The possible acceptance of a pilot project in Ontario of the idea of government providing a basic guaranteed income to its citizens is long overdue. There have been previous pilots—opened with great ballyhoo and then quietly dropped when the political will failed us.
But like all such pilots, they are dramatically over-managed, over-promoted and are virtually guaranteed to fail to meet over-inflated expectations. What is important to realize about these programs is that they replace a myriad of government band-aids for the unemployed, the unemployable, the handicapped, the marginalized and those families locked in a cycle of poverty because of mental or physical health.
One of the keys to simplifying the program is to have the individuals and families to be assisted make their own application. In some cases, this application might be made on their behalf by a government agency or a non-government charitable agency. Those not needing some or all of the support money will have it taxed back to the government. Ideally this type of program allows for graduated taxation on earnings to encourage self-help.
One of the more interesting results noted in the Manitoba “Minicom” guaranteed income test years ago was the reduction in hospital visits and stays. Keeping people from worrying about money seemed to help keep them out of hospital.
But, by any measure, a guaranteed income makes a dramatic change in attitudes for the entire population. It redirects a major part of the government social services agencies that interface with the public, enabling them to do their jobs more effectively and providing better service to the public. Over time, it could also reflect in a realignment of these agencies and cost savings.
There are the usual arguments going on across Ontario about this test. The main concern is that the guaranteed amount has to be high enough to sustain an individual or family in today’s society. Welfare rates in Ontario today are a disgrace and we have to get ahead of the poverty curve. You cannot expect an Ontario resident to have any quality of life today on an income of less than $1500 per month along with full medical and dental coverage. If the government thinks it can do the test for less than what people can live on, they are only doing the test to ensure failure.
We will be watching.
Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry
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