Local Support For Guaranteed Income

Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara launches his campaign for the 2014 municipal election. (Photo by Maureen Revait)

The push to have higher levels of government consider a basic income guarantee for all Canadians is seeing some support locally.

Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara is in support of the idea put forward in a resolution by the City of Kingston, which advocates for national discussion on a basic income guarantee as a way of addressing poverty.

He suggests programs in place now aren’t doing enough to eliminate poverty.

“The big thing is we can’t have a growth industry that’s basically building more shelters and having more people not able to have at least the very basics to sustain themselves,” says McNamara, also serving as president of the Association of Municipalities Ontario.

The issue has come up at a number of municipal conferences, including the annual AMO event, according to Lakeshore Mayor and County of Essex Warden Tom Bain.

“At this point I’m certainly more than interested in being part of those debates, but not making up my mind — I’m trying to remain open-minded,” says Bain.

While McNamara is in favour of the idea, Bain isn’t ready to say one way or the other. The Lakeshore mayor doesn’t feel the program would be out of place in Canada.

“I think we as Canadians are leaders in the area of trying to look after our own people. The fact that we would be looking at a basic income guarantee certainly is not a surprise to me; not certain how far it would go, but there may be a viable solution to bring that forward,” says Bain.

McNamara feels the debate is picking up steam.

“When you see what transpired in the October election — looking to have a better middle class — it certainly has resonated with a lot of people,” says McNamara.

The Liberals included advocating for a basic income guarantee pilot program in the party’s election platform before forming the current federal government.

A pilot program was run in Dauphin, Manitoba in the 1970s. Dr. Evelyn Forget with the University of Manitoba examined the case and concludes in her February 2011 research paper that a guaranteed annual income program could improve health and social outcomes if implemented broadly in society.

Finland could become the first country in the world to offer its citizens a basic income with details of the planned nation-wide program set to be released by the end of the year.