Updated: Sep 14
A basic income guarantee is much needed, says Susan Abells (photo: The Star)
By Spencer van Vloten
September 14th, 2021
Coalition Canada Basic Income (Coalition Canada) and Basic Income BC will be holding a basic income rally at the BC legislature in Victoria, calling on the government to establish a basic income guarantee.
We talked with Coalition Canada's Susan Abells about the event, what specifically is being called for, and why she thinks Canadians are being let down by the lack of a basic income guarantee.
You’re calling for a basic income guarantee – explain the details.
Susan: We’re calling for basic income that’s available to people whenever they need it. That makes it a basic income guarantee rather than universal basic income that's available to everyone whether they need it or not.
In large part it’s a poverty elimination policy, but it also recognizes fairness and autonomy of the individual. It’s subject only to residency and income—regardless of work status, relationship status, or residency status.
It’s about the dignity and security of the person and enabling them to meet their physical, mental, and social well-being, encouraging their full participation in society.
Is the current system failing?
Susan: It's failing people, particularly at the provincial level where welfare and disability are administered.
These income transfers are highly highly regulated. There’s a barrier between the receipt and guardian of funds, to determine who’s and isn’t eligible.
Federally, they’re doing a better job. We have the Canada Child Benefit, Old Age Security, and these are guaranteed rather than gatekept like at provincial level.
They’re administered by Canada Revenue Agency, mostly based around income and not asset-based. There's less involvement from people determining whether you’re eligible.
'Canadians Want Basic Income Now - Add Your Voice!' (video: Basic Income Now)
A report from earlier in the year, commissioned by the government, ruled against a basic income in BC. Thoughts?
Susan: It was a very disappointing report, but it was expected. They selected 3 economists who were predisposed to not recommend a basic income. They came up with their own social justice framework that even included metrics like fairness to taxpayers.
They selected 3 economists predisposed to not recommend a basic income
In some cases, they did recommend basic income guarantees, such as for people with disabilities.
Disability without poverty should be a no brainer. Even they recognize that people with varied abilities need basic income, but they wouldn’t go as far as including people on welfare. To them there’s the deserving poor and the undeserving poor.
Everyone knew what that report was going to say because of who they chose to write it. The government wanted that result.
If not basic income, what other measures could alleviate poverty?
Susan: It comes back to the same types of highly targeted changes to the existing system.
The government needs to stop picking and choosing; they need to make financial support widely available so people don’t fall through the cracks. The NDP and Greens have basic income in their platforms, and the Liberals in convention voted in favour of it.
Basic income isn’t a magic bullet. The employment insurance (EI) system also must be repaired, for example. People who are self-employed or precariously employed do not benefit from EI.
Basic income’s part of suite of policies that includes a working employment insurance program. All these things need to be fixed to create a social safety net for 21st century.
It must also go hand in hand with policies to address racism, and a whole bunch of discrimination embedded in our society.
Tell us about the event you have coming up
Susan: We're holding a rally at the BC legislature on September 25th, from 1-3 PM.
We chose that date because September 25th's International Basic Income Day, and also because want to begin conversation anew with whoever the federal government is.
We want to raise awareness that this is a very important social policy to create extra security; it'll make communities safer, more equitable, more just.
It'll make communities safer, more equitable, more just
The rally will be in Victoria at the legislature building, on the front lawn. We'll have speakers from across the province, including Diana Day (lead matriarch of the Pacific Association of First Nations Women); John Millar (former BC provincial health officer), Iva Jankovic (BC Coop Association), and even raging grannies!
How can we make basic income happen?
Susan: We have many different projects we're working on, and are lobbying hard with politicians, with the rally being part of the push to build a movement behind this.
Our world is so uncertain. We need a social safety net in place to stop people falling through the cracks. The transition to a low carbon economy is also going to continue impacting labour, jobs, and the economy in so many ways.
This is something that can help you, your friends, and your neighbours to create a more equitable society.
Spencer van Vloten is the editor of BC Disability. To get in touch, send an email to email@example.com!