Basic Income Pilot must not delay action on poverty: Thomas
January 31, 2017
Toronto – An Ontario government proposal for a three-year pilot project to study a Basic Income program in Ontario must not be used as an excuse to delay action on poverty, the President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) says.
“There is nothing wrong with studying new ways to deliver income supports,” Warren (Smokey) Thomas said today. “The problem is, people are homeless now. Children are hungry now. Ontarians were homeless and hungry when the Liberals got elected in 2003, and they still are to this day.
“Studying is fine, but for goodness sake, raise social assistance rates now.”
In a wide-ranging position paper delivered to government today, OPSEU said the province must target income inequality in the province if it is serious about ever implementing a Basic Income along the lines proposed by government Special Advisor Hugh Segal in November 2016.
“Major reform to income supports will never be paid for by laying off social assistance staff, whose wages and benefits only cost 2.3 per cent of what the province spends on Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program,” Thomas said. “And a Basic Income cannot be paid for by further cuts to public services, which have already been cut to the bone.
“The only way a Basic Income can ever work in Ontario is if government realizes that it has to move money from the haves to the have-nots,” he said. “There is more money in this province than ever before. There is no excuse for keeping our own people down.”
The OPSEU position paper proposes changes to Ontario’s tax system to bring it in line with other provinces and calls for an end to the Ontario Liberal government’s “fixation” on privatization.
“Whether it’s public-private partnerships, or assets sales, or contracting out, privatization is transferring billions of dollars out of public coffers into the hands of private investors,” Thomas said. “We just can’t afford it.”
For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931