The federal minister responsible for reducing poverty says he is interested in the idea of a guaranteed income in Canada.
Veteran economist Jean-Yves Duclos, who is Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, told The Globe and Mail the concept has merit as a policy to consider after the government implements more immediate reforms promised during the election campaign.
"Unfortunately, it is a sad reality that the lives of people living in deepest poverty has not changed," said Tom Cooper, director of the Roundtable for Poverty Reduction.
Cooper added people living in poverty face more challenges than 10 years ago — higher rents, fewer vacancies for low-income earners, homeless shelters at capacity, longer subsidized housing waiting lists, increased food bank needs, and tighter eligibilities for employment insurance making it difficult to access.
Cooper said it's shameful that the provincial government has "institutionalized poverty and food banks" by making them permanent realities for those on social assistance.
It's frustrating that despite years of advocating for anti-poverty measures that Hamilton — and Canada — still experiences high levels of poverty, he said.
Access to healthy food continues to be a problem for many low income people in our district. The Cost of Healthy Eating Report 2015 shows that a family of four receiving Ontario Works spends about 90% of their monthly income on rent and food. This leaves only $200 for utilities, clothing, toiletries, transportation, school costs, childcare, phone, etc.
The Board of Health passed a resolution last night calling on the provincial government to prioritize the investigation of a basic income guarantee. This income security program would ensure a basic income for all, indexed to inflation, regardless of employment status.
What is food security? As defined at the 1996 World Food Summit, “food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
Studies indicate that the poorer a person is, the more likely that person is to have anxiety, high blood pressure and health conditions like heart disease.
The consequences of food insecurity are worrying from humanitarian and policy perspectives. People who don’t have proper diets get sick more often, making it harder to keep a job and apartment, and taxing the health-care system. Children who grow up hungry are behind the eight ball when it comes to how they will do at school and how healthy they will be into adulthood.
Welland city councillors hope to help influence a major change in the way the 14.9 per cent of Canadians living in poverty are assisted.
Councillors Tuesday night added their support to a motion from the City of Kingston to lobby the federal and provincial governments to work towards developing a basic income guarantee for all Canadians.
“People living in poverty right now are vulnerable and they’re open to social difficulties, health issues and more stress,” said Councillor Bonnie Fokkens.
Poverty, she said, can lead to problems in society that cost more to deal with than resolving poverty itself.
Haldimand-Norfolk has the worst record for food insecurity in Ontario, and health officials want more done to fight poverty locally.
Laura Goyette, a dietitian with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, urged Norfolk councillors at last week’s board of health meeting to get behind a movement to change the way organizations deal with food insecurity.
“We need to move away from food charity,” Goyette said in a phone interview
There are hard benefits to alleviating poverty.
The problem is that the methodologies that show these benefits tend not to be used in traditional budgeting.
1. We tend not to look at Direct and Indirect Savings
2. We seldom count the costs of Inaction (Cost of Poverty)
3. We almost never do Cost Benefit Analysis
Each of these different types of analyses offers a different way of looking at poverty reduction. By ignoring the offsets, savings and benefits that could be estimated using these methods, decision-makers otherwise miss out on the chance to understand the economic returns related to investment in poverty reduction efforts.
The creation of a broader balance sheet can refute the incorrect conclusion that poverty reduction only relates to those low-income residents who are directly impacted. Reducing poverty has positive impacts for all Torontonians.
Food insecurity is not just about nutrition. It is about hopelessness and despair. It leads to high stress levels, mental health problems, more frequent and serious health problems, poorer decision-making and the inability of children to concentrate at school. It is a vicious cycle that keeps people from realizing their potential, caring properly for their families and contributing to their communities.
Food banks, and the generosity of those who support them and volunteer at them, keep some food on the table.
But as a society, we need to figure out a system that doesn’t rely on welcome but highly variable charitable donations to keep all our citizens healthy, happy and well-fed.
A new federal government, with commitments to a national food policy and to a Canadian poverty-reduction plan, presents the opportunity for a new conversation about government accountability and public policy.
