Annual basic income pilot project about to take off

Annual basic income pilot project about to take off

By PAT WATSON

Four thousand households in Hamilton, Thunder Bay and Lindsay are about take part in what has been termed a pilot project to learn the effects of receiving an annual basic income.

This experiment set to run for three years has been decades in the making, with retired Conservative senator Hugh Segal having been a driving force.

The $75-million fund will give provide single persons just under $17,000 per year, equivalent to 75 per cent of an annual low-income measure of about $22,650, while couples would receive about $24,000. A feature of the plan would be to take back 50 per cent of any earned income. People with a low income, and that includes disability payments, are the priority applicants for the pilot program.

The fact that the Ontario government is even going ahead with this experiment means a level of recognition of the failure of the poverty paradigm. It actually costs more money to maintain a segment of society below the low-income median, with all the various fields that are funded to ostensibly assist those living in poverty. Note that some occupations help people who are in poverty. It does not help them out of poverty. Helping agencies are chronically underfunding so that they are never fully effective enough in their mandate. Furthermore, professionals in the social service field are chronically overworked, bogged down by whatever policy limitations exist within the agencies that employ them and endless – some would say needless – paperwork.

A recent series of reports in the Toronto Star for example detail what happened in the process of finding an apartment for one man who had been living on the streets for a number of years. The main point was the agency tasked with this is understaffed and therefore cannot be as efficient and thorough in supporting clients to a better transition away from living on the streets or spending winter nights in bug and disease infested temporary shelters.

The client eventually moved back to the streets because the $950 per month basement apartment was substandard. That is a failure of service.

The range of reasons that find people ending up within the low-income sector is varied. One in particular being felt by a broad group is the changing nature of the job market. The increasing demand for skills that service the robotics and Internet revolution has caught many entering the labour force unprepared. Without hard skills, the low-wage service industry is then the job option most widely available.

The other trend toward limited-term, project-specific employment has given rise to a population of workers newly termed the precariat, in reference to the precariousness of job stability. Precariats participate in the gig economy – as in a gig here and a gig there. This is not a foundation for a stable life.

People who cannot find a decent income are less likely to live independently. Already in Toronto, 56.5 per cent of young people in Toronto still live with their parents. People still dependent on their parents in one way or another are not about to get married and start families. That may sound nice for those who believe in limiting population, but with an aging population and not enough caregivers available, the picture begins to look different. Furthermore, these demographics are growing.

Let’s hope therefore, this pilot project shows great results. When a similar experiment was done in the farming town of Dauphin, Manitoba from 1974-79, there were significant positive outcomes including an increase in school attendance, improved quality of family life, decrease in domestic violence and markers of improved health and wellness.

The time has come for a new income distribution paradigm. Universal basic income may be an answer if it is configured for optimal benefit. My main fear has to do with what typically results when the bureaucracy takes priority.

A note on the March for Science…

The problem is not with scientific discovery; it is with formulation and interpretation. Remembering the history of scientific experimentation using Black bodies, we must be very circumspect.

Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter @patprose.

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The Hangover, my version

 

washinghairDecember 31 — the last night of what had been a peculiar year, to say the least– I watched the hours and minutes run down with my typical celebration. A few hours earlier in the evening, I did what many a wishful thinker would, rushed out to the local convenience store and bought a lottery ticket. There had been cosmic signs all week prior about the appearance of a certain number that would be the key with my name on it to unlocking the million-dollar win. I did this despite a conversation with the Great Cosmic Voice that had told me earlier in the year I was free to buy lottery tickets for my own amusement but I wasn’t going to win. Yet, since a certain number kept appearing, it being the number nine, I decided that maybe there as a bit of a wobble in the space-time continuum that would let me slip through. Or maybe, I could cheat using clever insight. After all, the individual digits in the year 2016 add up to nine.

Anticipation of the result of my little amusement was more interesting to me than TV news flashes of mass midnight celebrations the world over, made effervescent by firework artistry. There was no need to keep watch for the clock rolling over to midnight with the usual 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 and musical break out of Auld Lang Syne. Like a World Cup soccer match, so many millions are fixed on a moment that you can feel when it happens without having to be tied to a television screen or radio. Instead, my media report had to be about whether or not those numbers sussed out from the ether would change my 2017.

At the stroke of midnight, with the sound of fireworks bursting somewhere in the neighbourhood, there online, appearing first, was the number nine. Nevertheless, all my other clever purmutations of the number failed to present themselves. I had so wanted to have something on the crest of this New Year to be my own version of effervescent fireworks. Instead, I felt deflated.

Checking social media moments later meant looking at short messages which, inbetween wishes for a ‘Happy New Year’, continue to ruminate over the strangeness of the electoral results in the U.S.

Although the sum total of my bubbly consumption on New Year’s Eve consisted of ginger ale thinned with club soda to mitigate the sweetness, I still woke on the first day of 2017 with a post New Year’s Eve hangover — the emotional kind.

Thankfully, January 1 was a sunny day in this region, which helped lessen the despair. The other hangover treatment that made a difference was to take a hot shower and thoroughly wash 2016 out of my hair. washinghair