Julia Taylor is the proud new owner of Country Cupboard in Fenelon Falls, a health and bulk food store that has been a community staple for 35 years in the village.
Her belief is that it couldn’t have happened without a kind of ‘basic income’ that she counted on back in 2012 when her first child was born – the Canada Child Benefit.
“Receiving that benefit topped up our income so I didn’t have to go back to work -- it was my guaranteed basic income,” Taylor says, noting the similarities between the Canada Child Benefit and the ‘basic income guarantee’ program currently being piloted in Lindsay and two other Ontario cities.
Like basic income, the Canada Child Benefit comes with no strings attached for families.
“While I was at home,” says Taylor, “I was able to delve into my passions and devote a lot of hours into local initiatives, policy, and advocacy through volunteer work.”
She says that it was through having the time to volunteer that she was able to hone in on and develop her passions and skills. She also met great colleagues who inspired her and who also made excellent resources and connections for future jobs.
“I strongly believe that I would not be a business owner, doing a job that I love, where I can make a difference in our community if I wasn’t given the freedom to explore my interests through government supplements,” says Taylor.
Taylor’s linking of the Canada Child Benefit with basic income policy is exactly what the Basic Income Canada Network (BICN) has been saying for years.
When BICN made its submission to the House of Commons Finance Committee pre-budget consultations in 2016, they urged that a basic income would be created that would be universally available to Canadians in times of need.
At the time, BICN Chair Sheila Regehr noted that the Canada Child Benefit is an excellent example of a limited basic income because the money comes with no strings attached for families.
There are some prevailing stereotypes about what happens when adults are simply given money, she wrote, such as that “people won’t work unless they are forced by rules or deprivation,” that “taxing people’s income makes them reduce their work effort,” and that people in poverty “are more likely than those who are better off to make poor decisions.”
Yet it is the reverse that happens, the BICN submission notes.
Basic income is more like a “kind of infrastructure for individuals and families.”
It would allow them to “be healthier and more productive in many aspects of their lives, whether that is parenting and caring, learning and developing skills, managing an illness, weathering a setback, working for someone else or creating something new.”
Backing up what Taylor says about having the time to volunteer, meet the right people, and develop the skillsets she needed to become a business owner, Regehr also pointed to having the time to set new ideas in motion.
In addition to contributing to social cohesion and community health, Regehr wrote that a basic income also “supports the innovation agenda by enabling individuals to develop their own creative and entrepreneurial ideas.”
If you live in Lindsay, Hamilton or Brant County, or Thunder Bay, there's still time to sign up for the Ontario Basic Income Pilot. Simply visit this link and register for an open session.
-- This article was originally published in The Lindsay Advocate.