Rally pushes idea of basic income for all

Saying the time is right to make it happen, a small group hit the legislature lawn Saturday to push the country to adopt a ­guaranteed basic income.

Organized by Basic Income B.C., and held in conjunction with similar rallies around Canada at the end of International Basic Income Week, the rally was designed to drive home the importance of an income that allows everyone to have enough to meet basic needs.

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Organizer Susan Abells of Basic Income B.C. said having a guaranteed income is essential as the country emerges from the pandemic and faces a transition from a carbon-based economy. “That will affect everyone.” The timing is right and there is political will to consider it as the country has seen the importance of a social safety net in the face of a global pandemic, she said.

“The pandemic demonstrated the inequality of our system and showed how broken our social safety net is,” she said.

Programs such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which has provided financial support to the tune of $2,000 a month for those directly affected by the pandemic, allowed people to manage, to pay their rent, their mortgages and kept money circulating in communities, and could serve as a template for a basic income program, she said.

Seeing CERB and other relief measures have some success getting the country through the past 18 months should do wonders for increasing the political will to try it, she said. “Canada already has basic income for parents with the child benefit and seniors through Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement, but what we don’t have is guaranteed income for working age adults.”

One of the knocks against a basic income is cost. Abells said economists working with their group suggest it could be implemented for about $23 billion annually, but the Parliamentary Budget Officer suggested in a study released in April that it would cost about $85 billion.

The Fraser Institute, a conservative think tank, suggested the cost could be between $131 billion and $464 billion.

Abells said many of those studies don’t take into account downstream benefits and savings to be found as a result of everyone having an income.


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