Kingston city council is the first elected body in Canada to endorse the concept of a guaranteed income.

A lengthy motion, passed on Tuesday night by a unanimous 13-0 vote, calls on municipalities across the country to adopt similar resolutions and send notice to their provincial and federal leaders.

… a guaranteed income is not a disincentive for finding work; income is not wasted; and the cost to taxpayers is partially offset by the fact that governments would no longer require large bureaucracies to oversee welfare system payments.

In 2004, Canada spent about $130 billion a year on federal and provincial transfer payments such as employment insurance, social assistance and the child tax benefit.

After more than 30 years, we know that food banks are not the answer. It is time to reinvest in our social safety net. A Basic Income Guarantee (or Guaranteed Annual Income) to essential needs, including shelter and food, would mean that no one goes hungry in this immensely wealthy country. Then the food banks could close and finally declare an end to the emergency.

“The federal and provincial governments need to do more to address the reasons why people have to go to food banks.” That’s the view of Marilyn Hermann, Executive Director of Surrey Food Bank.

Peter Sinclair, Executive Director of Nanaimo Loaves & Fishes Community Food Bank, asserts, “I think first and foremost, support from the government for people living in poverty needs to be increased.”

Graham Riches, emeritus professor of social work at the University of British Columbia, says there needs to be a full public debate about the role of food banks and the concept of “using surplus food and wasted food to actually feed hungry people.” That debate, that discussion, he says, needs to be “out in the public”.

Riches questions why the CBC, a public institution, is supporting food bank drives when the real debate should be about the right to food. His question is not rhetorical, but he gets no good answer. Actually, he gets no answer at all.

Judy Haiven, a professor at St. Mary’s University, “cringed” last January when she heard Michael Enright’s opinion piece on the benefit of giving socks to the homeless. So she wrote an opinion piece of her own, in which she says:

“How nice of us! We give the poor our castoff and mostly boring tinned food because they don’t deserve to eat the nice food we eat (except for the special Christmas dinners at the shelters or church basements). And we give the poor socks, (Chinese-made in factories that pay workers pennies an hour) because socks are essential cushions and feetwarmers for the feet of poor people who must trudge kilometres, from the shelter breakfast to the drop-in centre to the church basement, in search of three meals each day.”

If they lock you out … take it to the street

When CBC locked them out in Kitchener, that’s what Alliance Against Poverty did. Raise the Rates did the same in Vancouver.

If they change the discourse … get back to the point

That’s what PFIB is doing in Toronto

If they won’t answer the question … keep up the pressure

That’s what’s being done everywhere.

Food banks, it is claimed, are miracles of the human spirit and an inherently effective response to market needs — domestic hunger — while no government can get it right all the time.

Well, since 1981, when food banks reached Canada from the U.S., government has waited 35 years and done nothing. Instead, troubling food insecurity is left to food charity, with Canadian governments neglecting official data that hunger is primarily a problem of income poverty and failed income distribution.

Rather than a miracle, the hungry need a political champion.

A university professor in Nova Scotia says while turkey drives and food banks make the donors feel good — they don’t fix a much larger problem of helping the poor.

“… I began to think, ‘What is it that people really need who are poor?’ They don’t need socks, they don’t need a few more bus tickets so they can go to a doctor’s appointment,” Haiven told On the Go host Ted Blades this week.

“It made me cringe, because leaving food for the food bank makes us middle-class people feel good. It’s not to say the food banks don’t need food — but where and when and how is it going end? We seldom think of that.”