The following speech was well received by Regional Council members at the Community Services Committee Meeting on June 14th. A recommendation was accepted to put forward a motion to Regional Council in support of Ontario’s basic income pilot project. Council is expected to vote in favour Wednesday June 22nd.
Good afternoon Chair Lorentz and members of the Community Services Committee. My name is Andrea Kauppinen. I am a resident of Kitchener, and I am speaking today on behalf of Basic Income Waterloo Region. So when I say “we,” I am referring to Basic Income Waterloo Region, which is a local advocacy group of residents of the Region dedicated to promoting public awareness and support for basic income. We do this though a number of means including our website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, hosting public discussions, speaking about basic income to local groups and schools and at local events, meeting with local politicians, and more recently through meeting with Regional staff members. We continue to build a network of supporters to both inform the public about basic income and to hear from the public about how basic income would improve their well-being and the well-being of the Region.
I am joined by my colleague John Green, the founder of Basic Income Waterloo Region. John is an Ontario Disability Support Program recipient, which means that he lives in poverty. He was self-employed for several years while on disability, but the combined income from employment and ODSP was unpredictable and often still inadequate. John and I would be pleased to answer any questions you have for us today.
I joined Basic Income Waterloo Region a year and a half ago. I too have lived experience of poverty. I grew up in poverty in the 70s and 80s and was raised and educated by my single mother who supported basic income, or as it was known by many at that time, the guaranteed annual income. I have been facing the symptoms of poverty throughout my life, in my personal life with my family and friends and more recently professionally through my work at KW Counselling. As a basic income advocate and through my volunteer work with Basic Income Waterloo Region, I have been able to move beyond addressing the symptoms of poverty to addressing poverty upstream. And it feels good.
But I want you all to feel good. We commend staff of the Community Services Department for their good work on the report about basic income. We support staff’s recommendation for a council resolution supporting the province’s basic income pilot project and the implementation of basic income. We urge this committee to accept the staff recommendation, and we urge council to adopt the recommended resolution at the next council meeting on June 22. This will indeed be a big day for Waterloo Region and for basic income advocates in Canada and around the world.
Basic income is a transformative social policy and it asks big questions about the kind of society we want for our future. It builds on previous transformative policies, including universal healthcare, continuing the legacy of those who fought hard to see dramatic improvements in the well-being of individuals, families and communities. I’m thinking of the Greatest Canadian, Tommy Douglas, the father of universal healthcare. At the core of such transformative policies is an understanding that, and I’ll quote Tommy, “We are all in this world together, and the only test of our character that matters is how we look after the least fortunate among us.”
Universal healthcare and other important policies that make up Canada’s social contract did not become advancements to a better society without vision and passion at all levels of government and society. Basic income in this regard is no different: it requires vision and passion to see it through to being Canada’s next great social policy innovation.
Basic Income Waterloo Region is connected to the provincial, national and global basic income movements, and we know how important a resolution from the Region of Waterloo will be. Waterloo Region is known in Canada and beyond for its innovation, both technical and social. This Region’s adoption of a resolution in support of basic income will draw considerable attention. The voice of a region of this size and reputation will have considerable influence on other municipalities, provinces and the federal government. I want you all to feel good about that, or better yet, to feel proud.
We encourage the Region to take a leadership role in engaging the public in discussion about basic income. This will support the important role of this Region in participating in the design, implementation and evaluation of basic income. We also urge all of you as individuals to use your influence, as you feel comfortable doing so, to promote basic income in your networks. We would be pleased to support council and individual councillors in efforts to investigate or promote basic income in any way we can.
We would also like to invite you all to our discussion meeting tomorrow evening at the Queen Street Commons Café starting at 7:00. The theme of the discussion is Municipal Government and Basic Income. We will pose questions for discussion, such as What should be the role of municipal government in the promotion and implementation of basic income? It would be helpful to have members of our municipal government in attendance to participate in the conversation.
To close, I want to thank all of you for the important work that you are doing, and are about to do, to make this Region and beyond a much better place for everyone.