The National Citizens Alliance supports the broad public good of Canadians. From Article III of the NCA Constitution, it states that the NCA vision for Canada is for:
“An egalitarian and peaceful Canadian society built on the foundation of a people-based democracy, where the government is a direct extension of the people. The pillars of society are freedom, fairness, and equality.”
Within this egalitarian, democratic framework supported by freedom, fairness, and equality, the NCA believes that Canadians should have equal rights and opportunities. If one group is receiving a benefit, then no other group with similar need should not have an opportunity at a similar benefit. More specifically, old age security is an income safety net for seniors, and yet there is no adequate safety net for Canadians who are unable to feed themselves on a consistent, reliable basis. The NCA believes that Canadians have a human right to basic food and healthcare as established by Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whereby “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care…” In 1948, Canada committed to upholding this declaration.
Approximately 4 million Canadians (or about 13% of households) are facing food insecurity or unreliable access to basic foods. These Canadians include the most vulnerable: low income families, Aboriginal peoples, households that rely on social assistance, lone-mother households, and renters. Food insecurity is linked to the quality of one’s health from the mere fact of not getting reasonable daily nutrition and intense impact on mental health through social isolation, stress, shame, and stigma. In addition, food insecurity is connected to other social problems such as poverty, homelessness, mental health, addiction, and lack of workforce participation.
Current Federal Food Insecurity Policy
The current federal government deals with food insecurity by relying on a food-based solution or food banks. Food-based solutions focus on individuals as the problem rather than looking at systemic problems such as income inequality. In addition, there is minimal evidence that food banks are adequately addressing food insecurity as illustrated by the fact that less than 25% of food insecure Canadians use food banks. Additionally, food banks are set up to deal with emergency food situations, rather than ongoing food situations from food insecurity. Further, the federal government has no control over food banks, which operate in the charitable corporate sector.
NCA Supports Income Safety Net for Food Insecurity
The NCA recognizes that Canadian food insecurity is a national health problem that is being inadequately addressed by food based solution. The NCA believes that food security (income based solution) similar to old age security would address this national issue directly by those Canadians in need, by ensuring they have income to address their food insecurity. Further due to Canada’s national debt, the NCA believes that overall food security income must at least pay for itself, and if it cannot, only the part of the benefit that can pay for itself will be paid out proportionally based on individual income levels. The NCA believes this can be achieved through lower health costs and a more productive and economical integrated society.
The NCA food security benefit (or guaranteed annual income) would be restricted to Canadians with minimal incomes. As an example of an approximate food security benefit, the NCA used food related data from Alberta. Note, it is unreliable and unsound to use food related data from one province for any other provinces. The NCA will do assessments of each province and territories to determine their food security benefit. In addition, the approximate income poverty line per person is $18,421 annual income after tax.
* The tables below are adapted from Alberta Cost of Eating Report 2008.
In order to properly represent the diverse financial situations of food insecurity of Albertans, 6 common family earning structures are presented and their gross income, net income, food expenditures, housing, childcare, transportation, heating costs are calculated.
The following scenarios below are based on 2008 rates. As of 2008 the cost of goods and services has increase by approximately 8.73 percent in Canada. Also, as of 2008, in Alberta minimum wage has increased by 20.14 percent.
A: Family of four, earning low income. Income 1: $8.40 Income 2: $10.00. Both parents are working 40 hours a week
B: lone mother and 2 children. Income 1: $10.00, mother is working 40 hours a week.
C: lone mother and 2 children living on income support
D: single male supported by disability assistance
E: elderly woman living on pension
F: student supported by student loans, grants and summer employment
Table 1: Calculating Household Costing (Monthly Income- Averaged for Albertans)
|Scenario||Gross Monthly Income||Net Income(includes child and family tax benefits)||Shelter Costs (% of total income)||Food Costs (% of total income)||Transportation costs||Childcare Costs||Remaining|
|B||1600.00||1979||906 (46%)||423 (27%)||140||432||78|
Basic needs excluded from table:
- Health care expenses beyond Alberta Health Care
- Prepared food outside of home
- Housing operation expenses (furniture, appliances, maintenance, cleaning)
- Personal care expenses (haircuts, toiletries)
- Physical and recreational costs
- Educational expenses
- Debt reduction expenses
- Life and home insurance
- Family emergencies
- Family celebration (gifts and parties)
Table 2: Calculating Household Costing, Including Food Subsidy (Monthly Income- Averaged for Albertans)
|Scenario||Gross Monthly Income||Net Income (includes child and family tax benefits)||Food Subsidy||Food Costs [minus subsidy] (% of total income)||Shelter Costs (% of total income)||Transport
|B||1600.00||1979||146||277 (14%)||906 (46%)||140||432||224|
*pension (which is a form of guaranteed annual income) reduces the need for food subsidy except in extreme cases.
To avoid abuse of food security, applicants would be screened based on income need per household. In addition as shown above, the amount of food security income would be at a minimal level, which would discourage dependency.
The NCA believes that Canadians should have freedom of choice over how they spend their food security benefit and that the government should trust Canadians to do right thing. However, the NCA believes that the food security benefit needs to be monitored and piloted in terms of program effectiveness.
The NCA does not support food stamps as a means for addressing food insecurity due to stigma associated with the stamps and the restrictions on the Canadians in exercising their free choice over what food they consume. In addition, the NCA does not support tracking food receipts as a way to monitor because it portrays food security benefit recipients as criminals and assumes that they will or at least could cheat the system. Further, the NCA does not support the food bank as long-term solution to food insecurity. Food banks are set up as an emergency response, and currently they are only meeting 25 percent of the food insecurity needs of Canadians. Also, there are issues with the quality of the food at food banks and the stigma associated with Canadians who use the service. Although the NCA believes there should be some stigma tied to the food security benefit in order to encourage self-sufficiency, it has to be moderated to prevent a counterproductive impacts.
Some of the benefits of food security income would be as follows:
- food security income would be injected back into economy in the form of purchased food and goods;
- lower hospitalization rates;
- higher educational attainment;
- more adults pursuing adult education;
- improved physical and mental health of food insure Canadians;
- protection against budget shocks such as unexpected illness, changes in rent prices, and heating costs over winter; and
- Less pressure on food banks.
The National Citizens Alliance supports the health and well-being of all Canadians. In addition, the NCA acknowledges that access to quality and affordable food is tied directly to the health and well-being of Canadians. Further, NCA believes that by addressing health concerns from food insecurity at the source will prevent additional strain on the healthcare system and promote a healthier society. The NCA plant outlined cuts out unnecessary bureaucracy, and provides those in need with the means to meet their basic food survival needs. The NCA will work with any other party that shares its vision for food secure Canadians through income based solutions.
The NCA welcomes feedback on its policies. Please send policy feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org