Key to this strategy is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s commitment, made following the cabinet swearing-in ceremony, to evidence-based policy-making. This is essential for thinking and acting outside the charitable food-aid box and for moving beyond the public perception that charity is an effective response to domestic hunger when evidence-based research tells otherwise.
Professor Valerie Tarasuk, Canada’s leading food insecurity expert, unequivocally states that "although there has been rigorous measurement of household food insecurity in Canada since 2005, the problem has not abated, it has grown.”
At a Montreal convention in 2014 when the Liberal party was a lowly third power in Parliament, its members passed Policy Resolution 100, pledging to create a "Basic Annual Income” to solve problems in the social safety net, from pension risk to seasonal worker benefits.
That promise, to guarantee a minimum income, has a new urgency entering 2016, as the new Liberal majority government brings that platform to life in a country clamouring for new ways to manage welfare and benefits.
The challenge of food insecurity is one of the great issues of our time.
Canadian research indicates that 12 per cent of Canadians are food insecure, forced into hunger, poor-quality food or both. That’s four million Canadians and one of every six children.
In addition to the human tragedy of this, there are enormous societal costs. A study published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that food insecurity increased the cost of health-care services by 23 per cent among those only marginally food insecure, and by 121 per cent among the most food insecure in Canada.
Utrecht takes step toward paying people a salary whether they work or not
It’s an idea whose adherents over the centuries have ranged from socialists to libertarians to far-right mavericks. It was first proposed by Thomas Paine in his 1797 pamphlet, Agrarian Justice, as a system in which at the "age of majority” everyone would receive an equal capital grant, a "basic income” handed over by the state to each and all, no questions asked, to do with what they wanted.
To those who say it is an unaffordable pipedream, [Utrecht Councillor Lisa] Westerveld points out the huge costs that come with the increasingly tough benefits regimes being set up by western states, including policies that make people do community service to justify their handouts. "In Nijmegen we get £88m to give to people on welfare,” Westerveld said, "but it costs £15m a year for the civil servants running the bureaucracy of the current system. We will save money with a ‘basic income’.”
Last month, the Ontario Association of Food Banks released its 2015 Hunger Report, a year-over-year monthly use survey that summarizes the Association's annual hunger count. The survey included 125 member food banks, including Kawartha Food Share in Peterborough.
One of the most notable results of the survey had to do with older people. This year, there was a 35 percent increase in the number of people over the age of 65 using food banks. By any measure, that is a significant and highly disturbing trend. As the number and percentage of older people continues to grow, dramatic increases like this can only mean a substantial decline in the quality of life of more of our elders.
Here are five things Canadians need to know about food insecurity:
1. Food insecurity significantly affects health
2. Household food insecurity is a strong predictor of healthcare utilization and costs
3. Food bank use is a poor indicator of food insecurity
4. An adequate and secure level of household income is strongly linked to food security
5. Relatively modest increases in income have been found to lessen food insecurity among low-income families
No disrespect to food banks, but while the army of volunteers and staff who support these institutions need to be commended for their big hearts and hard work, we need to recognise that charity alone will never solve the hunger crisis.
If we are promoting charity we must promote social justice. Yes, ask for donations, but use these "asks” as an opportunity to increase awareness of the root causes of hunger.
People go to the food bank because they don’t have enough money for food. Eliminate poverty and we can dispense with food drives and food banks. Everyone is happier, especially those who have no option but to turn to food banks for a meal.
As I was driving my son to school Monday morning, he looked over as we listened to CBC radio and asked, ”Why do we keep doing the turkey drive Dad, if what they say is true, and the need increases every year, why do we keep doing the same things year in year out?” he asks. You are right, I answered, we are not doing enough and our efforts are misdirected.
What does not surprise me is the generosity of all Islanders, who dig deep into their pockets and extend a hand to those in need. Year in, year out, families, schools, business and individuals do what they can to help others. Imagine if our collective energy on PEI was to eradicate poverty, Imagine!!
We need a living wage, we need a basic income guarantee, we need to support our farmers, our fishers, innovation in food, and those organisations like PEI Food Exchange and discover real solutions now. Afterall it is 2015, and I did hear someone say they were doing business differently?
