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  • Daily Xtra notes that, in the 1930s, the shops of Yonge and Dundas supported a queer community. The tours described sound interesting.

  • Torontoist's Tricia Wood arguesthat the proposed high speed rail route in southern Ontario is wasteful spending, reflecting a two-tier transit network.

  • Steve Munro crunches data on the Queen Street route to find that buses have an advantage over streetcars.

  • The Toronto Star's Ben Spurr notes that the TTC is planning to noticeably expand its express bus network.

  • NOW Toronto's Lisa Ferguson writes about potential NIMBYism in the opposition to new high-rises in High Park.

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  • The CBC u>notes the consensus that the new Ontario minimum wage will not hurt the economy, overall, but provide a mild boost.

  • The Toronto Star notes that, from 2019, analog television broadcasts will start ramping down.

  • The Toronto Star notes that high prices in Ontario's cottage country are causing the market to expand to new areas.

  • Gizmodo reports on one study suggesting that Proxima Centauri b does have the potential to support Earth-like climates.

  • Gizmodo notes one study speculating on the size of Mars' vanished oceans.

  • Quartz reports on how one community in Alaska and one community in Louisiana are facing serious pressures from climate change and from the political reaction to said.

  • CBC notes an oil platform leaving Newfoundland for the oceans.

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  • Torontoist's Tamara Yelland reports on the intensification of the rent strike in Parkdale aimed against Metcap.

  • The Toronto Star's Tess Kalinowski notes that the market for detached homes in Toronto is facing unmanageable levels of demand.

  • Torontoist's David Stokes makes the case that suburbs should allow homes in residential districts to be converted into businesses.

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  • Steve Munro calls for an honest public review of what Toronto actually does need insofar as mass transit is concerned.

  • Torontoist is justly critical of a one-stop Scarborough subway extension that will help make mass transit there worse.

  • Spacing's John Lorinc is critical of plans for mass transit expansion that do not respond to existing issues.

  • The Toronto Star notes that Union-Pearson Express ridership is up but also notes that it remains heavily subsidized.
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  • Metro Toronto's David Hains reports on a new interactive map of Trinity-Bellwoods Park designed to help users find other people in that large complex space.


  • You’ll never have to spend 20 minutes trying to find your friend in Trinity-Bellwoods Park again.

    New York-based cartographer (and former Toronto Star employee) William Davis loves Toronto, and so he knows this is one of the city’s great summer frustrations. It’s because of the geographically complicated, but very popular park, that he and Tom Weatherburn made an interactive map for Torontonians to share their location.

    All users need to do is drag and drop a “here” pin on a map of the park. It can be accessed for free at the MapTO website, a personal project with Weatherburn that features quirky and interesting maps on a variety of city subjects.

    The Trinity-Bellwoods map is overlaid with easy-to-read icons, including a dog at the dog bowl, a baseball at the baseball diamond, and beer mugs where people like to hang out.


  • The Toronto Star's Jennifer Pagliaro describes the catastrophic state of repair of far too many of the houses of Toronto Community Housing.


  • Half of Toronto Community Housing developments will be in “critical” condition in the next five years without additional funding for repairs, according to an internal database provided to the Star.

    Already, the data shows more than 30 social-housing properties are in serious disrepair. Of 364 developments — which include houses and groupings of low-rise buildings and towers — 222 developments are ranked in “poor” condition, with dozens edging on critical condition, based on a standard ranking used by the housing corporation.

    Those critical sites are homes for more than 3,000 individuals and families.

    The data shows a pervasive problem at a time when the city is grappling with how to keep thousands of units open with a $1.73-billion funding gap.

    Of the 364 developments, more than 100 were offloaded onto the city by the province more than a decade and a half ago without money needed to cover the repairs. Of the buildings in the critical and poor categories, more than a third were downloaded by the province.


  • Back in August, Yasmine Laarsroui wrote for Torontoist about the potential for the housing co-op model to help solve the Toronto housing crisis.


