There are few ideas that elicit such divided reactions
on both the Left and the Right as Basic Income
(BI), the focus of this issue of Canadian Dimension.
Passions are running particularly high in Canada at
the moment, with governments in the two largest
provinces proposing to put some form of BI on trial
in the new few years, in addition to the major BI initiatives
afoot around the world.
Few will argue there is no need for fundamental
reform of Canadian social assistance and income
security programs. One-in-five Canadian children
live in poverty, a rate that is double in Indigenous
communities. More than one million Canadians suffer
malnutrition because they can’t afford basic groceries.
Despite our relative wealth, the poverty rate
here is slightly higher than the average of countries
in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and
Development, yet public social spending is lower
than the OECD average (18.3 vs. 21.9 per cent of GDP).
Is a basic income model the key to ending poverty
in Canada and elsewhere? Some believe it is, while
others suspect the current debate is an attempt by
neoliberal forces to sell Canadians a Trojan Horse, a
subterfuge for dismantling the welfare state under
the cover of small but universal monthly cheques.
They argue that neoliberal governments cannot be
trusted to implement any BI program that would
respond to the needs of working people and the
poor. This is no doubt true. However, as the concept
of basic income is about to get its most intensive airing
in decades, the Canadian Left has a responsibility
to set out its own vision of what a progressive
approach to basic income would entail.
If a basic income is part of a true strategy to eliminate
destitution, it will not be cheap. CD believes
that any BI must involve a significant increase in
public resources allocated to those living in poverty.
The idea that severe destitution can be eliminated at
no cost, or financed solely through administrative
cost savings or budget shuffling, is an illusion. It will
require a significant redistribution of wealth financed
principally by a truly progressive income tax, higher
corporate taxes and a fiscal system that prohibits
the tax avoidance afforded by domestic tax shelters
and offshore tax havens.
Have a good read.