Liberals ready to shake up Canada’s social policy with basic income guarantee

By Roderick Benns

The federal Liberals have voted to shake-up Canada’s social policy by moving toward a “minimum guaranteed income” model.

At the party’s national convention just held in Winnipeg, the resolution states the party will, in consultation with the provinces, “develop a poverty reduction strategy aimed at providing a minimum guaranteed income.”

Reaction from the Basic Income Canada Network (BICN) was swift.

“This is a very exciting development, and one that will inform Minister (Jean-Yves) Duclos’ mandate to pursue a poverty reduction strategy,” says Robin Boadway, a retired economics professor and BICN member. “Importantly, the resolution recognizes that the federal government need not await the results of pilot projects to move ahead with a basic income program with the engagement of the provinces.”

Alan Gummo, a retired planner and public policy researcher, as well as a BICN member, says he isparticularly pleased about the unequivocal nature of the resolution.”

“It is unqualified and unconditional thereby giving clear direction to the design and development of a national program,” he adds.

In the Liberal Party’s rationale, it states:

“The ever growing gap between the wealthy and the poor in Canada will lead to social unrest, increased crime rates and violence. Research indicates that a guaranteed basic income can reduce this gap, and create social security while being cost neutral. Savings in health, justice, education and social welfare as well as the building of self-reliant, taxpaying citizens more than offset the investment.”

The rationale then recaps the famous Canadian Mincome experiment from the 1970s to support its arguments. Mincome’s purpose was to determine whether a guaranteed, unconditional annual income caused disincentive to work for the recipients, and how great such a disincentive would be.

As the Liberal Party’s rationale states, a final report was never issued, but Dr. Evelyn Forget conducted an analysis of the program in 2009 which was published in 2011.

“Forget found that in the period that Mincome was administered, hospital visits dropped 8.5 percent, with fewer incidents of work-related injuries, and fewer emergency room visits from car accidents and domestic abuse. Additionally, the period saw a reduction in rates of psychiatric hospitalization, and in the number of mental illness-related consultations with health professionals.”

Quebec is currently looking into a form of basic income and Ontario has committed to doing a pilot project beginning this year to study the effects of a minimum income. Prince Edward Island has also expressed strong interest.

Senator Art Eggleton has been relentlessly pushing this issue, as has his retired counterpart, retired Conservative Senator Hugh Segal.

Mayors across Canada are also on board. In fact, no less than nine provincial and territorial capital leaders support basic income or at least pilot projects, with innumerable smaller city and town mayors across the nation declaring their support as well.