With basic income, B.C. has the chance to pick up where Ontario left off

Vancouver Sun

Opinion

The cancellation of Ontario’s basic income pilot project was a major disappointment for the low-income participants who were counting on three years of secure income and for those who were counting on the research data evaluating the program’s success.

It was a bold experiment, where people with low incomes in five communities received monthly payments of $1,416 as individuals or $2,000 as couples. The researchers would measure whether those funds would improve the recipients’ overall health and mental wellness, as well as housing stability, education and training, employment and use of healthcare services.

Without that data, we don’t know if a basic income would have helped to improve the lives of those who received it in Ontario, but we do know that the pilot project served people who continually struggle to make ends meet — the same population that has the highest risk for developing chronic disease.

In B.C., those living in our poorest communities are between 24 per cent and 91 per cent more likely to die early from chronic diseases such as cancer, respiratory diseases, circulatory diseases and diabetes, depending on the disease.

We know that without adequate income, the 550,000 British Columbians experiencing poverty don’t get an opportunity to make healthy choices for themselves or their families. We also know that people who have disabilities or are ill are more likely to live below the poverty line which can worsen their condition.

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