British Columbia

Basic income in B.C.? Green Party wants it, but some welfare advocates don't

Politicians and activists remain divided on whether a guaranteed income for British Columbians would be sustainable

Politicians, activists remain divided on if a guaranteed income for British Columbians would be sustainable

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver says a guaranteed income for British Columbians would help combat growing unaffordability throughout the province. (Karin Larsen/CBC)

The B.C. Green Party has renewed its calls for the creation of a basic income for British Columbians following the release of the provincial budget, and citing the province's rising costs of living and stagnant welfare rates.

Party leader Andrew Weaver says a guaranteed income for British Columbians would help combat growing unaffordability throughout the province. 

"The idea is that you provide a minimum level of income, which is there as a safety net," said Weaver, adding that it would only be provided to residents that need it.

A basic income pilot project is currently underway in Ontario. The goal is to understand some of the economic and social consequences of the policy, as well as its effectiveness in reducing poverty.

The Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA says it's time B.C. jumped into the fray — and that the Greens would roll out a pilot if they took office.

"It eliminates the need for a lot of other services," he said.

Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver (left) calls for B.C. to pilot a basic income program. (Richard Zussman/CBC News)

Advocates not convinced

But the effectiveness of basic income policies has long been debated. According to economist Steeve Mongrain, when basic incomes go into practice, they often come at the expense of other social welfare programs like disability assistance.

"It's basically grabbing all these types of programs and kind of folding them into one, reducing the administrative costs, and also making it independent of your ability to work and all these types of conditions," he said.

While there are benefits in reducing administrative costs, welfare advocate Jean Swanson, member of Raise the Rates, says guaranteed incomes can do more harm than good.

"A lot of the powerful people who want it ... their main goal is to collapse all the social programs we have into one, and to save money," she said.

"We wouldn't have old age pension. We wouldn't have guaranteed income supplement. We wouldn't have social housing. Who knows what else we wouldn't have. Some people could actually lose money."

It remains to be seen how any basic income program would function at the provincial level. But Swanson stands by her cause for increasing programs that are currently in place, including B.C. welfare.

"The amount needs to be increased a lot, and the system needs to be respectful."

With files from B.C. Almanac and The Early Edition