Waterloo region committee supports call for guaranteed basic income national discussion

The Region of Waterloo's community services committee has supported a resolution to call for a national discussion on the concept of a guaranteed basic income.

Local advocacy group says it's a good step towards making a minimum income a reality

Regional council will debate whether to support a resolution from the City of Kingston to call for a national discussion on guaranteed minimum income. (Shutterstock)

Waterloo region is being asked to support a call for a national discussion on guaranteed basic income for residents.

On Tuesday, the region's community services committee supported a resolution made by the City of Kingston. That resolution calls on the provincial and federal governments to "have a national discussion" on guaranteeing a basic income, and will now go to regional council for a vote. 

John Green, the co-ordinator for the advocacy group Basic Income Waterloo Region, said his group is encouraged by the move – which he says is an important first step to making guaranteed income a reality.

"This affects all levels of government and it affects regular people, in addition to politicians. There has been a grassroots movement advocating for basic income growing across Canada and it's reached Waterloo Region."

Green attended Tuesday's meeting and said he was pleased it was passed.

"Given that the group that was there today was basically council, I think we can be pretty confident that council will pass the resolution," Green said. 

Guaranteed income provides 'dignity'

The resolution report noted 12.7 per cent of people in Waterloo region subsist on low incomes and the region was listed as the sixth most food insecure health unit out of 36 in the province in a 2015 report by Cancer Care Ontario.

Green said councillors can now use their influence to push the idea with other governments.

The Ontario government mentioned in its February budget that it is considering a pilot project where members of a community are given a guaranteed minimum income and Green said this might also be a chance to advocate for making Waterloo region that community.

"A number of communities have started lobbying to be the pilot sites. We don't know where the site will be," he said.

Green said a guaranteed minimum income would mean people "would have a stable, reliable income that they could live on, be healthy, live in dignity, participate in their communities … picture families not being so stressed about losing their housing, picture children going to school with food in their stomachs instead of hungry, picture teenagers staying in high school long enough to graduate."

More discussion needed

Waterloo region is suffering from precarious jobs, Green said. It is hard for people to have a stable income when they have to work contract jobs or part-time, low wage jobs rather than working full-time.

"It's pretty hard to make plans for your life when you don't know whether you'll be able to cover your rent in six months," Green said.

Green said the resolution passed Tuesday afternoon is not enough in itself to get the ball rolling on guaranteed minimum income, but there are groups across the country like Basic Income Waterloo Region that are also working to make it a reality.

People can also write letters to their MPPs and MPs and continue the discussion amongst themselves. Basic Income Waterloo Region plans to host a public discussion at Queen Street Commons Wednesday evening at 7 p.m.