Tag Archives: Ontario

(1121) Basic Income [Book review]

Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World
Roderick Benns, 2016
Fireside Publishing House, Cambridge, ON
289 pages
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s announcement this morning of a three-community basic income pilot project would seem to move us happily to the forefront of one of the most interesting social policy developments in ages.  It also attaches some extra timeliness to an encounter with activist Roderick Benns’s book on the topic.
Basic Income is a compendium of interviews, short articles and Q&A sessions on basic income.  Benns supports a model based on a negative income tax in the amount of fifteen- to twenty-thousand dollars a year.  (The Ontario pilot looks set to utilize an amount of seventeen-thousand dollars annually)  A number of delivery models are possible for a basic income and the idea is to reform a patchy, outdated welfare system and place a minimum economic floor underneath all Canadians.  The book functions as an intellectual diary logging the upward curve of interest basic income has enjoyed in Canada (and globally) over the last two years.
Benns is a true believer in the nicest sense of the term.  His efforts are from the heart.  Basic Income is peppered with the names of patient activists and the high profile Canadian political figures being drawn to this topic.  Words from people in social difficulty describe how their lives might have been improved upon by a basic income and add some moral urgency to this policy matter.
Canadian mayors appear very frequently in Basic Income.  Their words lend this book, and the concept, great strength.  Mayors all over the country were canvassed by Benns in regard to a citizen’s income.  Many weighed in with full enthusiasm, providing supportive quotations based on direct community knowledge.  Indeed, the testimony of mayors from every corner of the country is the strongest component of this book.  The municipal level of government is the one closest to the daily lives of people and who better than mayors to advocate common sense approaches to poverty and hardship?
The age of Internet search engines makes the lack of a table of contents or index somewhat excusable.  The page at the end for further resources is a slim offering, however, considering the importance of social media and the Internet to activism.  Basic Income is very important for content over format, even if the latter could be improved upon cheaply and quickly, in our opinion.
Three years is the length of the basic income pilot confirmed today for Ontario.  Benns’s book offers readers a good tool for understanding and measuring this pilot and the progress of basic income around the world.  No doubt Benns will be watching closesly and sharing insights.
Buy his book and visit his online project: precariouswork.com
Giving more people an opportunity to get ahead and stay ahead.  Ontario basic income pilot to launch in Thunder Bay, Hamilton and Lindsay
news.ontario.ca
Want to end poverty? Let’s talk about a maximum income for Ontario. Anti-poverty groups handed out pamphlets outside RBC’s annual general meeting
torontoist.com

(1118) Debating basic


Last week progressives held a public debate in Toronto on the matter of basic income.  Some of us think such a thing could stop poverty dead while helping us cope with automation.  It was great to see over two hundred people turn out for a live event on behalf of ideas and policies for a better society.  We are big on basic income here but heard powerful moments of caution from the negative side of the debate.
There is a fear that a basic income could be a poison chalice of sorts.  Austerity regimes might use the implementation of a basic income to sweep away what is left of the social contract.  An effective amount is required to prevent that.  Basic income also needs bolstering by other mechanisms that support social justice. That includes everything from good public transit to strong post-secondary education systems and more in between.  Basic income won’t work in a bubble.
Ontario embraces no-strings attached basic income experiment. Province to follow trail blazed by Manitoba in the mid-1970s with plan to lift people out of poverty with unconditional monthly payments
thestar.com
Don’t make ‘basic income’ an excuse for inaction: editorial
the star.com
Basic income is no silver bullet, but it may still save us
Debating what the government of Ontario’s pledged basic income pilot program will look like
torontoist.com

(1114) Call for wage gap transparency


Transparency legislation is the recommended tool for clarifying, and then presumably doing something about, the gap in incomes between men and women in Ontario.  Looking quickly through social media and the mass media there appears to always be lots of dumb commentary denying the entire idea of a pay gap by gender.
Yes, there’s plenty to consider in regard to who gets what in the economy and why they get it.  Factor in race and things become even more complex.  Complexity, however, should not mean ‘impossible to comprehend fairly’.   The incentive is a common sense one: when women do well in the workforce everybody benefits, children, partners, other women, pets, and yup, even the men.
Ontario urged to tackle gender pay gap with transparency law. Gap between men and women’s pay has barely narrowed in three decades, advocates say
thestar.com
Who is minding the gap? New data show the split in annual earnings between men and women persists in Canada, Tavia Grant reports. If the trend isn’t addressed, long-term drawbacks for our economy will be unavoidable
theglobeandmail.com
Equal pay day: a wage gap fact check. How would someone go about finding the true wage gap numbers across gender and race groups in the US? Mona Chalabi investigates on Equal Pay Day
theguardian.com
These are reasons why we need Equal Pay Day
refinery29.com

(1113) Living wage Ontario: treat your staff well


A business of any size should be able to realize a benefit in worker behaviour and community image by paying a little more than minimum wage.  That’s the simple (and lovely) idea behind the living wage movement, represented in Ontario by a non-profit advocacy group or two and, it would seem, a small-but-growing number of employers. This can only be a good thing.

No, the beer isn’t free yet, but for Canadians, it’s only fitting that a brewery is among the early adopters of living wages!  Now to get the big players in every sector doing this.  If someone works forty hours a week and is still in poverty something is wrong.

