On May 11th, Kitchener’s Council met for an online 'Special Council' meeting. You can watch it here if interested. Here’s a few of the highlights and some of my thoughts on that meeting.
The first thing up for discussion was a motion put forth by Councillor Davey which essentially requested federal government funding to assist Canadian municipalities in managing the financial impacts of the pandemic. The motion was seconded by Councillor Singh. This motion is similar to a recently passed motion by the Region of Waterloo and many other municipalities are doing the same. After a few clarifying questions and discussion, this motion passed unanimously.
The next proposed motion, and the reason for my interest in this council meeting, was made by Councillor Ioannidis in relation to Universal Basic Income (UBI). This motion encourages the provincial government to work with the federal government on implementing a Universal Basic Income. This motion resulted in quite a bit of discussion.
First off, Councillor Chapman asked Councillor Ioannidis what his understanding of universal basic income is and how it would reduce the strain on health and social services. Councillor Ioannidis said he’s not an expert on this, but thinks that all options should be on the table and is therefore encouraging upper levels of government to consider UBI.
Councillor Chapman said that she supports this motion in principle but has some concerns and questions of what is actually being proposed. Will it be geared to income so it's not a blanket 'across-the-board' program? She seemed to be concerned about the ‘universality’ of the program, preferring a more targeted approach to ensure those most in need would get these resources. She ended by noting that she may come back with an amendment to this motion.
Councillor Marsh applauded this motion since we see the benefits of government support right now in this pandemic. She also wondered, like Councillor Chapman, if the goal is UBI or a ‘guaranteed minimum income’. She says she’ll support the motion or possibly an amendment.
Councillor Davey sought clarification of whether this motion even falls within municipal jurisdiction at all. The clerk said there are examples of this type of motion happening previously. Councillor Singh also had some concerns about the motion, especially around the idea of everyone receiving it versus only ‘those who most need it’. He wondered if UBI may deplete the government’s ability to focus on those most needing the financial support. Councillor Ioannidis did note that there can be some efficiencies by providing funds to everyone, as we have seen with the implementation of the CERB currently.
Councillor Chapman asked Councillor Ioannidis what he sees happening to the ~33 existing social transfer programs (federal and provincial combined). He responded that the details can be figured out during those discussions at higher levels of government. His motion is to urge those conversations to happen in the first place.
Councillor Chapman put forth an amendment that changed the wording from Universal Basic Income to Guaranteed Minimum Income. Mayor Vrbanovic is not sure there's really much difference between the two. Councillor Ioannidis kept his original motion, so the amendment is now put forth to be voted upon.
Councillor Davey says he can't support this. He feels that we're unclear on details and it's an issue for a completely different level of government. This is not the time to ask, and is kind of embarrassing to consider the request, after just asking for federal funding for cities.
You can see comments from many of the Councillors in this thread. However, the vote on Councillor Chapman’s amendment (with the word change to ‘Guaranteed Minimum Income’) fails with 4 in favour, 7 against (in favour: Davey, Marsh, Chapman, Johnston; Against: Vrbanovic, Gazzola, Michaud, Galloway-Sealock, Singh, Ioannidis, Schnider). That meant the original motion would now be voted on. It passed with an 8-3 vote. In favour: Vrbanovic, Marsh, Schnider, Michaud, Chapman, Galloway-Sealock, Johnston, Ioannidis. Against: Singh, Davey, Gazzola.
I was glad to see this passed as I think a conversation on the best way to support all residents is needed now more than ever, and I hope that any such conversation considers the benefits of a universal basic income. Now the next step is to convince those upper levels of government to actually have those conversations. I’ll share more on how we can encourage exactly that in future posts, so stay tuned.
The Committee also voted on economic recovery supports, and some bylaws, such as street name changes. Again, if that interests you, you can watch the entire meeting here.