Welland city councillors hope to help influence a major change in the way the 14.9 per cent of Canadians living in poverty are assisted.

Councillors Tuesday night added their support to a motion from the City of Kingston to lobby the federal and provincial governments to work towards developing a basic income guarantee for all Canadians.

“People living in poverty right now are vulnerable and they’re open to social difficulties, health issues and more stress,” said Councillor Bonnie Fokkens.

Poverty, she said, can lead to problems in society that cost more to deal with than resolving poverty itself.

Haldimand-Norfolk has the worst record for food insecurity in Ontario, and health officials want more done to fight poverty locally.

Laura Goyette, a dietitian with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, urged Norfolk councillors at last week’s board of health meeting to get behind a movement to change the way organizations deal with food insecurity.

“We need to move away from food charity,” Goyette said in a phone interview

There are hard benefits to alleviating poverty.

The problem is that the methodologies that show these benefits tend not to be used in traditional budgeting.

1. We tend not to look at Direct and Indirect Savings

2. We seldom count the costs of Inaction (Cost of Poverty)

3. We almost never do Cost Benefit Analysis

Each of these different types of analyses offers a different way of looking at poverty reduction. By ignoring the offsets, savings and benefits that could be estimated using these methods, decision-makers otherwise miss out on the chance to understand the economic returns related to investment in poverty reduction efforts.

The creation of a broader balance sheet can refute the incorrect conclusion that poverty reduction only relates to those low-income residents who are directly impacted. Reducing poverty has positive impacts for all Torontonians.

Food insecurity is not just about nutrition. It is about hopelessness and despair. It leads to high stress levels, mental health problems, more frequent and serious health problems, poorer decision-making and the inability of children to concentrate at school. It is a vicious cycle that keeps people from realizing their potential, caring properly for their families and contributing to their communities.

Food banks, and the generosity of those who support them and volunteer at them, keep some food on the table.

But as a society, we need to figure out a system that doesn’t rely on welcome but highly variable charitable donations to keep all our citizens healthy, happy and well-fed.

A new federal government, with commitments to a national food policy and to a Canadian poverty-reduction plan, presents the opportunity for a new conversation about government accountability and public policy.

Key to this strategy is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s commitment, made following the cabinet swearing-in ceremony, to evidence-based policy-making. This is essential for thinking and acting outside the charitable food-aid box and for moving beyond the public perception that charity is an effective response to domestic hunger when evidence-based research tells otherwise.

Professor Valerie Tarasuk, Canada’s leading food insecurity expert, unequivocally states that “although there has been rigorous measurement of household food insecurity in Canada since 2005, the problem has not abated, it has grown.”

The challenge of food insecurity is one of the great issues of our time.

Canadian research indicates that 12 per cent of Canadians are food insecure, forced into hunger, poor-quality food or both. That’s four million Canadians and one of every six children.

In addition to the human tragedy of this, there are enormous societal costs. A study published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that food insecurity increased the cost of health-care services by 23 per cent among those only marginally food insecure, and by 121 per cent among the most food insecure in Canada.

Utrecht takes step toward paying people a salary whether they work or not

It’s an idea whose adherents over the centuries have ranged from socialists to libertarians to far-right mavericks. It was first proposed by Thomas Paine in his 1797 pamphlet, Agrarian Justice, as a system in which at the “age of majority” everyone would receive an equal capital grant, a “basic income” handed over by the state to each and all, no questions asked, to do with what they wanted.

To those who say it is an unaffordable pipedream, [Utrecht Councillor Lisa] Westerveld points out the huge costs that come with the increasingly tough benefits regimes being set up by western states, including policies that make people do community service to justify their handouts. “In Nijmegen we get £88m to give to people on welfare,” Westerveld said, “but it costs £15m a year for the civil servants running the bureaucracy of the current system. We will save money with a ‘basic income’.”