‘Treat your staff right’: pay employees a living wage, new business alliance says
ctvnews.ca
with 2 videos
Better Way Alliance
Ontario Living Wage Network

(1112) Housing reality in the GTA


Fighting reality usually makes its negative aspects worse.  Yet, who doesn’t find the idea of a detached home with a few trees and some other bits of greenery surrounding it seductive?  It does seem that the reality around that is way ahead of what just may be our biggest commonly held desire.  Funnily enough, when reading Matt Elliot’s piece addressing our housing reality in today’s Metro banner ads popped up featuring a nice three-storey with big trees either side.
Why we should give up on the detached home dream.
Housing deserves a broader conversation. One that recognizes that Toronto must continue to move past its suburban roots

image: Bryan Siders via Flickr/CC

(1111) Toronto gig economy survey

Economic systems tend to be somewhat stacked against young people from the start because they simply have had less time to accumulate things of value in those systems.  With the so-called gig or sharing economy it is starting to look like a significant structural  disadvantage to younger persons has begun to reveal itself.  Many a young worker has education and tech savvy to contribute.  Frustration is rising early on the occupational path as young workers with few options are often encounter the working conditions imposed by app-based and online employers.
“Sharing economy” or on-demand service economy?
A survey of workers and consumers in the Greater Toronto Area
policyalternatives.ca
Toronto’s ‘gig economy’ fueled by young workers starved for choice. A new survey by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives takes the first look at who is working through online platforms in the GTA
thestar.com

image: stavos via Flickr/CC

(1107) Up from underground


From time-to-time, we do give some thought to who gets what in this economy.  There are worse places when it comes to inequality and the general discourse on status than Toronto and area.  Still, some more thought could be directed to where the wealth comes from, Toronto’s role in a global economy.  This feature brings our eyes and minds to one of our most important economic inputs: mining.  An input that helps make Toronto what it is but which remains obscure, unconsidered.

Toronto’s buried history: the dark story of how mining built a city. Even most residents don’t know Toronto is the global headquarters of the mining industry – but scratch the surface and some uncomfortable truths are revealed
theguardian.com

(1106) Precarious housing in the GTA


Spending a third of your income on housing is generally considered a reasonable proposition.   The idea is to have money available for other forms of consumption, like healthy food primarily, while  allowing for some resources to support other needs such as moderate savings or recreational activities.  Does that sound like too much to ask for  in a country like Canada, doubly so in its largest connurbation?  Not to us, but a recent feature on cbc.ca describes a fairly typical reality in which half or more of a person’s income goes to the rent.  This pressure is a major part of what constitutes precarious housing, along with issues of security and good repair.
Precarious housing means thousands may live on the brink of homelessness. 136K households pay more than 50% of income on rent, utilities
cbc.ca/news
Rent asunder: Landlords using evictions, hikes to circumvent rent control, Toronto tenants say. A growing number of tenants say their landlords are forcing them out to charge higher rent, according to data from Ontario’s rental-dispute board. Jeff Gray and Tom Cardoso investigate
theglobeandmail.com

(1103) Frontier City [Book Review]

Frontier City. Toronto on the Verge of Greatness
Shawn Micallef, 2016
Signal $29.95 hard cover
272 pages
Frontier City is about political events in Toronto mid decade and its author’s mission to understand his massive city.
By political events, of course we mean Rob Ford and his train wreck of a mayoralty.
Micallef is a writer, academic and walker.  He’s a believer in seeing for himself. Starting with a Ford Nation barbecue (where lots of people were apparently perfectly nice!) he then goes off into the Los Angeles-scaled sprawl from where Ford drew so much of his resentful strength. It took a couple of years of this direct experience, getting around to the far flung wards of Toronto and walking them in the company of twelve political underdogs from the 2014 election, to get the job done. A worthy effort, indeed. If you want the real thing as to how political and social reality work together in the super-sprawl of the GTA nowadays you won’t do better than Frontier CIty.
Of course, this blog would like life to be simpler than Micalleff’s findings. We admit our emotions would be more satisfied by a deeper hatred of Big Rich Rob and his whack job performance as ‘mayor’.  Frontier City is why we have (and need) public intellectuals. Bloggers can do only so much of the heavy lifting.  Micallef sorts through a huge number of things within the realms of history, planning, economics to create a picture of where Toronto is at.
The picture is disturbing and tough to balance. After decades of looking to the future many of us can be forgiven for wondering why the present is so crap.
Consider the 3-billion dollar single-stop subway for Scarborough. That’s just one self-inflicted thing driving us crazy and showing us our faults as we try to realize our potential. Things ought to be so good here that electing a fucked up slob like Rob Ford ought to have been the last thing on anybody’s mind. That guy cancelled Transit City at the cost of $65m dollars. And his thing, apparently, was saving money? We really may be on the edge of a dark age and a vast nobody-to-blame-but-ourselves wastage.
Public transit issues appear again and again in Frontier City. All the really cheerful things that suburban-poverty.com trades in are found, too, from bed bugs to tower blocks.  Anyone looking into the recent history of Canada’s biggest community will find this book a worthy read. I would have liked an index, maybe a further reading list as well and a map.  These handy things don’t cost much and they up the value and relevance of hardcover books – objects that typically now cost several hours pay at minimum wage.
Even more, I’d have liked at least one chapter on solutions going forward.  A more direct consideration of neoliberalism, the grand grinding ideology of our inequitable times might have helped as well.  The passage about infrastructure and storytelling was great, powerful and could be a book someone ought to write.
Frontier CIty isn’t quite angry enough for us but we really liked this one and think you will, too.
See also:
(808) The New Urban Agenda [Book review]
(664) Brunch is the new crystal meth [Book review]