Canada·Forum recap

Is basic income a better way to deal with poverty?

The idea of a guaranteed minimum income, or basic income, for every Canadian has been gaining support recently. Do you think basic income is an idea Canada should consider?
A basic income policy could replace existing welfare programs by providing citizens with a guaranteed monthly paycheque. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

The idea of a guaranteed minimum income, or basic income, for every Canadian has been gaining support recently.

Federal Minister of Social Development Jean-Yves Duclos said the policy has merit for Canada to consider, and governments in Ontario and Quebec are studying it.

The concept has support from across the political spectrum. Progressives say it would mitigate the stress people living in poverty experience. Conservative proponents say it would cut bureaucratic red tape and help lift Canadians out of poverty. 

"Basic income is universal, unconditional and individual. That means every individual in society automatically receives a monthly payment… Whether you're employed or unemployed, man or woman, rich or poor, you would get this money in your bank account every month," said Jonathan Brun of Revenu de Base Quebec

The idea is to replace various social and welfare payments what this automatic income that has no employment conditions or means test. 

"The nice thing about a guaranteed income is … it offers to low-income families the same kind of privacy that the rest of us take for granted," said Evelyn Forget, a professor with the department of community health services at the University of Manitoba. 

Do you think basic income is an idea Canada should consider? Here's how the conversation went: 

(Please note that usernames are not necessarily the names of commenters. Some comments have been altered to correct spelling and to conform to CBC style. Click on the username to see the complete comment in the blog format.)

Proponents say basic income makes sense

"An incredibly smart way to simplify government and eliminate poverty, create true social justice, and strengthen communities and society. It is time to move into the 21st century and leave the system of cut throat competition behind us." — Todd Lorentz

"As someone who works with street-involved people, I can't overstate the difference this would make in the lives of the most vulnerable and marginalized Canadians. This would be a rare meaningful step at combating poverty." — Cam 

"If we could eliminate EI, welfare, CPP, old age security, and the giant bureaucracies which support them, this would be a very good thing." — apsley

"This has been talked about for a long-time in North America; President Richard Nixon proposed this very idea, the first of its kind in 1970, labeled the Family Assistance Plan; it would eliminate welfare, offer penalty-free money for people who want to work and/or train for a new job, help poor and single-parent families." by RGP 

"It is regrettable that people are comparing basic income to communism. Communism is not a social safety net provided to the poor. It is an ideology which is used to justify the total elimination of private wealth. Basic income does not stop a person from acquiring wealth. It only gives sustenance to those who have none." — not a communist either 

Basic income raises questions

"The concept of a social safety net that doesn't discourage or penalize those who work gainfully appears fundamentally better than our current welfare/EI/CPP/etc system. Big question though: How can this possibly be implemented without inducing runaway inflation?" — Isaac Boskovic 

"The main worry is that some people just wouldn't work or society would become 'sloth.' Experiments have shown that people that work tend to keep working, but there is more space for innovators, startups. Also, communities activities (volunteering, better parenting, etc.) would flourish as a basic fund is guaranteed for families. In other words, society would greatly benefit. Cons of the idea: taxes, and how much to give. The study they did suggests having a basic guaranteed income of a few hundred dollars max is better as opposed to more money, i.e. survival money instead of a liveable income to avoid 'slothing.'" — Wildernessman 7978 

'Magic unicorn land'

"It's a terrible idea. There is a certain portion of the population that only goes to work and produces because they have to in order to survive. If they didn't have to they wouldn't. Therefore with a minimum income we would lose all the work of these individuals so society as a whole would have fewer resources. Basically everybody would in aggregate get less." — Valley Farmer 

"The government never gets smaller, which is what would have to happen in order to make guaranteed income 'successful'. This concept only works in magical unicorn land." — tgaaa

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