While the idea of a 'Basic Income' or a 'Guaranteed Annual Income' is attractive to many across the political spectrum, this attraction may be due to the idea remaining vague enough to encompass a range of what are actually very different programs. On the one hand, those on the right see a relatively small unconditional payment to all adults replacing almost all other income security programs and many social services. Libertarian advocates of a Basic Income see it replacing even Medicare for the poor and the young. The right sees the Basic Income or Guaranteed Annual Income as reducing government expenditure or at the worst with the income guarantee low enough so that it is fiscally neutral. On the other side of the spectrum, the left sees the program as offering an unconditional benefit large enough to lift everyone out of poverty, while leaving social insurance and many other programs, and certainly all social services, intact. In the left's vision, taxes would rise radically to cover the costs and the beneficial result would be significant income redistribution.
For those looking for progressive change that can meaningfully reduce poverty and inequality, the question is whether there is a practical way to implement a Basic Income or Guaranteed Income, which might not accomplish immediately the full-scale goals of sweeping away all poverty and radically redistributing income, but which would represent significant progress from where we are today. Or, are progressives advocating for a Basic Income or a Guaranteed Annual Income, actually playing into the hands of a right wing agenda?
About the presenter:
Art Eggleton has served the people of Canada and the city of Toronto in public office for over 35 years. He served 22 years as a member of Toronto City Council and the Metropolitan Toronto Council, most of those years on the Executive Committees of both Councils. Between 1973 and 1980, he served as City Budget Chief, the member of Council responsible for financial matters. From 1980 to 1991, for 11 of those 22 years, he was Mayor of Toronto, the longest serving Mayor in the City’s history. In recognition of his service to the City, Mr. Eggleton received Toronto's highest honour, the Civic Award of Merit, in 1992. Mr. Eggleton served 11 years in the House of Commons as the member for York Centre. On March 24, 2005, Mr. Eggleton was appointed to the Senate of Canada. He currently serves as Deputy Chair of the Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology and is a member of the Standing Committee on Transport and Communications. In December 2009, the Social Affairs Committee completed a study on poverty, housing and homelessness in Canadian cities entitled, In From the Margins: A Call to Action Poverty, Housing and Homelessness. In 2012, he co-founded and is co-Chair of the All Party Anti-Poverty Caucus, a group consisting of Members of Parliament and Senators from all political parties. Mr. Eggleton also serves in various volunteer capacities. He is Chair of the World Council on City Data which was created by the Global Cities Institute at the University of Toronto. In 2015 he was appointed by the Mayor of Toronto to be Chair of the Mayor's Task Force on Toronto Community Housing. He is an honorary member, or member, of several non-profit boards and advisory committees.
Michael Mendelson is Senior Scholar at the Caledon Institute of Social Policy, a consultant for Canadian governments and institutions and Chair of the Board of the Environics Institute. He has previously held senior public service positions in Ontario and Manitoba: Deputy Secretary of Cabinet Office in Ontario; Assistant Deputy Minister in Ontario’s Ministries of Finance, Community Services and Health; Secretary to Treasury Board and Deputy Minister of Social Services in Manitoba. Mr. Mendelson has published many articles on social and fiscal policy including: The Training Wheels Are Off: A Closer Look at the Canada Job Grant with Noah Zon [Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation and the Caledon Institute]; Is Canada (still) a fiscal union? [Caledon Institute]; Canada in 1996 is not the UK in 2011 [Barrow Cadbury Foundation, London, UK]; Aboriginal Peoples and Post-Secondary Education in Canada [Caledon Institute]; Financing the Canada and Quebec Pension Plans [American Association of Retired Persons, Public Policy Institute, Washington]; Measuring Child Poverty: Measuring Child Benefits [Caledon Institute]; Benefits for Children: A Four Country Study ed. with Ken Battle [Caledon Institute and the J. Rowntree Foundation].
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