Dr. Rosana Salvaterra
Across Canada, and around the world, people from all sides of the political spectrum are starting to talk about the BIG idea of a basic income guarantee (BIG), also known as a guaranteed annual income.
The Ontario government has recently approved a three-year basic income pilot project and selected three cities — Hamilton/Brantford, Thunder Bay and Lindsay — as test sites. Federally, a motion in the Senate to encourage the government to investigate the cost and impact of a national basic income program has garnered cross-party support. Globally, Finland has launched a basic income pilot – and tech giants like Tesla’s Elon Musk have said a universal basic income will be necessary for everyone in the future.
So what is a basic income guarantee – and why all the fuss?
Roderick Benns recently interviewed Alan Gummo, a retired city and regional planner. Gummo was also a public policy researcher and worked in municipal administration. He was a member of the Canadian Institute of Planners, the Ontario Professional Planners Institute, and the Institute of Public Administration. He is active in the basic income movement and now divides his time between Kingston, Ontario and Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Benns: How did you come to be involved with advocating for a basic income guarantee?
Gummo: I first learned of the BIG concept (Basic Income Guarantee) when I was in grad school in the 1970’s. The Dauphin pilot project was on our curriculum. It sounded like a logical ‘next step’ in the evolution of progressive public policy. I was disappointed when the pilot was abandoned. Indeed I was disappointed with a large number of public policy decisions that were made over the following decades and seemed to take us away from a progressive direction.Read more
By Roderick Benns
Publisher of Leaders and Legacies, a social purpose news site
The City of Kingston has become the first municipality in Canada to call for the development of a basic income guarantee for all Canadians.
Council recently and unanimously passed a motion calling for a national discussion on the issue, hoping this will lead the provinces and federal government to work together to “consider, investigate, and develop a Basic Income Guarantee for all Canadians.”
A basic income guarantee is known by many names, including a guaranteed annual income, a minimum income and a negative income tax, among others. But the essence is that it ensures everyone an income that is sufficient to meet their basic needs, regardless of work status. It provides a direct cash transfer to the people who most need economic security.Read more
Roderick Benns, publisher of Leaders and Legacies, recently interviewed Robin Boadway, a retired economics professor. Boadway studied economics at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. He has his doctorate in economics from Queen’s University in Kingston.
Benns: How did you come to be involved in this issue?
Boadway: I spent my academic career as a public finance economist studying optimal policies for achieving a just and fair society, particularly with regard to those most in need. Naturally, guaranteed annual income is one important element of redistributive policies. I was especially influenced by economists like Anthony Atkinson and Amartya Sen for whom basic income was both fair and conducive to equality of opportunity. The views of philosopher John Rawls were also influential, particularly the idea that societal outcomes owe much to luck at birth, and those of us who are luckier than others owe it to the less fortunate to share in our luck. Having spent most of my life teaching and studying the importance of a basic income guarantee, the BIG group in Kingston offered an irresistible opportunity to have some practical effect.Read more
Welcome to our new website, launched at the end of August 2015! We hope you’ll check it out and continue to visit for knowledge, news and developments. Sign up for email notices, too, to get periodic highlights. There is indeed much that’s developing. Local and regional action is growing. Support is coming from a wide spectrum; university students to seniors, public health agencies and precarious workers to leading economists, and many more. With PEI’s premier supporting a basic income guarantee, Calgary and Edmonton mayors declaring leadership on the issue at municipal level, and a federal election on the horizon, the political landscape is ripe with potential.
Here's how to show your support right now for the basic income idea!
The higher the count, the stronger the message, so spread the word to everyone you know who wants a Canada where everyone is guaranteed enough income to meet basic needs and live with dignity. By supporting the idea, you pave the way for the practical reality of designing an effective working model of basic income for Canada. You will help put it on the radar of politicians, fellow Canadians and the media, place it higher on government agendas, and encourage informed conversation and democratic deliberation that leads to good public policy.
If you have questions about the basic income idea, our website’s resources and connections are plentiful and offer a variety of perspectives. Here are a few of many reasons why the conversation is taking a whole new turn in Canada now.
- Canada has more experience with basic income than many realize. We’ve had forms of basic income guarantee (or what used to be called guaranteed annual income) for seniors and families with children for many years; they work and we can learn from them. We ran four-year long pilots in the 1970s that included all ages, which we know produced individual and community-wide health and economic benefits.
- Income security and public services are more effective when they work together. Canada’s health care system, for example, is more effective and less expensive if people can afford food, shelter, basic medicine and other means to live a healthy life and fight off illness. Education resources go farther if students are not too hungry or stressed to concentrate on schoolwork. Income security, childcare and labour laws help parents balance their family’s material and care needs.
- We have options. Some approaches to the basic income idea involve overhauling or abolishing a great many programs into a single basic income, a degree of change that causes some people great concern. Canada is fortunate to have options that include simplifying and streamlining while building on models that are already working, filling in gaps and improving as we go.
- Hard-nosed reality. There is widespread recognition, even by traditionally conservative economic organizations and some members of wealthy elites, that we have reached dangerous levels of inequality in wealth, income, control over time and health. Along this path lies potential for great unrest, which is not good for economies overall, and a concern about where profits will come from if an ever larger share of customers can’t afford what’s being produced.
- The world of work. The notion that people won’t work if they have a basic income is a recurring theme but the weight of evidence indicates that’s not what happens and it’s not what we need to worry about. Without a basic income, the far more serious work challenges we face will get worse. Many people already work too hard at jobs that pay too little. Others cannot even find steady, decent jobs or are overwhelmed by the demands of unpaid work looking after their families. Precarious employment is becoming the new norm and the need for human labour is shrinking rapidly due to automation. A basic income is not the answer to all these issues but it is a logical foundation for a modern, peaceful democracy like Canada.
Thank you to everyone who is making our new website possible and to everyone who in different ways is working to define the basic income guarantee we want in Canada.
Basic Income Canada Network
By Roderick Benns
Publisher of Leaders and Legacies, a social purpose news site
Five mayors from New Brunswick are speaking out in favour of basic income guarantee policy — including the mayor of Fredericton, the capital city.
Bill Bishop (Rothesay - top left photo); Yvon Lapierre (Dieppe - top centre); Gerry Cormier (Miramichi - bottom left); Cyrille Simard (Edmundston - bottom centre); and Brad Woodside (Fredericton - far right), have all indicated various levels of support for the policy that is gaining more interest across Canada.Read more