I am your equal though I am poor; I am your equal though I am sick. Tossing a few bucks at the poverty pimps at Christmas will make you feel real good, but will not change anything. Your dollars feed the system which has failed us for decades and made us grovel for our survival.
I and my kind will still be poor, still be without decent housing, still without decent clothes, and still without decent food. It could be you and yours one day. Then you’ll see why we need structural change, not spare change.
Kingston city council is the first elected body in Canada to endorse the concept of a guaranteed income.
A lengthy motion, passed on Tuesday night by a unanimous 13-0 vote, calls on municipalities across the country to adopt similar resolutions and send notice to their provincial and federal leaders.
... a guaranteed income is not a disincentive for finding work; income is not wasted; and the cost to taxpayers is partially offset by the fact that governments would no longer require large bureaucracies to oversee welfare system payments.
In 2004, Canada spent about $130 billion a year on federal and provincial transfer payments such as employment insurance, social assistance and the child tax benefit.
After more than 30 years, we know that food banks are not the answer. It is time to reinvest in our social safety net. A Basic Income Guarantee (or Guaranteed Annual Income) to essential needs, including shelter and food, would mean that no one goes hungry in this immensely wealthy country. Then the food banks could close and finally declare an end to the emergency.
"The federal and provincial governments need to do more to address the reasons why people have to go to food banks." That's the view of Marilyn Hermann, Executive Director of Surrey Food Bank.
Peter Sinclair, Executive Director of Nanaimo Loaves & Fishes Community Food Bank, asserts, "I think first and foremost, support from the government for people living in poverty needs to be increased."
Graham Riches, emeritus professor of social work at the University of British Columbia, says there needs to be a full public debate about the role of food banks and the concept of "using surplus food and wasted food to actually feed hungry people." That debate, that discussion, he says, needs to be "out in the public".
Riches questions why the CBC, a public institution, is supporting food bank drives when the real debate should be about the right to food. His question is not rhetorical, but he gets no good answer. Actually, he gets no answer at all.
Judy Haiven, a professor at St. Mary's University, "cringed" last January when she heard Michael Enright's opinion piece on the benefit of giving socks to the homeless. So she wrote an opinion piece of her own, in which she says:
"How nice of us! We give the poor our castoff and mostly boring tinned food because they don’t deserve to eat the nice food we eat (except for the special Christmas dinners at the shelters or church basements). And we give the poor socks, (Chinese-made in factories that pay workers pennies an hour) because socks are essential cushions and feetwarmers for the feet of poor people who must trudge kilometres, from the shelter breakfast to the drop-in centre to the church basement, in search of three meals each day."
If they lock you out ... take it to the street
When CBC locked them out in Kitchener, that's what Alliance Against Poverty did. Raise the Rates did the same in Vancouver.
If they change the focus ... get back to the point
That's what PFIB is doing in Toronto.
If they won't answer the question ... keep up the pressure
That's what's being done everywhere.
If you're interested in being involved in the CBC protests in December 2016, here are the contacts:
As Mike Balkwill says ... A donation that "represents less than one-millionth of their bottom line, is a pretty cheap price for a shiny Christmas ornament to deflect the attention of the public from growing food bank use” and the outrageous profits of the 1%.
Premier Wynne soon followed the bankers on to the stage where she said reducing food bank use is difficult and that she needs activists to ‘push her’. The article below tells the story of the role Wynne and the bankers charity plays in distracting the public from the income inequality in Ontario that creates poverty.
Food banks, it is claimed, are miracles of the human spirit and an inherently effective response to market needs — domestic hunger — while no government can get it right all the time.
Well, since 1981, when food banks reached Canada from the U.S., government has waited 35 years and done nothing. Instead, troubling food insecurity is left to food charity, with Canadian governments neglecting official data that hunger is primarily a problem of income poverty and failed income distribution.
Rather than a miracle, the hungry need a political champion.
A university professor in Nova Scotia says while turkey drives and food banks make the donors feel good — they don't fix a much larger problem of helping the poor.
