By now the Mincome experiment is well known. In the 1970s, every resident of Dauphin, a small Manitoba town, was given the option to collect substantial cash payments without work requirements.

One of the most important, but overlooked, virtues of basic income is the absence of social stigma. The routine humiliation of the poor, an enduring feature of highly conditional social assistance systems, melts away in a universally available basic income regime. As one Dauphin participant wrote midway through the experiment, “It trusts the Canadian people and leaves a man or woman, their pride.”

In a perfect world, everyone would always have enough to eat, and would never have to go without just to make rent. In the imperfect world we live in, this isn’t the case: poverty exists, accidents happen, sudden job losses occur, and people fall ill.

As a society, we established a system of social welfare programs because we wanted to take better care of each other and ensure that everyone had access to basic needs, even during hard times. It was an effort to get a little bit closer to that perfect world.

On Monday, a new report was released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that demonstrates the gap between where we currently are and our vision of where we’d like to be.

It seems like a marriage made in heaven. Eliminate the vast amount of food waste in our society by giving it to the poor and hungry. No more hunger. No more waste. At least that’s what advocates for food-waste-to-the-poor schemes will have us believe. Here at home, MP Ruth-Ellen Brosseau will bring her private member’s bill, C-231, Fight Against Food Waste Act, to the House of Commons for second reading today.

But this is a relationship doomed before it even begins. That’s because this bill and other initiatives like it fail to address the real root causes of hunger and food waste. In fact, by conflating and confusing these issues, it makes it harder to develop meaningful and effective strategies to address both of these growing problems.

Simply put, food waste will never be able to address hunger because hunger isn’t about a lack of food. It’s about a lack of income. People are food insecure because they can’t afford to eat.

The Toronto Star featured Pauline Bryant and Tracy Mead, leaders of the Put Food in the Budget campaign in this story on Ontario’s Social Assistance Poverty Gap (see here). The analysis by the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives says the poverty gap has jumped by almost 200% since 1993.

When asked by the Toronto Star about the Basic Income pilot Pauline said “We can’t wait another ten years for pilot projects.” In response to the same question Tracy said “If they are really serious about a basic income they have to increase welfare rates first, you have to have a reasonable floor to build on.”

On Monday night Pauline and Tracy challenged Premier Wynne in person at a community meeting where she was talking about ‘social justice policy’. Pauline interrupted Premier Wynne to give her a copy of our report ‘Food Banks Are Not Enough’ and to tell her that Wynne has to raise the rates and put food in the budget in order to live up to her promise to be the social justice premier. (See Pauline video here).

We also told the audience that Premier Wynne is misleading them about the priority her government gives to poverty reduction by pointing out that social assistance rate increases have been less than inflation every year the Liberals have been in government, including Wynne’s term. We also told the audience that Kathleen Wynne is proposing reforms to campaign donations that would see limits on donations be indexed to increase with inflation! (see here) while social assistance rates are not indexed to inflation. We asked Wynne repeatedly in front of the audience of 100 why she did not index rates to inflation and she consistently deflected the question.

“Whether you are single, a single parent, or a family with children, if you qualify for social assistance in Ontario, you fall below the poverty line,” says economist Kaylie Tiessen. “The gap is starkest for singles on Ontario Works and is dramatically worse than 20 years ago.”

If the province is serious about fighting poverty, it should raise welfare rates as well as tax credits such as the Trillium Benefit, a monthly payment to all low-income people that provides relief for sales tax, property tax and energy costs, she says.

“Both are necessary,” she says. “One would be investing to ensure that people are receiving enough money to get by regardless of their employment status. And another would be to improve the social assistance rate structure.”