Efforts by members and supporters of the Mayor’s Advisory Panel on Poverty to have London named as a test market for a basic income will likely kick into high gear Friday.
Between now and January, the province is gathering input from the public to determine the scope of the experiment which may be the largest pilot project yet to test the notion of a basic income in North America.
Mayor Matt Brown’s Poverty Panel released a report back on March 31st with 112 recommendations to “end poverty in London within a generation,” including 27 that the panel hopes to have implemented within a year.
After the Wynne government signaled its intention in this year’s spring budget to hold a basic income pilot project, one of the short term goals in the panel’s report was having London named as a provincial test market for a basic income.
Ontario’s special adviser on basic income, Hugh Segal (pictured), released a discussion paper on Thursday that suggests topping up incomes of the working poor and replacing some of the province’s social assistance programs with a monthly payment of at least $1,320 for a single person. People with disabilities would receive an additional $500.
The aim is to lift people out of poverty while eliminating Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program.
“The main purpose of a Basic Income Pilot must be to test replacing the broad policing, control, and monitoring now present in Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program
(ODSP), with a modestly more generous Basic Income, disbursed automatically to those living beneath a certain income threshold,” said Segal in the report.
Segal recommended the payments for adults between the ages of 18 and 65 be non-taxable, and wants to allow participants to keep a portion of any additional income earned through employment.
Residents can have their say on the pilot project either online or in person at one of 15 public consultations to be held between now and January.
That input will help the province determine where the proposed three-year experiment will be held, and how many people will participate.
Supporters of the Poverty Panel will no doubt champion London as a potential test market, and there’s a chance it could be a good fit.
In his report titled “Finding a Better Way: A Basic Income Pilot Project for Ontario,” Segal recommended including a ‘randomized control trial’ in a large urban centre as well as three ‘saturation sites’ where everyone living in poverty would be included. He suggests a city or town in both northern and southern Ontario along with a First Nations community should be tested.
The project will measure health and education outcomes, food security, life choices (ie: the decision to have children), living arrangements and parenting time, employment status, hours worked and income earned and participants’ perceptions of citizenship and inclusion.
It will also look into how a basic income effects employment insurance, provincial and federal child benefits and other social programs.
“Testing a basic income is a humane and useful way to measure how so many of the costs of poverty (in terms of productivity, health, policing, and other community costs, to name only a few) might be diminished, while poverty itself is reduced and work is encouraged,” Segal said in the report.
The province has vowed to release a final report on the consultations and introduce a plan for the pilot project by April of 2017, which will be within weeks of the one year anniversary of the release of London’s Poverty Panel recommendations.
Recommendations made by London’s Poverty Panel came up in discussions during the National Conference on Ending Homelessness, which wraps up Friday here in London.
Finland, the Netherlands and Kenya are also looking at developing pilot projects that test the idea of a basic or guaranteed annual income.