Basic income is back in fashion -- and Ontario could learn from past mistakes

By Ashley Csanady for the National Post

Basic income is the romper of economic policy.

It was last en vogue in the 1970s and in the midst of a popular renaissance. Just as you can barely go a day without seeing a grown woman in a onesie, you can barely go a week without a headline proclaiming some form of guaranteed annual income as a poverty panacea. 

From Alberta to Africa, leaders are openly mulling the concept of guaranteeing a base level of monetary support for all citizens. Pilot programs in countries as diverse as Kenya and the Netherlands are underway. Brazil offers all young mothers cash cards directly to help cover diaper and food costs — a simple form of basic income. Like rompers, however, when it comes to basic income, one-size most certainly does not fit all. 

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UK’s Largest Trade Union the Latest to Endorse Basic Income

Unite, Britain’s largest trade union, passed a motion endorsing basic income at the Unite 2016 Policy Conference on Monday, July 11.  

The full text of the motion is as follows:

Basic Income

Conference notes the growing crisis of low pay, in work poverty and precarity in a labour market increasingly characterised by casualised forms of employment that offer low pay, zero hours contracts and no long-term security.

Conference further notes the evident inability of our bureaucratically costly social security system, with its dependence on means-testing and frequent arbitrary sanction, to provide an adequate income floor.

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A wider lens: an analysis of Kesselman’s view of a basic income

By Sheila Regehr

In his article in Inroads entitled “A dubious antipoverty strategy: Guaranteeing incomes for the poor is politically unfeasible and financially unsustainable” (Winter/Spring 2014, pp. 33-43) , Jonathan Rhys Kesselman argues not only against fairly generous forms of a basic income but also concludes that no further direct cash support should be provided to working-age Canadians, with the exception of adults who are severely disabled. His proposals to address poverty focus on services and inkind support.

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Basic income -- the what and how

By Terrance Hunsley

There has been a lot of discussion about the need for a basic income of some form, in Canada as well as several other countries. Many proponents of reform call it a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG), and it seems that several governments are considering it. I have already gone on record suggesting that a pilot project would most likely serve to defer such a reform until a time when the political consensus to improve things has passed. Not that we cannot experiment and learn and adjust as we go. Just that picking out a few communities and implementing a pilot is not the way to do it. If an experiment is the best we can do, let’s at least pick out a large national random sample of low and modest income people and try it out on them.

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Giving goods vs. giving money: A story of eggs, cash, and basic income

By Scott Santens

I love watching documentaries and one of my recent favorites on Netflix, aside from Noam Chomsky's "Requiem for the American Dream", is "Poverty, Inc." I highly recommend just watching the entire film yourself, but there is one story from it that is one of my new favorites to share onward, and that's the story by Peter Greer who is the CEO of Hope International.

As soon as I first saw it, I immediately even recorded it onto my phone and shared it on Twitter. It is such a short and simple lesson of the unintended consequences of giving goods instead of cash to buy goods.

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We abandon desperate people at society's peril

By Jon Sanderson   


Brexit has given the most racist elements in Britain a voice. The similarities between the UKIP movement and Donald Trump are apparent. Wide condemnations are flying across the social media spectrum. No one wants to admit that Canada is more than capable of descending into similar vitriol. Even worse, no one wants to talk about the economics of abandonment which is fueling the fires of hatred.

Capitalism has abandoned the majority of the population. By this point, listing the statistics has become something of a dog and pony show. Poverty is up. Unemployment is up. Precarious work is up. Wages are in decline. Wealth inequality is the core.

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Millennials likely benefit most from Ontario basic minimum income: Expert

Ontario is moving forward with exploring the idea of a basic minimum income, something that could be a big win for millennials, according to one University of Toronto expert.

The province announced last week it was appointing former senator Hugh Segal to report back by fall on what a pilot basic minimum income project could look like.

There aren’t many details on what exactly the province is planning, but the idea is to provide eligible people with a minimum level of income.

“For young people, a guaranteed level with no questions asked might actually be a good thing, instead of social assistance,” said Rodney Haddow, associate chair and director of undergraduate studies in the department of political science at the University of Toronto.

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