By Roderick Benns
The Ontario Mental Health and Addictions Alliance has come down squarely in favour of providing a basic income guarantee for Canadians. In a statement the Alliance points out that a disproportionate number of people with mental illness live in poverty.
“Poverty, in turn, can be a significant risk factor for poor physical and mental health. Too many people with a mental illness can and want to work but are either unable to find employment, are hindered by social assistance programs that penalize them for working, or are employed in minimum-wage work that leaves them below the poverty line,” the release points out.
Therefore, the Alliance believes that “governments at all levels should work towards the establishment of a basic income guarantee.”
“Evidence suggests that compared to current social assistance programs, a basic income guarantee could dramatically improve standards of living and health outcomes – at less cost to taxpayers. It would be particularly beneficial for people with mental illness and/or addictions and their children.”
Housing is becoming less affordable in Canada as well, and the federal government is increasingly withdrawing funding from social housing. The Alliance points out that:
“Canada needs a National Housing Strategy with a clear vision and measurable targets to ensure that all citizens have a place to call home. Access to clean and safe affordable housing is critical to physical and mental health and wellness. With the right housing and supports, people experiencing mental illness and/or addictions can sustain a stable and healthy environment for themselves and their children.”
According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), in any given year, one in five people in Canada experiences a mental illness or addiction and more than 6.7 million people are living with a mental illness or addiction today.
Canadians in the lowest income group are three to four times more likely than those in the highest income group to report poor to fair mental health.
The Mental Health Commission of Canada estimates that the economic burden of mental illness and addictions in Canada is $51 billion per year, which represents nearly three percent of Canada’s gross domestic product. According to a 2006 study by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, the total societal cost of substance abuse in Canada is nearly $40 billion, or $1,267 for every Canadian.
In view of the staggering impact of mental illness and addictions on the lives of Canadians, the Alliance “urges all federal political parties to make mental health and addictions an election priority.”