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Basic Income has ‘two sources of benefit’ to modify human behaviour: Mincome leader

Ron Hikel, former Executive Director of Mincome.

Ron Hikel, former Executive Director of Mincome.

By Roderick Benns

There are “two sources of benefit” inherent in a Basic Income Guarantee, according to the executive director of the famous Mincome project in Winnipeg and Dauphin, Manitoba.

Ron Hikel, who served as executive director of Mincome from 1972 to 1977, says the first source of behavioural influence is the simple no-strings-attached receipt of the money itself. The second is “the psychological certainty of regularly having enough to live on.”

Hikel was speaking to Basic Income advocates at a meeting in Peterborough recently when he made the remarks. He says the psychological security of having money from month to month could “significantly reduce both individual and family anxiety.”

(In the current welfare system, recipients must submit to a high degree of invasive questioning, fill out copious amounts of paper work, and then face entrenched stigma – all for a much smaller amount of money that falls well below that of the poverty line.)

“There’s no doubt a properly designed and administered Basic Income could influence people’s lives for the better,” says Hikel.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in mental health challenges and I’m convinced that the certainty of income could lead to better physical and mental health,” Hikel explains.

The former Mincome executive director notes that of all the social determinants of health – those factors that shape the health of Canadians through the living conditions they experience – income is the most important enabler on this list.

Hikel points out that, at the level of the total population, those who have higher incomes are healthier, while those who are the most unwell in society have lesser ability to pay for health care. “And that’s why a general health system operating on exclusively private market terms is neither fair nor viable.”

Ontario’s new pilot on Basic Income

Retired Conservative Senator Hugh Segal’s report on a minimum income for Ontario was released recently, which will see Canada’s largest province set up a multi-year pilot to measure its effectiveness beginning in April, 2017.

In the report to Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government, Segal recommends a monthly payment of at least $1,320 for a single person which is about 75 percent of the province’s poverty line. For those with disabilities, Segal suggests a top-up of $500 more a month.

Hikel says that he would expect to see that the present rate of increase in health care system cost slowing after the introduction of a Basic Income, just as demand for care in Dauphin declined, according to research by economist Dr. Evelyn Forget. He says he would expect better population health in Ontario, too, after a basic income was in place in the province.

Hikel notes that in Dauphin — where Mincome helped establish a reliable income for about a third of the people – data indicated crime also went down during the experiment, including domestic incidences.

He says the big challenge for Ontario will be to get the design of the pilot right, with special emphasis on a top-notch IT system to calculate and deliver regular payments on time and in the right amounts for each family.

 

 

 

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