  • Those affected by the lack of rent controls left young professionals, like reporter Shannon Martin, with no option but to turn to more extreme alternatives, such as couch-surfing.

    Young people seeking more reliable housing options are turning to co-op housing—at least, those lucky enough to get a unit.

    Toronto renter Donald Robert moved into Cabbagetown’s Diane Frankling Co-operative Homes in September 2016 and speaks highly of his experience.

    Robert pays $1,300 for a large two-bedroom unit with access to an underground parking and a small gym, almost $500 cheaper than the average one-bedroom unit in Toronto. Robert explains that, “the best part though has been the community here. Everybody says ‘hi.’”


  • Also back in April, John Lorinc wrote in Spacing about the oft-overlooked musicality of the lost neighbourhood of The Ward.


  • If you try to imagine your way back into the early 20th century streets and laneways of The Ward — the dense immigrant enclave razed to make way for Toronto’s City Hall — you might pick up the sounds of newsies and peddlers hawking their wares, the clanging of the area’s junk and lumber yards, and shrieking children playing on the Elizabeth Street playground north of Dundas.

    Those streets would also reverberate day and night with a jumble of languages — Italian, Yiddish, Chinese. The dialects and accents of these newcomers were considered to be not only “foreign,” but also proof (to the keepers of Toronto’s Anglo-Saxon morality) of the area’s worrisome social and physical failings.

    But despite the fact that many mainstream Torontonians saw The Ward as an impoverished blight on the face of the city, the neighbourhood resonated with energy and culture and music — evidence of the resilience of the stigmatized newcomers who settled there in waves from the late 19th century onward.

    Photographers recorded fiddle players and organ grinders with their hurdy gurdies, playing as mesmerized children listened. After their shifts ended, one 1914 account noted, labourers whiled away their free times playing mandolins or concertinas as they sang rags and the Neapolitan songs so popular at the time.

    “When sleep in crowded rooms seems all but impossible,” journalist Emily Weaver observed in The Globe and Mail in 1910, “the people of ‘The Ward’ are astir till all hours, and the Italians amuse themselves by singing in their rich sweet voices the songs of their far-away homelands or dancing their native dances to the music of a mandolin or guitar in the open roadway beneath the stars.”


  • The Toronto Star's Azzura Lalani describes how the rapid growth of young families in Leslieville threatens to overload local schools. What will the Downtown Relief Line do?


  • As the mother of a 16-month-old boy, Michelle Usprech is looking to leave the Financial District where it’s just “suits and suits and suits,” for a more family friendly vibe, and she’s got her eye on Leslieville.

    But one of Toronto’s most family-friendly neighbourhoods may be a victim of its own success as signs from the Toronto District School Board have cropped up, warning parents in Leslieville their children may not be able to attend their local school because of possible overcrowding, school board spokesperson Ryan Bird confirmed.

    Those signs warn that “due to residential growth, sufficient accommodation may not be available for all students,” despite the school board making “every effort to accommodate students at local schools.”

    [. . .]

    It’s a concern for some parents, including Kerry Sharpe, who lives in Leslieville and has a four-month-old daughter named Eisla.

    “It’s still early days for me,” she said, but, “it is a concern. Even daycare, that’s hard to get into, so I don’t see it getting any better.”
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    Toronto Life's Cody Punter shared brief interviews with a view of the people taking part in this month's rent strike in Parkdale.

    On May 1, hundreds of people took to the streets of Parkdale to protest rent increases at a handful of apartment towers managed by MetCap, a major landlord in the neighbourhood.

    Ontario law normally prevents landlords of pre-1991 buildings from raising rents by more than a low, guideline percentage every 12 months, but MetCap has applied to raise rents higher than the guideline in several of its Parkdale buildings. In response, some tenants are threatening a rent strike, during which they’ll withhold rent payments to MetCap until the company agrees to put a halt to future rent increases and address tenant grievances. We spoke with some MetCap renters in Parkdale to find out how they’re feeling about all this. (MetCap president Brent Merrill didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.)
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    Bloomberg's Ken Chipman argues that rent control in Toronto risks shifting real estate development from rental units to condos.

    Ontario’s government is set to impose the most sweeping rent controls in a quarter century, linking annual increases to inflation, with a cap of 2.5 percent, on all buildings as it tries to keep costs under control. The measure, meant to protect tenants from price gouging, could end up making it more -- not less -- expensive to rent in North America’s fourth biggest city.

    The rules threaten to bring apartment construction to a halt, critics warn. At least one developer said he’s scrapping all rental projects in the pipeline. Others are considering doing the same. This risks worsening the rental-housing shortage and hurting those already priced out of the for-sale housing market, where prices are at a record high even as the troubles at mortgage lender Home Capital Group Inc. threaten to spill into the market.

    Lamb Development Corp. had seven apartment buildings in the works in Ontario -- five in downtown Toronto -- before Premier Kathleen Wynne announced the expanded rent control on April 20, part of the province’s 16-point plan to cool scorching home price gains. The proposal calls for a rent cap on all units, not just those built before 1991 as mandated by current law.

    “We won’t build these buildings as apartments. We will build condominiums,” said Brad Lamb, Lamb Development’s founder. “If you were to now ask 20 or 30 prominent developers about purpose-built apartments, they will tell you they are no longer viable in Toronto.”
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    CBC News' Kate McGillivray wrote about the risk of high rents driving young pepe out of Toronto.

    Young people across the income spectrum who would like to build lives in Toronto are choosing to leave rather than pay the city's ever-increasing rents.

    For 27-year-old Arthur Gallant, that's meant moving from Etobicoke, to Burlington, to Hamilton in search of an affordable apartment for himself and his mother.

    "You can only move so far west until you hit water and there's nowhere left to live," he said in an interview with CBC Toronto.

    Gallant is one of hundreds of people who reached out to CBC Toronto as part of our No Fixed Address series, which explores the city's rental housing market.

    Among the stories that have poured in, many are from native Torontonians like him, who would like to live in Toronto but find that apartments cost more than they are willing or able to pay.

    "It's a code-red, sirens-blaring kind of issue because we need to recognize the degree to which the standard of living is in free fall for younger demographics," said Paul Kershaw, a University of British Columbia professor and the founder of Generation Squeeze, a campaign that raises awareness about the economic pressure faced by younger Canadians.

    "Housing prices are squeezing younger people out."
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    • blogTO shares media exploring how Toronto was marketed internationally in the 1980s. This decade apparently saw less concentration on landmarks and more on cultural activities.

    • The Map Room Blog links to a National Geographic collection of the childhood maps of cartographers.

    • Marginal Revolution notes that the loosening of China's one-child policy has not resulted in much change.

    • Justin Petrone wonders if Estonians are weird.

    • Steve Munro reports on the many, many problematic things coming out of Metrolinx, including fare-by-distance and the ongoing PRESTO disasters.

    • Supernova Condensate shares a thought-provoking set of statues on global warming, Follow the Leaders.

    • Torontoist's Kieran Delamont notes the astonishing thoughtlessness of new fashion brand Homeless Toronto.

    • Window on Eurasia looks at a Belarus in a state of political ferment that might--might--be pre-revolutionary, and wonders if disbanding Russia's ethnic republics could be profoundly destabilizing.

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    Doug Alexander and Katia Dmitrieva write for Bloomberg about the statement by the Royal Bank of Canada's chief executive officer that Toronto's housing market needs to be slowed down like Vancouver's

    Toronto may require measures to cool its red-hot housing market similar to moves taken in Vancouver if interest rates don’t increase, said Royal Bank of Canada Chief Executive Officer David McKay.

    The head of Canada’s largest lender said Toronto housing is “running hot” and is fueled by a "concerning mix of drivers" that include lack of supply, continued low rates, rising foreign money and speculative activity. Similar circumstances in Vancouver prompted British Columbia’s government last year to impose a 15 percent tax on foreign buyers.

    “In the absence of being able to use higher rates to reduce that, I do think we’re going to at some point have to consider similar measures to slow down the housing price growth," McKay said Friday in a telephone interview.

    The comments from the bank CEO come as frustration grows over the unaffordability of properties in Canada’s biggest city. The average home price in Toronto jumped 22 percent in January from the previous year, the fifth straight month of gains topping 20 percent. Listings have dropped off, down by half from last year, squeezing prices further.

    The CEOs of Canada’s other big banks last year called on the government to increase housing regulation amid skyrocketing prices in Vancouver and Toronto. National Bank of Canada CEO Louis Vachon said that minimum downpayments should return to 10 percent from 5 percent, while Bank of Nova Scotia head Brian Porter suggested his company was pulling back on mortgage lending due to concern about high home prices in those two cities.
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    CBC News' Shannon Martin reports on how she became a couch surfer, as rent increases outpaced her ability to pay.

    I'm 32 years old, work at my dream job and have an amazing circle of family and friends who love me. Life is pretty great.

    There's just one thing — and I can't believe I'm about to admit this to you, but here goes.

    Right now, I live nowhere in particular.

    I'm a couch surfer.

    For the record, I did have a nice place. But then my rent went up nearly $1,000 per month.
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    The Toronto Star's Jennifer Pagliaro reports on how the new Toronto budget comes with a 2% property tax increase, raising some funds but apparently not enough to keep various Toronto public services needed running.

    With council poised to approve a budget Mayor John Tory said kept property taxes at “reasonable” rates, critics said they would have trouble sleeping with cuts impacting the city’s most vulnerable.

    A council meeting went late Wednesday night as members debated a budget some called “fair” and others contended was “unsustainable.”

    Council did earlier approve a residential property tax rate hike that totals 3.29 per cent, or $90 extra for the average homeowner.

    An attempt to prevent the elimination of 10 front-line shelter staff positions — at a time when those havens are exceeding capacity targets and those who rely on them struggle to find more permanent housing — failed 19-25. The mayor and all but one of his executive members voted against it.

    Councillor Joe Cressy moved a motion that council keep the 10 frontline positions, by voting to increase the 2017 operating budget for shelter, support and housing administration by just over $1 million, by pulling funding from a property tax stabilization reserve fund.
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    The Toronto Star's Ben Spurr describes a Metrolinx proposal I am strongly opposed to. What about people who have long commutes? What about people on low incomes? What happens to the ideal of an integrated city if cost is introduced as a disintegrating factor?

    How much should it cost to ride the TTC? According to a new policy under consideration by the province’s regional transit agency, it should depend on how far you travel.

    Metrolinx, the provincial organization that oversees transit for the GTHA, is considering a fare model for the area’s transit operators that would see all passengers on buses, streetcars, subways, and GO Transit pay by distance.

    A report on the issue will be discussed at Friday’s Metrolinx board meeting, as part of its ongoing fare integration project that aims to standardize the pricing policies of GO and the region’s nine municipal transit agencies.

    The fare-by-distance model was made public Tuesday, and joins three other proposals that were already under consideration.

    “It would be system-wide and be a very major dramatic change,” said Leslie Woo, chief planning officer for Metrolinx, “but it would enable greater consistency in fares (across the region) and it would better reflect the cost of the length of the trip.”

    Woo said more work needs to be done to determine which model is best.

    The three original options are: a modified version of the status quo that would provide discounts for riders crossing between the TTC and GO; a zone-based system that would charge riders more for crossing defined boundaries; and a hybrid that would have a flat rate for local bus travel but charge by distance or zone for subways and regional rail.
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    Rignam Wangkhang writes for NOW Toronto about the disputes of the tenants of Parkdale tower 87 Jameson Avenue with their landlord, MetCap. Between steep rent increases and an apparent lack of maintenance, tenant advocates argue that MetCap is trying to drive its tenants out so the tower could be gentrified.

    Every day brings uncertainty for Diane Rajaram.

    Although she’s been living at 87 Jameson since 1977, Rajaram isn’t even sure what days she’ll have running water.

