August 7, 2018
Re: Ontario’s Basic Income Pilot
Dear Premier Ford,
On behalf of the Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW), I am writing to congratulate you on your election as Premier in Ontario with a strong mandate to move forward your ‘For the People’ vision presented during election 2018.
As the national association voice for the social work profession in Canada, it is our mandate to promote the profession as well as to advance issues of social justice to the Government of Canada. As per our mandate, CASW typically does not wade into areas of provincial jurisdiction.
However given the potential of the Ontario’s Basic Income Pilot to support families in escaping the cycle of poverty, CASW is compelled to write to request that your Government reconsider its decision to ‘wind down’ this initiative.
As I am certain you are aware, Ontario’s Basic Income Pilot is North America’s first and largest basic income trial in more than 40 years. In this regard it has wide cross party support and the world’s attention for its potential in providing the evidence to put an end to income assistance systems that can be inefficient, unjust and stigmatizing.
Another potential benefit of Basic Income is growth of the economy from the inside, as investments to lift Ontarians out of poverty will be most felt in small businesses and local economies. Additionally, as income is one of the most important social determinants of health, addressing the cycle of poverty will significantly help with reducing the overall costs of health care and other sectors in the future.
CASW fully appreciates that the Basic Income Pilot is not currently core to your vision for the people of Ontario. We understand that some perceive that a Basic Income could act as disincentive to work, but the current best evidence supports an entirely different experience: an experience of families using the floor that basic income provides to build their lives out of the cycle of poverty.
Basic income cuts the strings, allowing people the dignity to live and work with the support of a predictable and non-stigmatizing income. Canada needs the Ontario Basic Income Pilot to move forward in order to provide the evidence to either validate or refute these claims.
In writing this letter, CASW is well aware that the federal government has the ability to partner with the provinces and territories in support of a Basic Income. However despite an apparent openness to potential of Basic Income, the calls for the federal leadership in designing and implementing a national program or pilot have yet to be heeded.
Consequently, allowing the Ontario’s Basic Income Pilot to move forward is even more critical to better understanding its possibilities in providing families with a floor to stand on in building capacity and contributing to their communities.
In addition to the fiscal arguments to continue the pilot, CASW must convey our deep disappointment with the immediate consequence of your government’s decision in abruptly changing the lives of families that were promised three years of predictable income; families that will now struggle to stay afloat.
This is a moment in history that CASW urges you to embrace. Similar to the Harper Government’s legacy in addressing mental health through the establishment of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), your government has the potential of establishing a legacy in fundamentally addressing poverty in Canada by embracing the Ontario’s Basic Income Pilot.
On behalf of social workers across Canada and indeed the world, I thank you in advance for leadership in reversing the decision to phase out of Ontario’s Basic Income Project.
Jan Christianson-Wood, MSW, RSW