Opinion: Alberta could afford a basic income that reduces poverty — but the devil is in the details

Calgary Herald

Alberta is a prosperous province, but our poverty rate has hovered around 10 per cent for decades, costing the government over $2 billion each year. Add to this context the looming spectre of automation and growing uncertainty about our economic future and it’s easy to understand why the idea of basic income is resurfacing in public discourse.

Though lack of income is only one dimension of poverty — a reality that necessitates a comprehensive system of social services, supports and community-based programs — there is Canadian evidence that shows that income transfers are an effective poverty reduction tool.

In recent years, the guaranteed income supplement for seniors and Canada and Alberta child benefits have been credited with reducing poverty rates. Some have gone as far as to call these programs a basic income for seniors and children.

For many in the social services sector, a similar program for adults aged 18-65 is a logical next step. We believe that a regular, predictable income, unconditionally available to all who need it and sufficient to provide for a decent lifestyle, has the potential to significantly improve social, health and economic outcomes. A basic income can also recognize the contributions to society of unpaid caregiving and volunteer work.

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