Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi called for “brave steps” in the fight against inequality and vowed to take leadership on pushing for a basic income guarantee.
Speaking to a National Poverty Reduction Summit in Ottawa on May 7, Nenshi told a capacity crowd that it’s up to Canada’s mayors to take leadership on important issues, like reducing poverty.
“The frustrating thing is that we know what the answers are.”
Bringing up the idea of a guaranteed annual income (or basic income guarantee) – and noting that this is just an extension of the Child Tax Credit, except that it would be for all Canadians who might drop below the poverty line – he called for courage from politicians to take steps to deal with poverty.
Pointing to his own immigrant family’s roots, he says he has the lived experience of poverty. “Like many immigrant families, we worked hard and had times of struggle. The core of our success as a nation is that we are all in this together. We need to look after one another.”
The first Muslim mayor of a major North American city, Nenshi’s parents came from Tanzania. Nenshi was awarded the ‘World Mayor’ prize in 2014 by the City Mayors Foundation and was the first Canadian mayor to win this award.
The mayor’s comments come on the heels of a provincial election in Prince Edward Island in which all parties supported the advancement of a basic income guarantee. The Liberal government under Wade MacLauchlan (which won the election) went so far as to call for a model program, not just a pilot, with potential for long-term established benefits:
“We’d be actively interested in pursuing that (Basic Income Guarantee)…I’d call it a model program and build in a commitment to evidence-based research and action-based research,” he said at an all-candidate’s debate.
Sheila Regehr, chair of the Basic Income Canada Network, says it is “very exciting” to hear about Nenshi taking leadership on the issue of a basic income guarantee.
“I hope his colleagues in municipalities across Canada will engage with him. Certainly they are the order of government closest to people and face, first-hand, the problems that gaps in income security create for their communities, she says.”
Regehr points out there is solid evidence of the individual and community-level benefits of a basic income, from Dauphin, Manitoba in the 1970s, through international programs, to current Canadian research on the wellbeing of seniors and families with children who receive guaranteed incomes.
“The Basic Income Canada Network hopes more Canadians, like Mayor Nenshi, will realize that the foundation is already built. He described this as a brave step — and it is also a smart one,” says Regehr.