British Columbia

Guaranteed basic income in B.C. not the best way to a more just society, expert panel finds

A report two years in the making says there are better ways for government policy to achieve a more just and equitable society than a basic income.

A new report makes 65 recommendations, most around improving or overhauling existing programs and policies

An expert panel charged with studying the viability of a guaranteed basic income says it's not the best policy option because people's needs are too diverse to be effectively answered simply with a cheque from the government. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

An expert panel charged with studying the effectiveness of a guaranteed basic income in British Columbia says there are better ways to use government policy to improve people's lives.

The 500 page final report from the panel Covering All the Basics: Reforms for a More Just Society, makes 65 recommendations, many around improving and overhauling existing social programs.

"We have concluded that moving to a system around a basic income for all as its main pillar is not the most just policy option. The needs of people in this society are too diverse to be effectively answered simply with a cheque from the government," reads the report.

The authors say that claims touting the advantage of a basic income are hard to prove. They also say that providing a basic income is an ineffective and costly way to try and address issues like poverty reduction.

For example, the report said a universal basic income of $20,000 for B.C. residents aged 18 to 64 would cost $51 billion, the same amount as the current provincial budget.

However, the panel did recommend targeted basic income for three specific groups: youth aging out of government care, those with disabilities and women fleeing violence. 

In those cases, chair David Green of UBC's Vancouver School of Economics said providing a basic income on its own isn't enough and that social support structures also need to be fortified.

"One needs to build a system that has community around them with supporting organizations that provide direct support," he said, speaking about youth aging out of care. "If you just do a basic income, you miss the need for those supports."

According to Green, the government could quickly enact the report's recommendations around youth aging out of care and reforming disability assistance.

The panel was struck two years ago as part of the previous minority NDP government's Confidence and Supply Agreement with the B.C. Green Party.

B.C. Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau said problems caused by the pandemic mean the government needs to act swiftly on the recommendations.

"There is no time to waste," she said. "COVID-19 has worsened inequality in our society and has left far more people facing serious economic insecurity. We expect to see these recommendations brought into the government's budget this year."


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