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. Poverty can be eliminated by ensuring all individuals have access to basic necessities. A guaranteed livable income means 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 in other parts of Manitoba, in the 1970s. The data from the project was analyzed by Dr. Evelyn Forget, a healthcare economist in Manitoba and a member of our board. Research shows that during the time of Mincome, residents of Dauphin were healthier; hospitalization rates and visits to family doctors dropped by 8.5 per cent. High school enrolment and graduation increased significantly, particularly among young men. 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 complicated requirements to access these supports which involve 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 people unsure about how much they will get, or if they will be approved.
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 children, and driving current and future prosperity, there is very little income support. 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 would encompass all Canadians under the same system.
How does a basic income guarantee make a difference?
With the security of a regular and 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 changing 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 have the freedom to go back to school or consider a career change without the fear and real risk of losing almost everything if it doesn’t work out.
Basic income can prevent poverty. That means many expensive and often long-term consequences of poverty are avoided such as poorer health, lower success rates in school, and higher crime rates.
It 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. This is 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, and can help existing income security measures. Some of these measures 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. By stabilizing financial security, basic income helps promote engagement in paid work of various kinds – with greater choice 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, like raising wages and providing attractive benefits.
How much will it cost?
Basic income will 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 increased 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. A basic income would provide sufficient income for individuals to live with dignity, based on means-testing. Everyone is entitled to it without discretion from caseworkers. Therefore, people can live in financial security, with 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).