    “I work nights, and when I come home sometimes I don’t have water. I have to buy bottled water to wash my mouth,” says Rajaram, 63.

    Last Wednesday, February 8, Rajaram rallied with fellow residents outside the offices of the Landlord and Tenant Board on St. Clair East to protest a request by apartment manager MetCap Living Management Inc. to raise rents 3 per cent above the 2 per cent allowed by provincial guidelines for each of the next three years. The company says the increases are to cover the cost of balcony renovations as well as upgrades to the building’s boiler room and garage at the 91-unit building.

    But tenants say the proposed increases would hike their rents (currently about $1,000 a month) by several hundred dollars a year, which is simply unaffordable – and unfair given MetCap's refusal to undertake long overdue repairs, including to properly heat the building in winter or deal with ongoing pest control problems. The tenants, who have since February 1 refused to pay rent, describe a climate of disrespect for them from building management.
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    David Rider's Toronto Star article is terribly worrisome, especially since Doug Ford is the political genius of the current generation of Fords. Rob, in truth, was but a puppet of his more functional brother.

    I would like to believe that, with the memory of Rob Ford's one term and with the very negative example of Trump to our south, Doug Ford would have no chance of being elected to the mayoralty of Toronto. I would like to believe this, but I cannot: Populism is really popular nowadays, especially if you have--as you do in the outer neighbourhoods of Toronto--populations which are relatively deprived and feel themselves to be disenfranchised. If we cannot offer better alternatives, I really can imagine a Mayor Doug Ford.

    Several hundred people packed a Finch Ave. banquet hall to accuse Mayor John Tory of pushing a tax-heavy proposed 2017 budget.

    The Monday night “budget consultation” on Finch Ave. W. was organized by Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti.

    He told the crowd his often-outrageous antics are mostly to draw attention to city spending run amok.

    “I’ll continue to take the blows (from other councillors) and yes, I am somewhat of a lone wolf at city hall because Doug (Ford) isn’t there,” he told the crowd.

    Ford, the ex-councillor who lost to Tory in 2014 and says he might be up for a rematch in next year’s mayoral election, told the crowd: “The gravy train is in full swing down at city hall again.”

    He repeated a discredited claim that his late brother Rob’s mayoral administration saved Toronto taxpayers “more than a billion dollars.”
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    The Toronto Star's Emily Mathieu describes how the residents of 87 Jameson Avenue, a Parkdale apartment tower with a controversial record of maintenance and many tenants in poverty, are protesting plans for sustained high rent increases over the next several years.

    For Sebastienne Incorvaia, what she pays for rent could mean the difference between putting food on the table and going hungry.

    “It is hard, you know, the difference is do I buy all the food I need or do I eat cheese and toast for a lot of days?” says Incorvaia, 63, who has lived at 87 Jameson Ave. for five years and like other residents of the Parkdale building is facing a hefty rent increase.

    Incorvaia and a group of fellow tenants are pushing back at efforts to make them pay more to live in a building they say is in disrepair, with water, heating, bug and maintenance problems and inaccessible to people with mobility issues.

    On Wednesday, they took their grievances to the sidewalk for a rally outside the offices of the Landlord and Tenant Board, where they formally opposed an application by building manager MetCap Living Management Inc. to raise the rent 3 per cent above provincial guidelines, each year for three years, to cover the costs of renovations made to the 91-unit building.

    While such increases are legal, they must be approved by the Landlord and Tenant Board. Tenant advocates say they are sometimes used to push out low-income tenants so landlords can renovate and jack up the rent.
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    The Toronto Star's Isabel Teotonio reports on the closure of two No Frills discount grocery stores in the Toronto area, including one in Parkdale, and how the resulting shortage of inexpensive food is causing all kinds of unneeded strains on budgets and diets.

    A small group of people huddled in the parking lot of a closed No Frills wait for a shuttle bus to go grocery shopping.

    Among them is Chris Wood, 60, who has bronchitis. He should be in bed, but is standing in the cold because Rocca’s No Frills at Coxwell Ave. and Gerrard St. E. closed for repairs in May.

