One of the vocal supporters and advocates for those on the Ontario Basic Income Pilot is Joli Scheidler. She is based in Lindsay, ON and is hosting several Green Resilience Project community conversations in the City of Kawartha Lakes, Haliburton County and Brock Township. Joli is a PhD Candidate at York University in Health Policy and Equity, Sessional Instructor for Ontario Tech University and the Research Project Manager for SSHRC funded research focused on Basic Income involving four university partners. Joli’s research for Basic Income Canada Network was used in the report Signposts to Success that analyzed early results of the Ontario Basic Income pilot.
Jessie Golem (JG): What interested you about the Green Resilience Project?
Joli Scheidler (JS): I’ve been interested in basic income for over seven years. When you add the growing concerns around climate change, it becomes even more important when considering future generations. Our children’s future is at stake and something needs to be done. It is clear that climate change and economic stability often work in tandem. Solving both issues individually is important, but considering them together gives us a broader picture. By looking at the intersections in a rural context, we can gauge some indicators that can be changed, especially at a local level. By looking at existing best practices and strategies outside of the GDP-related economy that can be done. This project could potentially help mobilize knowledge across Canada through a comparative analysis and then we can share practices and potential resources with other communities. An analysis comparing urban and rural is central to our understanding too. Each has unique needs and likely some communities have figured out some things that are working to help with low income situations and with our community in Lindsay/Kawartha Lakes, so we can continue to meet the demands for both types of environments.
JG: Yeah, and where you’re living in Lindsay, and [with] your ties to the Kawartha Lakes community, you’re kind of in the place to [explore] that sort of intersection.
JS: Absolutely. I’ve actually included the entire riding of Lindsay/Kawartha Lakes in our community conversation. I thought, from the perspective of an MP or MPP, wouldn’t it be great to include the entire riding, so they can hear directly from their constituents about what their needs are?
JG: I’m excited about what you’re looking forward to and wanting to learn from these conversations.
JS: I am so completely open to learning as much as I can about what people think from all walks of life. I want to make sure I’m not missing any voices that need to be in this conversation. Even high-income people who use boats or snowmobiles recreationally, and how that impacts the environment here, need to be included. I’ve included the City of course, as well as our MP and MPP. But I’m also giving voice to the NGOs and service organizations, and people who were on the Ontario Basic Income Pilot. The more voices at the table, the better.
JG: You aren’t [formally] part of an organization, but you’re so well connected to people in Lindsay and Kawartha Lakes. This [brings] a lot of intersectionality to the work and advocacy you do.
JG: It sounds like your work is very grassroots, it’s very much concerned with your neighbors. What are some of the major issues that you’re seeing when it comes to climate change and income security?
JS: The short answer is food prices, because farming is our second-largest industry here. And farmers are kind of at risk to whatever Mother Nature brings. The other thing that I’ve seen is the supply chain issues. There are huge delays and we need to figure out how to cut down on the supply chain by [exploring] public enterprise and focusing on local initiatives. We have done some things to address this. Our Urban Canopy group has planted trees with native fruits and berries that the Boys and Girls Club maintains. There are also community gardens being installed and there is more movement toward cooperative practices, especially in places like Haliburton. I think we’re going to be finding out a lot about what these local initiatives are in the community conversations, which I’m really excited for. So much of it has to do with food and food accessibility, though, to be honest. And then [housing and sustainability are] challenges too, because we don’t want to destroy our wetlands to build housing. And we’re also limited by accessibility and transportation, especially as there’s no public transit outside of Lindsay.
JG: There are a lot of intersections. The problems spiral and compound upon themselves. Like one thing happens and that leads to another thing, and another thing.
JS: I know, and our social fabric is so thin as it is that if you pull one thread, the whole thing unravels.
JG: What are some of the past actions that community members have taken? I remember in our last conversation, I was really impressed by all the grassroots work done by citizens who are concerned about what’s going on in their community.
JS: Myself and some other concerned citizens put together a proposal to the City for a movement toward building a people’s economy. For example, let’s say I have a big ladder that I only use a few times a year: people can use my ladder when I’m not using it. It’s kind of a form of a barter system. We’re also trying to develop a better infrastructure for composting so that food waste doesn’t end up in landfills, and we can create fertilizer for citizens and for community gardens.
JG: Do you see any barriers to any of the issues that Lindsay/Kawartha Lakes is facing?
I think a lot of the barriers have to do with mobilizing knowledge. How do you get the word out that things are going on? I think [the Green Resilience Project] is going to really help with that. Because we’ll be able to learn about what other things are happening in other communities, and see if those projects can be done in our community—just little things where the people can take back the power. We can share resources, land, space and knowledge, which is powerful.
JG: It’s cool to think about how [these are all examples of] grassroots work and people just helping their neighbors—even if it’s simple stuff, like lending your ladder to your neighbor.
JS: Here’s a quick little story: In my apartment complex, a young man who lives above me asked me for $2 for a coffee. Instead, I made him a coffee using my coffee maker, and learned that he had a coffee maker, but didn’t know how to use it! That was his barrier. So I taught him how to use a coffee maker, and I gave him a reusable mug. This is an environmental impact, an economic impact and a social impact as well. All over a cup of coffee!
JG: Oh, that’s as grassroots as it gets. It’s literally your next-door neighbour that you’re helping.
JS: As a qualitative researcher, and a sociable person, I love living in this environment and seeing these grassroots actions taking place all the time on the micro level.
JG: It feels like community resilience in Lindsay/Kawartha Lakes is [often] helping your neighbours.
JS: The entire focus of my whole life has been on resilience in some form. I like to find the best practices, wherever they’re happening, and see if they can be applied in my own community. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We can learn and take lessons from others, as well as share our own resources and knowledge. It’s outside of ego, and it’s building a better world.
JG: It’s just about getting it done and doing it well. And doesn’t matter if we came up with the idea first, or who came up with the idea first.
JS: Exactly. We don’t need to know everything—we need to find out what people are doing.
JG: One of the things I’m [excited about] is that there are so many cool community partners, really amazing organizations and wonderful people [involved in this project]. I hope we can learn from one another—maybe what this organization in British Columbia is doing can help this organization in New Brunswick, or maybe what you’re doing in Kawartha lakes can help these people in the Yukon, you know? I think it’s to everyone’s detriment if you don’t look beyond yourself to learn what others are doing, if you’re not willing to share.
JS: I agree. To share information across Canada is a very grassroots approach rather than top down which is typical. I am super excited about this conversation. The response has been huge and enthusiastic, I hope I’m able to manage it!
JG: That’s a really great problem to have.
JS: I agree.