Sept 2018 BOH - Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District BOH Letter re Cancellation of Basic Income Pilot Project

haliburton, kawartha, pine ridge district health unit logo

Hon. Lisa MacLeod
Minister of Children, Community and Social Services
14th Floor, 56 Wellesley St. W
Toronto, ON M7A 1E9
Sent via email to:

August 17, 2018

Dear Minister MacLeod,

Re: Cancellation of the Basic Income Pilot Project

On behalf of the Board of the Health for the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit, I am writing to urge you to reconsider the decision to cancel the Ontario Basic Income Pilot Project. This very important initiative would have provided the Province with valuable information regarding the impact of basic income on health, social, and economic well-being.

In a position statement released in June of 2016 (attached), the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (Health Unit) cited research and evidence in its support of Basic Income Guarantee as an essential component of a strategy to effectively eliminate poverty, ensure all Canadians have a sufficient income to meet their basic needs, and live with dignity and to eliminate health inequities.

The Health Unit believes that eliminating poverty is an urgent public health and health equity issue, as well as a human rights and social justice issue. Research clearly indicates that people living in poverty are more likely to experience poorer health, have chronic health conditions, more injuries, and have a disability. Those living with low-income have a greater use of a variety of health care and social services and are more likely to live shorter lives.

The recent cancellation of the 3-year Basic Income Pilot Project will impact more than the 4,000 Ontarians who are currently committed to the Project. The research to be gleaned from this Project had the potential to impact the 1.7 million Ontarians who are living in poverty. In addition to the cancellation of the research project, the proposed cuts to the previously planned increase in social services rates (from 3% to 1.5%) and the 50% reduction in the amount of allowable earned income for those on social assistance are extremely concerning. These cuts directly contradict the significant volume of available evidence indicating that it is costlier, and socially unjust to keep people in the province living with inadequate income to meet their basic needs. As the Association of Local Public Health Agencies (alPHa), expressed in its August 2, 2018 letter to you, the Basic Income Pilot Project was based on a well thought out, researched proposal, which had received valuable input from over 35,000 Ontarians. To so abruptly cancel this Project undermines the investments made both financially and personally by many Ontario citizens. The unethical and unjust treatment of the participants from Lindsay, Hamilton-Brant, and Thunder Bay is unconscionable.

Previous research on Basic Income Guarantee programs demonstrates substantial benefits such as decreased hospitalization rates, work-related injuries, emergency department visits and mental illness consultations. The Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) is considered by many economists and researchers as an economically sound and an effective policy option to reduce the number of programs and their associated costs, and to streamline the effort to tackle poverty. It is predicted that BIG will cost less than the current amounts spent on social programs, housing, justice and health care needs.

The Health Unit’s position statement also acknowledges the success of existing guaranteed income supplement programs (Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplements for seniors), which provide evidence of improved health status and quality of life for recipients.

Although the causes of poverty are complex, and a multipronged approach is required to improve health, the Basic Income Guarantee is one policy approach that could reduce the economic barriers to good health and ensure low-income individuals and families in Ontario have a sufficient income to meet their basic needs and live with dignity.

Continuation of the Basic Income Pilot Project would allow researchers to fully assess the impact of the Basic Income Guarantee on labour participation, health, social engagement, food security, housing stability and educational activities. We know through anecdotal reports from our staff, that participants in the Lindsay Pilot Project located in our Health Unit area, have already experienced benefits of BIG in terms of improved housing, ability to further education to improve employment opportunities, ability to purchase more nutritious food and reduced reliance on food banks.

The Health Unit therefore respectfully requests that the Basic Income Pilot Project be reinstated and allowed to be completed as originally planned. By completing the Project, the evidence obtained would then serve to guide further action for policies and programs to reduce poverty, thereby improving the health and well-being for all people in the Province of Ontario.

Yours truly
A. Lynn Noseworthy, MD, MHSc, FRCPC
Medical Officer of Health


Attachment: Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit Position Statement-Basic Income Guarantee

Copy to (via email):
Hon. Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario
Hon. Christine Elliott, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health
Roselle Martino, Assistant Deputy Minister, Population and Public Health Branch
MPP Laurie Scott
MPP David Piccini
City of Kawartha Lakes
Haliburton County
Northumberland County
Central-East Local Health Integration Network
Loretta Ryan, Executive Director, Association of Local Public Health Agencies
Pegeen Walsh, Executive Director, Ontario Public Health Association
Ontario Boards of Health
Association of Municipalities of Ontario