"... I began to think, 'What is it that people really need who are poor?' They don't need socks, they don't need a few more bus tickets so they can go to a doctor's appointment," Haiven told On the Go host Ted Blades this week.
"It made me cringe, because leaving food for the food bank makes us middle-class people feel good. It's not to say the food banks don't need food — but where and when and how is it going end? We seldom think of that."
"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist." -- Hélder Câmara, Brazilian Catholic Archbishop, 1909-1999
If Jesus came back to Earth on his birthday this Christmas, one of his first missions would be to close food banks -- all of them.
Not because they aren't vitally important in feeding the poor but because food banks are not a solution to poverty -- and never will be.
The Alliance Against Poverty, a local grassroots group pressing for economic justice for everyone, held an Information Walk outside the CBC "Sounds of the Season” broadcast in Kitchener on December 4th.
The Alliance Against Poverty believes that rather than treating the symptoms of poverty, such as lack of food, with food banks and a lot of expensively administered, overlapping social programs, a simpler and more effective approach is a cure for poverty that eliminates the need for perpetual treatments of poverty’s symptoms. That cure is a Guaranteed Livable Income, also known as a Basic Income.
The idea of a GLI is supported by a wide range of people and groups from conservative to progressive. Martin Luther King Jr., for example, stated "the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income." Canada’s former Conservative Senator Hugh Segal also has been an advocate of a GLI for decades.
HungerCount is probably the most widely disseminated, frequently cited data produced in Canada in regards to the issue of hunger and food security in the country. Its numbers are high, and they should be jarring.
But those numbers are misleading...
"When you look at these reports, what they give you the impression of is that they're stats on the problem. They're not," Valerie Tarasuk, a researcher based out of the University of Toronto, told VICE.
"It's service utilization. If we were trying to look at the health of Canadians, would we look at the number of ambulances that drive by?" The issue, in other words, is right in the name: Food Banks Canada isn't actually counting the number of Canadians who are going hungry.
The conversation about food banks in Canada is dominated by the continued plea to give, give, give - especially now in the holiday season. The voices of people who go to food banks and of people who donate to food banks but who want governments to provide people with an income that puts food in their budget doesn't get as much publicity... break the silence that Kathleen Wynne and her government feel gives them the power to ignore the crisis among people who are poor in Ontario.
We have received 300 surveys - and our goal is 500 surveys so far with 80 revealing comments.
Metro Morning host Matt Galloway welcomed Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne to his "Sounds of the Season" program on December 3rd.
Before the premier's arrival, activists from Put Food in the Budget and their allies had been busy handing out the PFIB 2015 food bank postcard to the hundreds of early-risers waiting in line outside the Glenn Gould Theatre.
Here's the conversation ...
There's a growing sense of discontent amongst a group of retirees determined to get laid off - from volunteering at food banks.
Freedom 90 is an advocacy group started in Ontario that has spread throughout the country made up of vocal seniors, many in their 60s and 70s, who want to retire from volunteering at food banks and soup kitchens before they turn 90.
Ironically, their end goal is to make obsolete the food charities they helped create and continue to sustain.
In Toronto's inner suburbs, low-income families are concentrated in high-rise towers along major avenues, a visible presence in the city.
But in Newmarket, an hour's commute from Toronto, poverty is harder to see. It is spread out in sprawling subdivisions, where finding an affordable apartment is almost as hard as it is downtown.
Canadians have been duped into believing that we can keep hunger at bay by donating to our local food banks. We teach our children to give to those who are not as fortunate and have less than we do. But, after three decades it's time to implement sustainable solutions that will allow every Canadian to have financial and food security.
"We asked our clients at the food bank, what needs to change in your life so that you do not need us any longer? What we heard from them was, 'I need affordable housing. Seventy per cent of my income is going to my rent, I need more money,'" she said.
"These people are trying to live on money that is just not enough, and they need affordable daycare."
A new report by the Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) found a growing number of seniors and single people relying on food banks for hunger relief. Nearly 360,000 adults and children are using food banks each month across Ontario as food insecurity is becoming a reality for an increasing number in the province.