Basic Income Canada Network urges all federal candidates to support basic income

By Roderick Benns

Basic Income Canada Network urges all federal candidates to support basic income

As a federal election draws nearer the Basic Income Canada Network (BICN) is urging all federal candidates to consider a basic income as a game-changing solution to income insecurity.

The letter to all federal candidates begins by tackling the issue of financial insecurity head-on.

“As the 2019 federal election approaches, many issues will be debated. A great many of them are linked to income insecurity, which manifests itself in the form of costly symptoms, like anxiety, illness and societal unrest. If the underlying problem is about income, however, then the solution must be, too – or it will not get better.”

The letter also points out that not only is basic income bold, it is also a practical step for the issues facing society.

“The impacts of technological disruption, precarious work, climate change and extreme income and wealth inequality are just some of the factors putting livelihoods and lives increasingly at risk. Our social fabric and democratic institutions are also threatened by income insecurity. The public policies our governments create now must be as big and bold as the challenges we face; basic income is such a policy. It is also prudent.

Many Canadians don’t realize we already have two forms of basic income in Canada – the Canada Child Benefit and the Guaranteed Income Supplement — which BICN points out has been working well for many years.

“We know basic income works in Canada because we have evidence based on experience. The federal government has had remarkable success for decades in running programs that provide unconditional, guaranteed incomes to seniors and to parents with children under 18….These programs are dignifying. They are proven to prevent poverty, lessen financial crises, improve health and well-being, and add to the economy. They enable people to contribute to society and plan for the future.”

BICN notes that if 18-64 year olds had guaranteed income security which were comparable to the 65+ age group, “their increased economic, societal and creative capacity could be enormous.”

“No one would be left behind. No alternative comes close. There are options for designing it and many ways to pay for it,” the letter continues, noting that Canada already spends a great deal of money on policies that aren’t nearly as effective as basic income would be.

Other ways basic income can be effective, according to BICN:

  • “Another example is living wages and other measures to ensure employed workers are treated fairly. A basic income enables them to get by when their work hours are insufficient or child care arrangements break down. In addition, basic income enables people to further their education, start a business, or take a chance on a new kind of job. This is a key part of staying resilient and adaptable in our unpredictable and rapidly changing labour market.”
  • “Educational programs work better when students are not hungry or worried about how they’re going to pay the bills.”
  • “Affordable housing strategies work better when people have income they can count on, don’t have to move so often and can plan for the future.”
  • “Basic income doesn’t just work for individuals – it works for communities. Programs that address community issues such as neighbourhood polarization, lack of financial literacy, gun violence, and economic development for struggling small towns and rural areas, could be vastly more effective with a basic income’s positive community effects.”

BICN points out that many others organizations and individuals support the policy, including the Canadian Medical Association, public health associations, Senators and MPs from across all parties, Deloitte Canada in its report on Future-Proofing Canada, the Canadian Association of Social Workers, mayors and municipal councils, multi-faith groups, 100+ CEOs of Canadian companies, the Canadian Farmers Union, and many more.

BICN, in conjunction with The Lindsay Advocate, released a survey report earlier this year, after the PC government cancelled the Ontario Basic Income pilot that was running in Lindsay, Hamilton area, and Thunder Bay area. Called Signposts to Successit documented the experiences of recipients in the pilot and provided compelling indicators of lives remarkably changed for the better.

  • 58% improved their housing situation;
  • 34% found the basic income supported employment by affording transportation to work, child care or ability to start or expand a business;
  • 32% of respondents were able to go back to school or upgrade skills (note that a majority of employed participants in the government baseline survey – recipients and control group – said they were in dead-end jobs);
  • 74% were able to make healthy food choices and 28% stopped using food banks;
  • 46% were able to pay off debt;
  • 52% were able to see friends and family more often, 55% were physically more able to do activities, and 45% reported fewer health problems


  1. What’s better than an unconditional Basic Income (BI)? A reduction in rents! Why? Because:
    (1) Nobody asks how we’re going to pay lower rents!
    (2) By definition, the benefit of lower rents isn’t competed away in higher rents — as a BI would be. (You don’t see this problem with “pilot” basic incomes; but you *will* see it if the BI becomes universal.)
    (3) Jobs can’t exist unless (a) the employers can afford business accommodation, and (b) the employees can afford housing within reach of their jobs, on wages that employers can pay. Lower rents therefore create jobs — reducing the need for a BI.
    (4) If lower rents don’t serve *all* the purposes of a BI, they reduce the size and cost of the BI needed to serve the remaining purposes.

    And how do we reduce rents? Impose rent control? NO!! That makes it less attractive to supply accommodation. But a tax on vacant lots and unoccupied buildings makes it less attractive NOT to supply accommodation! A vacant-property tax of $X/week makes it $X/week more expensive to fail to get a tenant, and thereby REDUCES, by $X/week, the minimum rent that will persuade the owner to accept a tenant. Better still, the economic activity driven by *avoidance* of that tax would broaden the bases of other taxes, allowing their rates to be reduced — offsetting the tax impact of a BI, if you still want one!

  2. Wayne says:

    So whats the screening process ? There are already too many young, healthy people who abuse our generousity simply because they don’t feel like working. Handing out a gauranteed income, without a strict screening process, will only create more ‘takers’ who are unwilling to EARN an income.

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