Edmonton and Calgary minimum income pilots would be messy, but should be tried anyway

Guest blog by Carter Vance

One of the more curious, and encouraging, effects of the Alberta NDP's recent electoral victory has been the seemingly uncorked enthusiasm in the province for new-thinking legislative initiatives, from the hard limits on corporate and union donations to the open floating of a carbon tax as an emissions-reduction solution. It's a classic version of cut-the-knot politics, where roadblocks previously caused by a wound-together set of interests from a longstanding political dynasty and its intimate enmeshment with a variety of stakeholders and lobby groups are now much more easily overcome due to the presence of relative outsiders.

Though Rachel Notley and Co. have gone to great lengths to reassure businesses and moderate voters that they're no radicals, and indeed the rhetorical wet kiss Ms. Notley gave to the oil industry in a recent speech struck at least some progressives as a bridge too far in this direction, they are nonetheless showing a willingness to think outside the box. Whatever one thinks of these policies, and those yet to come, it can scarcely be denied that Alberta seems the place where fresh policy thinking is most likely to get an open ear from government decision makers.

No more so has this been clear than in the enthusiasm shown by finance minister Joe Ceci for the notion of a guaranteed minimum income (GMI) program. Calgary and Edmonton Mayors Naheed Nenshi and Don Iveson have offered their cities as test cases for implementation, each showing a wonkish spunk for the idea belying the conventional wisdom that such a program would never go over with voters. Ceci should reward this interest by appropriating the necessary funding for city-based pilots in the upcoming fall budget. The main barrier to widespread implementation of a GMI, or even the investigation of its potential viability, is a lack of available test cases, especially on a large scale. Anything that tests the viability of such a proposition is to be welcomed, whatever the results might be.

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Would a basic income 'corrupt' the poor?

By Tyler Prochazka

In the 90s, the United States implemented some of the most far-reaching changes to welfare in modern American history. Bill Clinton worked with Republicans to “end welfare as we know it” and eliminate welfare’s supposed corrupting influence on the poor. Except the “corrupting influence” of government assistance never existed.

A recent article by the New York Times pointed out that recent research contradicts the theory that a social safety net undermines positive behavior among the poor.


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Basic income rewards fact that all work has value, says Vancouver advocate

Roderick Benns recently interviewed Nick Taylor, a project manager who has worked around the world on both public and private endeavours, from roads, railways, airports, and buildings, taking ideas from plans to reality. He is helping develop ways for people in Vancouver to discuss and engage with the idea of basic income. 

Part two of two  


Benns: What about a basic income guarantee makes it a social justice issue? 

Taylor: Basic Income is a means to provide choice as to how people meet the security of their basic needs. Providing people the independence to decide what those basic needs are, along with unconditional cash, is the way we provide that dignity. Everyone I've talked with understands that. There is a one in six chance of being in poverty in Vancouver, and those are odds that no rational person would accept.

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Economy being held back, but basic income would solve the issue: Nick Taylor

Roderick Benns recently interviewed Nick Taylor, a project manager who has worked around the world on both public and private endeavours, from roads, railways, airports, and buildings, taking ideas from plans to reality. He is helping develop ways for people in Vancouver to discuss and engage with the idea of basic income. 

Part one of two 

Benns: How did you come to be involved in this issue? Do you have any lived experience with poverty?

Taylor: My daughter is 9. She is very smart and utterly absorbed in ecology. She understands that responding to (and possibly even mitigating) the impacts of climate change will be the work of her generation. Recently, her school was celebrating its 100th year since it's founding, and they asked the kids to write about the future 100 years from now. And she couldn't. She cried. She didn't want to write about the future she saw. The environment will be her generation's fight -- dealing with a legacy we've inherited and done little to improve. She and her friends want to do something.  


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PEI MPs should work together for a Basic Income Guarantee

By Christian Ledwell

Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come, and a basic income guarantee’s time has come.

A basic income guarantee is a simple policy that is popular across the political spectrum. Libertarians and conservatives like the idea because it would be straightforward to administer, meaning less bureaucracy and opening the door for smaller government. On the left, the idea is popular as a solution to poverty that could make a real change in the lives of low income families. 

A basic income guarantee works like this: we agree on an amount of income that lets people meet their basic needs and live with dignity, regardless of work status. 

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Let's put an end to fear, poverty, and bureaucracy: Scott Santens

Roderick Benns, publisher of Leaders and Legacies, recently interviewed Scott Santens, one of the leading American voices for basic income policy. The New Orleans-based writer is an advocate of basic income for all people and he serves as moderator of the BasicIncome community on Reddit.

Benns: The very notion of a basic income guarantee frightens a lot of people, particularly in western societies like Canada and the U.S.  Thinking of employers, how can they be convinced that basic income policy is a good idea? Won’t they be worried about finding people willing to work?

Santens: It’s kind of interesting isn’t it, that the asking of such a question directly implies that employers don’t actually pay workers sufficiently for them to work voluntarily. We all know that’s the case, but we ignore it. The rate employers currently pay for the jobs people don’t want to do is artificially low. It’s low because people have to choose between no money at all, and at least some money. That’s coercion. It’s an imbalance of bargaining power. It’s also a market distortion. Employers have no incentive to pay sufficient wages, so people accept insufficient wages and consider themselves lucky they don’t have to live hungry in a box in an alley somewhere.

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Food Banks Canada calls on government to establish basic income

By Roderick Benns

Publisher of Leaders and Legacies, a social purpose news site

Food Banks Canada is the latest national organization to call for a basic income guarantee for Canadians.

Writing in their latest Hungercount 2015 report just released, the group says the time has come for the provinces and territories “to dismantle what has become an understaffed, stressed, and ineffective bureaucratic system that hurts more than it helps.”

Food Banks Canada notes there exist several workable models for a basic income that would be administered through the tax system. This would instantly “eliminate the bureaucracy, the intrusiveness, and the stigma associated with welfare.”

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