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“Don’t tease a few people”

Regional committee says municipalities can't be made to shoulder costs for proposed guaranteed income program

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

A regional committee has endorsed a report supporting a pilot project for guaranteed income support – but with some caveats.

The proposed program would see all residents receive a certain amount of money every year from the government – at which level is still uncertain. The theory behind the idea is that it would allow people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it to use the money on things such as rent, healthcare costs and more.

In the latest provincial budget, the Ontario government has committed to launching a pilot project to study whether a basic guaranteed income would be worth doing in Ontario. In Ottawa, the parliamentary finance committee has called on the federal government to investigate this program as well.

In the memorandum presented at the health and social services committee, based off a report from Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, says that should a pilot project get underway, that the federal and provincial governments – and not municipalities – bear the costs.

Regional chair Roger Anderson expressed his concern that a short-term pilot project would come back to haunt not only the province, but local governments as well once it’s complete.

“I could picture 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 families after six months or a year coming in saying, ‘OK, so we’re now in a better house, we’re paying more rent, we have more costs, now you’re not going to fund it anymore? What do I do?’” he told councillors.

“And I can see that coming back on us.”

Anderson added that should the project go forward, it should go full out to start.

“I can’t just picture anyone in this room saying no to someone that’s been subsidized for the last year and living a better lifestyle – not a lot better, but a better lifestyle – and then turning around and saying the tap’s off and you can’t do it anymore,” he said.

“I don’t even know if we need a trial program. If they’re going to do it, do it. But don’t tease a few people for six months or a year.”

While the details of a provincial pilot have not yet been made public, Oshawa councillor Dan Carter said he would like to see the city take part.

“I think that we could learn a great deal about that opportunity for our residents that are living in some of the economically challenged areas,” he said.

“I think that based upon the measurements that will be required in this, Oshawa would be a great place to participate in this.”

The report will be up for discussion at the next meeting of regional council, currently set for May 18.