County hesitant over basic income strategy

·2 min read

County of Haliburton council opted against supporting a federal bill April 14 to establish a national basic income strategy over concern about a lack of information.

The Haliburton County - City of Kawartha Lakes Roundtable for Ending Poverty wrote to ask the County to support Bill C-273. The private member’s bill would develop a national strategy for a guaranteed basic income and establish pilot projects. The proposal is expected to come before the House of Commons later this month.

Council members expressed support of the broad concept, but several were concerned about the bill’s ramifications. Only councillors Andrea Roberts, Lisa Schell and deputy warden Patrick Kennedy voted in favour.

Coun. Brent Devolin said he was uncomfortable supporting something that could implement basic income without seeing more information first.

“Affordability becomes a question,” Devolin said. “There’s a whole other part of the analysis of the labour market that I would like to see before I’m prepared to have a position on this.”

Bill C-273 would see a report return in two years about implementing a strategy. The poverty roundtable - made up of local social services, health care, and governments - said the bill is important to address poverty.

“A national basic income in Canada could grow our economy more than it costs, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, and supporting Canadian businesses while ending poverty and growing the middle class,” the letter said.

Lindsay was the site of a basic income pilot from the Ontario government in 2017. The pilot was supposed to last three years but was cut short in 2018 by a new Progressive Conservative government. Coun. Carol Moffatt said it is a “chicken and egg” problem where more information is needed before she felt comfortable supporting it. She added she has concern about what municipalities might have to pay.

“There’s no question a basic income program is a great idea,” Moffatt said. “I just feel I don’t know enough about the question in the letter.”

Devolin said supporting the bill would be seen as supporting a basic income before more information such as finances are brought to light. But Kennedy noted the bill does not necessarily mean basic income would go forward. He said it seems designed to get the answers councillors sought.

Roberts said the resolution might not make much difference for the federal decision but would send a message.

“Shows our local people, our constituents here in Haliburton that we care. That we believe in this,” Roberts said.

Councillors did not pass a motion but agreed to have the poverty roundtable present on the issue at a future date

Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander