Prominent Conservative speaks out in favour of basic income pilots

By Roderick Benns 

Publisher of Leaders and Legacies, a social purpose news site

Retired Conservative Senator Michael Meighen says it’s time for governments to set up pilot projects across Canada to give a basic income guarantee a chance as future policy. In an interview with Leaders and Legacies in Toronto, Meighen says the idea is “very attractive on paper” so it will be important to follow this through with real-world testing.

“That’s where pilot projects come in – we have to test it,” says Meighen, who notes that if the pilots are successful, then the policy becomes easier to sell, politically.

Meighen, who is also a well-known lawyer and philanthropist, is the second prominent Tory to speak out recently about a basic income guarantee. Retired Conservative Senator Hugh Segal spoke to Leaders and Legacies recently about this issue, and Segal has been a long-time proponent of the policy.

Meighen points out that when he was a Conservative candidate in Montreal, running to be an MP in the elections of 1972 and 1974, he advocated for a basic income guarantee under the banner of Conservative Party leader, Robert Stanfield. While Meighen wasn’t successful in attaining a seat during those elections (and Stanfield himself never led his party to victory), the policy always struck him as something that deserved a second look.

Citing the growing chorus of voices who want to see pilot projects, including Liberal Premier Wade MacLauchlan of Prince Edward Island and big city Alberta mayors, Naheed Nenshi and Don Iveson, Meighen says it will be important to get the right mix of urban and rural, along with geographic variation for any pilot projects.