Trent Lakes Mayor Janet Clarkson intends to make a motion at the township council’s next meeting calling on the provincial government to reinstate the basic income pilot program in Ontario that was halted in 2019.
She plans to ask her council to petition the province and Peterborough County about it, she said at Tuesday’s regular council meeting.
“My understanding was that it was doing extremely well,” she said.
The Ontario Basic Income Pilot Project was a project providing basic income to 4,000 people in Ontario introduced in 2018 by the Liberal government, with Lindsay as one of the test sites. It was terminated early after Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government was first elected.
Clarkson said she spoke with a young couple who were part of the program when it was in place.
“They said it was the first time since they’d been married they could pay for the rent of their basement apartment without having to go back to their parents. So, a living wage could help reach a lot of young people,” Clarkson said.
“Who can afford to work for minimum wage or $20 an hour with the costs that are out there?” she asked.
Clarkson was responding to a presentation to council on the Community Safety and Well-Being Plan (CSWP) by Chris Kawalec, community development project manager for the City of Peterborough.
In 2019 the province required every municipality to adopt a CSWP to tackle social and economic issues with multi-sectors such as police, municipalities and community groups.
Peterborough city and county and five of the county’s townships, including Trent Lakes, joined forces to develop a plan.
Kawalec said it is also his understanding that the basic income program was benefiting the people involved.
“Coming from a social services perspective, we know that for the majority of folks who are struggling with low income below the poverty line, if they do receive additional income, the vast majority will use it to meet their basic needs,” he said, “whether it’s around health, nutrition, rent, education or child care.”
Coun. Peter Franzen noted it is not just young people who are hurting financially, but seniors, too.
He said he recently attended an opening for a Habitat for Humanity building and was “shocked” to see people in the homes as old as 70.
“It’s a big issue out there,” he said.
In an interview with The Examiner after Tuesday’s meeting, Clarkson said Peterborough city and county have spent a lot of money attempting to reduce poverty.
“It will mean absolutely nothing until wages get up.”
Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner