The idea of a guaranteed basic income for residents of Ontario was the focus of a discussion at city hall on Friday night.

Kitchener is one of 14 communities discussing a pilot project that could see a basic guaranteed income replace Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program.

The pilot project will study whether giving people a basic guaranteed income is a more effective way to reduce poverty, improve health, housing and employment in Ontario.

Kitchener-Centre MPP Daiene Vernile says the countries and communities that have tried the idea of basic guaranteed income saw the cost to the taxpayers come down.

“Because when you have money to put healthy food on the table or a roof over your head, now you don't have people who are going to the emergency room as often. You see crime rates go down, you see mental health rates go down as well. So in the end, when you measure it, it actually ends up saving taxpayers money,” Vernile said.

Right now a single parent with two children receives a little over $12,228 withOntario Works benefits. Under the new basic guaranteed income, that amount could climb to $29,427. The money is nontaxable and that same parent could keep income earned from working a job.

The basic income would be different than social assistance in that anyone who meets the criteria would be eligible.

The unconditional payment doesn't require anyone getting it to find work or prove they're looking for it. 

The basic guaranteed income would also apply to people receiving money from the Ontario Disability Support Program.

A single adult on ODSP would see their income rise from $13,536 to almost $22,989.

It’s not certain if Kitchener will become a test community but Kitchener-Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife says there is a strong argument to bring the pilot project to the city.

“We’re one of the number one draws for new immigrants and refugees. We have shockingly low literacy rates in this region.”

Fife says some people have a hard time finding work in the area after so many manufacturing jobs disappeared.

“There are a lot of people who fall in that gap where they are desperately trying to live above the poverty line and are struggling to do so.” Fife said.

Residents can have their say about the pilot project by filling out a survey on the government of Ontario’s website before January 31.

Exactly what the pilot project would look like and what communities will get to test it out will be announced in April.

With reporting by Nadia Matos