out two arguments in favour of the basic income guarantee.
The first is to reduce poverty and the other is economic. She said her support for a basic income guarantee is especially strong because it has those two different elements.
“Our welfare system is not working. Our poverty rates have been stuck for 30 years — they are not getting any better and people, are really suffering,” Clarke said.
That suffering has its impact on government spending. Clarke cited increasing health care costs, as well as administrative costs for administering anti-poverty programs.
Economically, she said, people would have more disposable income, which could help jump-start the economy.
“The economy would be stronger because there would be more money for people ... that’s why even Conservative economists are saying this would be a grossly superior model to what we have now.”
Bringing back a report and drafting a made in Waterloo resolution received support from other councillors this week, including Coun. Jane Mitchell.
“I look forward to this motion and report coming back,” she said.
According to Region of Waterloo documents, in 2011, approximately 11.7 per cent of Waterloo Region had low income, lower than the 15.1 per cent in Ontario. That’s up from 2006, when about 10.2 per cent of residents (about 48,000 people) were living with low income locally.