    Wood lives nearby, but is waiting for a free company bus to take him to another No Frills. He has little choice. Local green grocers are too expensive. He doesn’t own a car. And he can’t afford to regularly ride the TTC.

    “It’s a hassle,” says Wood, who gets by on about $900 a month from Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). “Being able to shop at a grocery store with lower costs, like No Frills, is quite important for me.”

    Two other No Frills stores in the GTA have also recently closed, shedding light on the need for access to affordable and healthy food.

    Vi’s No Frills in Parkdale closed in early December for immediate roof repairs — the landlord is hopeful it will reopen in the spring. And Linda’s No Frills in Port Credit, Mississauga, permanently closed in late December when a leasing agreement couldn’t be reached. That site will be redeveloped to include a condo, commercial and office space.
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    • Centauri Dreams notes the sad news that, because of the destructive way in which the stellar activity of young red dwarfs interacts with oxygen molecules in exoplanet atmospheres, Proxima Centauri b is likely not Earth-like.

    • Crooked Timber takes issue with the idea of Haidt that conservatives are uniquely interested in the idea of purity.

    • D-Brief notes the discovery of an intermediate-mass black hole in the heart of 47 Tucanae.

    • The Dragon's Tales reports on the search for Planet Nine.Far Outliers reports on the politics in 1868 of the first US Indian Bureau.

    • Imageo maps the depletion of sea ice in the Arctic.

    • Language Hat remembers the life of linguist Patricia Crampton.

    • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes some of the potential pitfalls involved with Buy American campaigns (and like political programs in other countries), including broad-based xenophobia.

    • The LRB Blog looks at nationalism and identity in their intersections with anti-Muslim sentiment in Québec.

    • The Map Room Blog links to an essay on the last unmapped places.

    • Torontoist notes the 2017 Toronto budget is not going to support affordable housing.

    • Transit Toronto reports on TTC revisions to its schedules owing to shortfalls in equipment, like buses.

    • Window on Eurasia claims that Putin needs a successful war in Ukraine to legitimize his rule, just as Nicholas II needed a victory to save Tsarism.

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    blogTO's Derek Flack warns about the worsening of Toronto's housing shortage.

    In the latest bit of troubling news related to Toronto's real estate market comes a report from the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), which suggests the city's soaring housing prices are a sign of trouble on the horizon.

    "We have a shortage of housing supply in the GTA that is approaching crisis levels,” BILD President and CEO Bryan Tuckey said in a press release.

    This lack of inventory is driving prices to record highs with no let up in demand. The average price for a detached home in the GTA reached $1,264,604 at the end of 2016, marking an increase of $273,000 in the last 12 months according to BILD's figures.

    “Housing is selling as quickly as the industry can bring it to market and the lack of developable land that is serviced with infrastructure, excessive red tape, out-of-date zoning and NIMBYism are hindering our ability to bring more to the market.”
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    Torontoist's Alex McKeen reported on a consultation process in Regent Park regarding a test project on guaranteed minimum income in that community.

    Mike Connell has a strong opinion on how to cook the perfect steak. A cook for the Yonge Street Mission, he enjoys his job and is quick to say so.

    He also has an opinion about basic income, which is what brought him to the Christian Resource Centre (CRC) Regent Park Community Food Centre on January 18, for the CRC-hosted Basic Income Pilot Consultation.

    “If it doesn’t affect my ODSP [Ontario Disability Support Program],” Connell says, then “I’m all for it.”

    The government of Ontario announced its intention to hold a Basic Income Pilot project in the 2016 budget. This was followed by a detailed report by former senator Hugh Segal on how the pilot should be executed in order to measure the idea’s potential for success within the province’s Poverty Reduction Strategy.

    Although the exact meaning of the term ‘basic income’ can vary, the idea is that citizens in a basic income jurisdiction are guaranteed a minimum level of income with ‘no strings attached,’ in theory affording greater discretion to those who would otherwise rely on social assistance payments while having no adverse effects on higher earners.

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