Entrepreneur to Canada’s economic development ministers: Support basic income

Roderick Benns

A Canadian entrepreneur who grew up in Oshawa and found success in New York is pushing Canada’s economic development ministers to adopt basic income. 

Mike Schmidt is the founder of Dovetale.com, a content and audience intelligence platform used by publishers and brands like Buzzfeed, L'Oreal and others. Prior, he founded Listn, a mobile music startup based in Los Angeles California before its multimillion dollar acquisition by Robert Sillerman’s SFX Entertainment. He also serves as a member of the Canadian Leadership Committee for the G20 YEA.

Schmidt has written to 24 ministers, spread out over 10 provinces, three territories, and the federal government, to urge them to get on board with bringing in a basic income guarantee for Canadians.

In the letter, Schmidt writes that he decided to take a risk and start a company with friends.

“We ended up raising venture capital, building a business that scaled to over 60 countries and eventually selling the company in 2015. After building two companies now, I’ve seen a lot as a young entrepreneur and continue to get excited about how key members in the economy drive change. I’ve also seen a lot of friends that have not had the same opportunity as I have had,” he writes.

Schmidt writes that in the new age of entrepreneurship, the economy is changing rapidly. 

“A new framework to support this ecosystem must emerge and mature,” he writes. 

The entrepreneur notes that the need for a basic income that everyone is able to access in times of need “and that helps ensure that, at the end of a day of entrepreneurial action, there’s sufficient food on the table, a decent roof over one’s head and the meeting of other basic needs common to us all.” 

The businessman believes basic income is “an essential building block for an innovative economy.” 

“It strengthens the capacity of people…It gives people a better chance to pursue their ideas for products or services of benefit to others and the planet. I believe basic income, once available to working-age adults…can and will be beneficial to our entire society….Ultimately, when working-age adults are more economically secure they are much more able to pursue entrepreneurship.” 

Saying it’s time for Canada to innovate again, Schmidt tells the Precarious Work Chronicle that Canada can lead again. 

“Canada has been a leader in health care, gender equality, infrastructure, international trade and more. We can be a role model in a new economy, one that embraces ideas like…basic income.”

It’s “worth the investment because it is essential for a future that is focused on creativity and entrepreneurship,” Schmidt says.

“Canada has a unique and short window to lead a movement focused on these silos.”

The movement is definitely growing in Canada.

Ontario leads the way, with a roll-out this year of a pilot project involving three cities and one indigenous reserve. The plan is to invite a mix of people into the program, such as those who are working but not working enough to stay out of poverty, those who are currently on social assistance, and people who are homeless.

In Prince Edward Island, the Legislature agreed unanimously to have the province work with the federal government in the hope of running a Basic Income pilot on the island.

The Quebec Liberal government hinted strongly in its recent budget that some form of basic income guarantee is imminent – but likely only for a small portion of the province, at least to begin with. Quebec will bypass any testing of the program and instead will begin a restrained roll-out of a minimum income program aimed at lifting the most vulnerable out of poverty.

In a power-sharing deal that might transform the political landscape of British Columbia, the New Democratic Party (NDP) and Green Party are committing to run a basic income pilot. They will get a chance to topple the Liberal government on a confidence vote sometime in the next few weeks.