Basic Income – Good Idea or Bad?

(The following is a slightly edited version of a story originally published at http://www.hamiltonjustice.ca)

The province is running consultations on a proposed Basic Income pilot project.  One was held in Hamilton in November and a total of 14 stops are planned before the end of January.

Kevin Werner reported on the Hamilton event.  See http://www.hamiltonnews.com/news-story/7005704-hamilton-activists-demand-action-rather-than-talk-to-reduce-poverty/

Werner’s story cited Hamilton resident Ursula Samuel’s comments:

“We need action.  We know what we really need.  We face it every day,” said Ms. Samuels.

Her comments are bang on, of course.  Unfortunately the province has decided to go ahead with a basic income pilot project that will impact a few citizens in the short term and, maybe, others some years down the line.

Experts disagree on whether basic income is a good thing. To look at the issue the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) had Trish Hennessy and Alex Himelfarb put a paper of opinions together. You can read Basic Income: Rethinking Social Policy in full at https://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/National%20Office%2C%20Ontario%20Office/2016/10/CCPA%20ON%20Basic%20Income_FINAL.pdf

Some Comments

We have gathered a few comments from the report.  (Please note: The term “guaranteed income” is often used in place of “basic income.”)

**Basic income and social assistance are opposites and based on a different value system.  We have forms of basic income, the Canada child Benefit is one example that have been working well. “The issue for Canada is not whether a good basic income is possible but who is left out.  And how can we fix that?” – Sheila Regehr

**The basic income trial in Dauphin Manitoba (where an earlier pilot was tried the 70’s) showed a reduction in hospitalizations of 8.5%.  Such a reduction Canada wide could result in savings of $5.4 billion annually. – Ryan Meili and Danielle Martindauphin

**A substantial number of all Canadian jobs are seasonal.  Seafood processing and agricultural work are examples.    “Seasonal fluctuations in employment are not a problem of individual motivation. A Basic income promises to come to terms with our economy and job market as they actually exist…Without a gigantic structure full of people whose job it is to make sure other people are being honest about their job searches.” – Karen Foster

**“While guaranteed income cannot and should not be seen as a replacement of investment in social housing and health care…….A guaranteed annual income however, has the potential to prevent or end homelessness of thousand of Canadians.” – Tim Richter

**“What many other criticisms of guaranteed income have in common is concern about the intentions of government”……..government may use the existence of the basic income program  “as a reason to diminish other social benefits….” – Dan Wilson

**We should use this moment to experiment with designs that can tell us if we’re better off when we have more income, or needless of it.” Armin Yalnizyan

*Spending more to eliminate poverty and provide services rather than providing a basic income has proponents.   “We should use this moment to experiment with the designs that can tell us if we’re better off when we have more  income, or need less of it.….We should not neglect other labour policies, that focus on things like employment  standards.”–  Margot Young

**Some argue that basic income is not really an “income” at all.”“By calling it an income, we are obscuring the nature of the program which is to deliver social assistance to those in need.  So – make existing programs more efficient and generous.” – Louis -Philippe Rochon

**”A basic income should not act as a subsidy for employers who pay low wages, nor should it be an excuse for reducing employment.” Anita Khanna

**“Basic income as a concept sounds great.  But as always, the devil is in the details.” – Jennefer Laidley

Find out More

The above is a quick sampling, really only a snapshot, of opinion.  We encourage you to talk look at the full report from the CCPA.

Also, the Income Security and Advocacy Centre (ISAC) has resource material on its website at http://yourlegalrights.on.ca/resource/basic-income-what-it-and-what-could-it-mean-social-assistance?tid_ref=16isac

And, finally, the province is reporting on comments from the consultation meetings at https://www.ontario.ca/page/basic-income-pilot-consultation

 

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