What would YOU do if you had a guaranteed annual income (GAI)? or how might your life have been different when you were younger if you had had a GAI? For some of us, a GAI would make little difference in our lives, but for many, our lives might be (or might have been) quite different if we didn’t have to worry about paying the rent and putting food on the table.
- eat well, because you could finally afford it? worry less and have better quality sleep?
- quit a job you don’t like? start the small business you’ve dreamed of?
- start a community garden? learn to cook? offer cooking workshops to others?
- return annually to the seasonal employment that you love, instead of finding full-year paid work that is less appealing?
- buy the medications that you couldn’t previously afford? go to the dentist?
- write the novel that has been in your head for years? become a dancer? or an athlete? an artist? a musician? a composer?
- start (or finish) an educational program?
- spend more time with your children? look after ailing relatives? mentor young people?
- provide services to clients who can’t afford to pay? attract new clients who can finally afford to pay?
- start an advocacy campaign about something you are passionate about?
- enhance your personal and family life in other ways?
- contribute in other ways to the cultural, social, economic, environmental and political life of your community?
The Basic Income Canada Network (BICN) is working towards a Canada in which no one is forced to live in poverty. A Basic Income Guarantee is an unconditional and universal cash transfer that would extend the existing income guarantees for seniors, through Old Age Security (OAS) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), and children, through the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB). It would be universal in the same sense that Medicare is available to all those who need it. In BICN’s version, a BIG would replace welfare programs, which are stigmatizing, means-tested, stingy and bureaucratic, but other income security programs, like Employment Insurance and the Canada Pension Plan, would remain in place.
The idea has gained traction in the past 18 months, with significant media coverage in 2014; the adoption of Basic Income as a priority resolution at the Liberal Party of Canada’s 2014 convention; and politicians, like the federal Liberal Party’s deputy leader Ralph Goodale, musing aloud about the possibility of making a BIG an election issue. In the last year, many Canadians have heard about a pilot project, MINCOME, in Dauphin, MB, which eliminated poverty by providing everyone who needed it a guaranteed annual income. Although the program only ran for four years, from 1974-1978, it showed dramatic results. For example, hospital admissions—for accidents, injuries and mental health—dropped by 8%. Despite concerns that having a guaranteed annual income would make people lazy, there was little effect on labour force participation. There were two exceptions: young people stayed in high school longer, instead of dropping out to find work, and mothers stayed at home longer with their new babies .
A BIG could help us develop a more caring and compassionate Canada, where the gifts and talents of everyone are welcomed and appreciated, and all Canadians can live in dignity. A BIG would give us a strong foundation to move forward into an uncertain future, where globalization and technology are changing the nature of our economy, and automation will soon be replacing people from truck drivers to health care workers. A BIG will give us the freedom to re-consider how to live with each other on a planet with limited resources.
If you’d like to find out more, check out the BICN website. If you support the idea, sign up for occasional updates, join or start a local group, donate money, and talk to your family, friends and local politicians about the idea.