Poverty Reduction in Guelph

The following is an excerpt of a September 2015 talk given to the Guelph Wellington Men’s Club by members of CFUW Guelph’s Out of Poverty Working group.

CFUW Guelph is a member of CFUW, the Canadian Federation of University Women. Some of you may know us as the “University Women’s Club of Guelph”, however several years ago we underwent a name change that better reflects the broad national scope of our organization.

Our national organization was founded in 1919, following World War 1, by women who had been blessed by having access to a good education. These educated women were dismayed by the war and were looking for a way for women like themselves to work toward peace through education and equal opportunities for all Canadians.

There are about 100 CFUW Clubs in communities across Canada, including Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Georgetown, Milton and Orangeville. CFUW Guelph was founded in 1945 with Florence Partridge, former librarian at the University of Guelph as our Charter President. Every year since then, the Club has given financial aid, scholarships and grants, to assist students with their education.

What Happens at CFUW Guelph?

  • In common with all CFUW Clubs, we are voluntary, non-partisan, and totally self-funded.
  • We are not a union, though with our name, we are sometimes mistaken for one! But we do like to work in unity with our sister CFUW Clubs as well as with other Guelph, provincial and national organizations which have similar goals.
  • Our ADVOCACY efforts are informed by CFUW policies which arise from grass roots initiatives of local Clubs, are thoroughly vetted and voted on at our annual National conferences.
  • MOVING CANADIANS OUT OF POVERTY is one such policy, which CFUW Guelph brought to the National membership to be voted on in 2013.

Poverty is at the root of many of the issues CFUW is concerned with

  • Family violence
  • Addictions & Mental Health
  • Gender equality
  • Exploitation of girls & women
  • Racism and discrimination
  • Human rights
  • Precarious employment
  • Food & housing insecurity

Poverty in Guelph

  • 6700 households cannot afford suitable housing. Guelph has the lowest vacancy rate in Ontario
  • 1300 households are on the list for social housing
  • 359 individuals (202 adults, 102 youth and 55 children) were homeless in April 2015 (County of Wellington 10 yr. Housing & Homelessness Plan 2015)
  • 6% of Guelph residents have incomes below the low income measure
  • 10% of children in Guelph live in a low-income household
  • 4% of Guelph residents are considered food insecure (cannot afford or do not have access to affordable, healthy food (Addressing Social Determinants of Health- Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health 2013)
  • In 2013, the Living Wage was $15.95 compared to the minimum wage of only $10.25 (GW Task Force for Poverty Elimination 2013)
  • Households are considered low income if they earn less than 50% of the median adjusted household income. The Low Income Measure (LIM) takes family size into account.

Change is needed

“Canada’s welfare system is a box with a tight lid. Those in need must essentially first become destitute before they qualify for temporary assistance.”
Don Drummond, Former Chief Economist TD Bank

What is CFUW Guelph doing to address Poverty?

We advocate Policy Change in the form of a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG). What is a BIG? A basic income guarantee ensures everyone an income sufficient to meet basic needs and live with dignity, regardless of employment status.

“The real problem in our approach to poverty reduction is that it depends on the state and its employees assessing whether poorer fellow citizens are deserving of support. This is both deeply inefficient, fraught with bureaucratic excess and causes the wrong incentives to prevail.”
Former Conservative Senator Hugh Segal

Why a Basic Income Guarantee? Because it WORKS.

  • Canada already has cash transfer programs simulating basic income, such as the Canada Child Tax Benefit, Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement.
  • These programs have significantly reduced Canada’s rates of child and seniors’ poverty.

Those left out are working-age adults. Millions of them suffer in poverty, including many working one or more jobs. Millions more are in precarious work—employment at risk from outsourcing and “robosourcing”, annual incomes in stagnation, and just a paycheque or two away from serious hardship.

Why a Basic Income?

Poverty is expensive. Canada has a complex and uncoordinated set of programs & fiscal measures with different & contradictory purposes and eligibility. There are inherent inefficiencies in redirecting the funds of ineffective and stigmatizing programs that often work at odds with each other. It is estimated that the costs of health care, criminal justice and lost productivity that are attributable to poverty are between $72 and $86 billion per year. Poverty’s demand on health care alone is approaching $40 billion per year.

Basic income & employment

It is a myth that a basic income will encourage people to stop working or bettering themselves. Research from Canada, the United States and overseas demonstrates that basic income has no meaningful effect on work incentive. Between 1974 and 1979, the governments of Manitoba and Canada jointly funded Mincome, an experimental basic income project in the community of Dauphin Manitoba. Although a final report was never released, in 2011, Evelyn Forget, a University of Manitoba economist, published her analysis. She reported that with the exception of mothers of newborns, who choose to stay home with them and teenagers, who remained in school, work efforts remained constant. In addition, there was a decline in overall hospitalization rates (for accidents, injuries, and mental health diagnoses) and high school graduation rates increased.

Basic income is only meant to supplement one’s income so that one’s basic needs are met. Removing worry about survival allows people to focus on self-improvement, creativity and volunteerism.

Who supports a Basic Income?

  • The mayors of Calgary, Edmonton and Charlottetown, the Premier of PEI,
  • Resolutions passed by the Liberal and Green parties of Canada.
  • Canadian Medical Association
  • Public health organizations
  • Senator Art Eggleton (Liberal) and former Senator Hugh Segal (PC)
  • Social justice organizations
  • A growing number of countries around the world