MPP says well-designed basic income could result in better care of aging parents

Roderick Benns

Ontario MPP, France Gélinas, says a well-designed basic income policy could help women stay home if they want to take care of their aging parents.

Gélinas, an MPP with Ontario’s New Democratic Party (NDP) and a health critic for her party, says women in the 50-65 age bracket often find themselves in the difficult position of placing their mother or father in a long term care home.

“Many women – and let’s be honest, it’s mostly women who would choose this – would love to stay home and take care of their moms and dads,” says Gélinas.

“If they had a basic income it would be possible,” she says, and without any stigma attached to such a decision.

Now, most women can’t afford to lose their jobs in order to do this, she says, and so the business of long term care flourishes.

However, the MPP says it takes $90,000 a year to keep someone in a long-term care bed in Ontario. If someone were to receive even a $20,000 annual basic income it would still be “way cheaper.”

“Will there be a disincentive to work? Well, let’s not kid ourselves. It’s a ton of ‘work’ to keep your mom or dad at home – it’s demanding and tough but many would choose to do it,” she says.

She says she knows “how hard it is for people to place their parents in a long term care home. If you give them another option, they will usually take it.”

The MPP says Canadians hear with too much regularity about abuse that happens in long term care homes. A basic income would help adult children take care of elderly moms and dads for longer.

This would be “phenomenal for health outcomes for the elderly” and women, as the dominant caregivers, “would not be condemned to live in poverty,” she says.

More Money is a Healthy Choice

Gélinas says the body of evidence is solid that for every $1,000 dollars a family gets there is measurable improvement in their health.

A single man getting around $700 per month (the approximate rate of social assistance in Ontario) is “pretty bad,” says Gélinas.

At $1,320 per month – the amount recommended by special government adviser Hugh Segal for a basic income program – “this person will automatically be healthier,” she adds.

“Income has a direct impact.”

Where it becomes worrisome with basic income, says Gélinas, is for someone on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). Even with the additional $500 per month that Segal is recommending, she notes there are often many expenses that total more than this for people with disabilities.

For instance, someone in a wheelchair living in rural northeastern Ontario – where Gélinas’ riding is located – automatically means additional expenses. Not only would this person need a larger apartment so they can get around with their wheelchair, she says, but there is also a lack of some medical services in the area. Right now, ODSP will cover the full cost of travel to a larger centre for specialist appointments, including hotels and transportation.

Gélinas points out that like anything with wheels, even wheelchairs give out and need to be replaced, too. “So that extra money per month (from the recommended basic income) won’t be enough” unless there are other accommodations, she says.

As well, she says if the government is looking for cost savings associated with shuttering ODSP offices and workers, she doesn’t think this is advisable.

“I think it would be short-sighted. The ODSP workers, they help a lot and so many people depend on them” for guidance in their day-to-day living.

Gélinas says the NDP will be waiting to see what the Ontario government comes up with more specifically on basic income before endorsing just any version of it.