Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Basic Income a good idea for Manitoba?

The same reason it’s a good idea for everyone. Manitoba has a higher rate of poverty than the Canadian average and among the worst rate of child poverty, which as Basic Income Manitoba states is a human tragedy not a natural one. Poverty can be eliminated by ensuring that all individuals have access to basic necessities. A basic income ensures that everyone can meet their needs, participate in society and live with dignity!

Has Basic Income been tried before?

Yes, and with successful outcomes. There have been many Basic Income projects all over the world, including North America and even right here in Manitoba. MINCOME was a Basic Income initiative that took place in Dauphin, and other Manitoba locations, between 1974 and 1978. The data from the project has recently been analyzed by Dr. Evelyn Forget, a health care economist in Manitoba with a worldwide reputation. It shows that during the time of MINCOME residents of Dauphin were healthier; hospitalization rates and visits to family doctors dropped by 8.5%. High school enrolment and graduation increased significantly, particularly with “young unattached males”. They left the workforce to finish school. Young mothers stayed home longer with their children. (At the time of MINCOME maternity leave was only 4-6 weeks.) See The Experiment That Could End Welfare by Evelyn Forget.

Don’t we already have income supports?

There are different types of income supports, such as Old Age Security (OAS), The Canada Child Benefit, Employment and Income Assistance (EIA), Rent Assist, and disability benefits. There are a variety of conditions to access these supports involving considerable paperwork and long wait times. This can be detrimental to individuals or families who have urgent or unexpected needs. Existing income supports are conditional, often insufficient, and unpredictable, leaving the people who need them not knowing how much they will get or if they will be approved.

What is basic income?

A basic income guarantee (BIG) ensures everyone an income sufficient to meet basic needs and live with dignity, regardless of work status.

Doesn’t Canada already help everyone in some way?

We have a type of basic income for seniors that has greatly improved quality of life compared to previous generations. We also have something similar for children under 18. However, for adults raising the next generations and driving current and future prosperity, there is very little. A job, a good work history and even a good education do not necessarily offer security in today’s economy. The last and sometimes only resort, “welfare”, is the opposite of basic income. With few exceptions, it provides too little, too late, with too many conditions. It produces stigma and suffering and it penalizes work. Welfare entangles workers, clients and other Canadians alike in an unhealthy, expensive and complicated trap. A basic income guarantee (BIG) would encompass all Canadians under the same system.

How does a basic income guarantee make a difference?

First, it’s relatively simple. With the security of a regular, direct basic income, all Canadians are free to manage their own and their family’s unique circumstances much faster and more effectively than any bureaucracy can. People can better rebound from financial setbacks, balance shifting employment and family care needs, protect their health and recover from illness or injury. Parents can save and plan a better future for their children. Adults can take positive steps like getting more education, retraining or trying a job in an emerging sector of the economy, without the fear and real risk of losing almost everything if it doesn’t work out.

Second, it prevents poverty. That means many expensive and often long-term consequences of poverty are avoided such as poorer health, lower success rates in school, higher crime rates.

Third, a BIG doesn’t just help individual recipients – it has a larger impact because it reduces excessive inequalities and human insecurities that are at the root of many societal problems. It fosters resilience and flexibility in a changing economy. It’s good for cities struggling to create vibrant neighbourhoods and strong communities. It’s good for democracy because as much as voting in elections matters, in our monetized society we vote every day with our dollars for the kind of life we want, a vote that increasingly excludes many Canadians.

Surely a basic income guarantee can’t solve everything?

No, it can’t and shouldn’t be expected to. Basic income does not lessen the need for labour laws that govern workplace conditions, protect contracts and support unionization, or the need for good economic policy. It does not diminish the value of other public services, such as health care, child care, and supports for people with disabilities, seniors, people who face historical disadvantage and newcomers to Canada. It is a powerful complement to help those systems get better results. It can also complement existing income security measures. Some of these may be less needed with time but remain important, especially during a transition period. The legacy of past problems will not disappear overnight and other gradual transformations will unfold as this bold and practical social innovation matures.

If everyone has access to basic income, why would anyone work?

Basic income is meant to help ensure the meeting of basic needs: for the “wants” in life, income from other sources is necessary. The vast majority of people work to earn well beyond what they need for basics –
and many people who are well off remain in the workforce. Moreover, by stabilizing financial security, basic income helps promote engagement in paid work of various kinds – with greater choice (freedom) as to the type of work. It also enables people to balance work in the labour market with the valuable work they do outside the market for family, friends and community. For jobs that are comparatively unpleasant, employers may need to provide better working conditions, for example raising wages and providing attractive benefits.

How much will it cost?

Only a small fraction of our nation’s wealth, so yes, we can afford it. The Parliamentary Budget Office has provided a rough estimate at a national level, not including provincial cost savings. The more important question is “Will we get value for our money?” Even conservative estimates of the indirect costs of poverty (e.g., in health care, remedial education, crime, social programs, and lost productivity) are far higher than the costs of actually bringing Canadians out of poverty. For the billions we are paying now, the result is….more poverty and social problems. A basic income guarantee can change that. It is an investment where we get something back for our money – a better standard of living and quality of life for all of us, a healthier population, less poverty, and greater trust and security in our society. Plus, it pays for itself. Basic income can be one of the great bargains of Canada’s future!

How will it work?

There are a number of options and many practical considerations to explore. In the world of public policy, it is rare that everyone gets everything they desire, even in the case of a basic income that has advantages from so many perspectives. That is why we have identified key principles that we believe must be weighed and balanced to get the best possible basic income guarantee (BIG) for Canadians. Those principles include, but are not limited to, universality of and limited conditionality of access to basic income, adequacy (sufficient to help ensure basic needs can be met) and therefore security, autonomy and dignity.

What other terms do people use to refer to a Basic Income?

Basic Income has many different names. In the past it has been referred to as a Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI), a negative income tax, Basic Income Guarantee (BIG), and Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI).