Eliminate poverty

Federal MP candidate Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu introductory postcardExplaining my introductory postcard: “Eliminate poverty with a guaranteed annual income”

The scope of the problem

In 1989, the House of Commons voted unanimously to end child poverty by 2000.  Today, Canada continues to have a staggeringly high child poverty rate, with one in six Canadian children living in poverty.  Worse still, the child poverty rate is growing.  Successive Canadian governments have failed to come to grips with the problem.  And Toronto-Danforth is host to a large number of immigrant and low-income families struggling to make ends meet.

The challenge

Ironically, our poverty programmes have contributed to the problem.  Low-income families are forced to navigate a multiplicity of programmes at municipal, provincial and federal levels in order to be adequately housed, fed and clothed.  They stand in line for food banks, they fill out forms for housing, they wait for daycare spaces.  Being poor consumes their time, making it difficult for them to find a way out.

It also consumes a lot of government funds.  A number of studies have shown that programmes for the homeless are more expensive than simply providing housing for free.  The fact that there are so many programmes involved increases the bureaucratic load and increases costs as well.  So in many respects, we’re spending a lot of tax dollars to keep low-income Canadians beaten down and poor.

Finally, our current complicated system of poverty programmes discourages employment.  For example, people with disabilities who have a hard time finding employment turn to disability payments in desperation.  If they are then able to find part-time or temporary work, it threatens their basic income and possibly their housing subsidy.  So instead they are resigned to being passive recipients of government aid with little hope of finding a way out of perpetual dependence.

Guaranteed Annual Income

Ironically, the solution has been discussed and approved by multipartisan government committees for decades – a guaranteed annual income for all Canadians.  We can roll all income support programmes into one giant programme which eliminates bureaucratic duplication and delivers better service.  Fiscal conservatives are attracted to the efficiency of the guaranteed annual income, social progressives like the fact that it is robust and inclusive.

Most importantly, the Guaranteed Annual Income has two spectacular benefits that everyone agrees on.  First it eliminates the stigma from underemployment, disability or simple poverty by establishing the right of every Canadian to live in basic dignity.  Second, it creates a situation where every Canadian, no matter how poor, always has an incentive to make things better — to go to school or get a part-time job without worrying that his lifeline will be cut as a result.

The Green Party will rise to the challenge of implementing this important programme.  With the threats to our economy, we need it now more than ever.

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