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Tag Archives: Ron Hikel

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

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 … Read More »

Top Mincome director says Canadian basic income advocates should act fast

Roderick Benns recently interviewed Ron Hikel, the executive director of the well-known Mincome project in Dauphin, Manitoba. It was a program that ran from from 1974 through 1978 which helped establish a minimum income for about a third of the people who lived there. Hikel was also the former deputy minister of health in Manitoba, and was deputy chief of staff … Read More »

New book on Basic Income by Leaders and Legacies publisher

Roderick Benns, publisher of Leaders and Legacies, spent nearly two years interviewing prominent leaders and academics across Canada on the merits of a basic income guarantee, hoping to help put the policy on the radar of politicians across the country.

A basic income (also known as a guaranteed annual income) would ensure no one ever drops below the poverty line. It ensures everyone an income sufficient to meet basic needs and live with dignity, regardless of work status.

Articles appeared on Benns’ independent, non-partisan news site, Leaders and Legacies, over a two-year period. After gathering all of the articles and question and answer sessions together, Benns says he realized he had more than 70,000 words and a 290-page book to share – Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World. The book is available exclusively through Amazon.

Featuring scores of interviews and articles with prominent Canadians, including federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May, Senator Art Eggleton, and retired Senators Hugh Segal and Michael Meighen, there are also interviews with MPs Scott Brison and Dan Blaikie, as well as big city mayors like Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton’s Don Iveson. Benns also interviewed researchers, academics, educators, and medical doctors, along with average Canadians — to get them to imagine what their lives would be like under a basic income guarantee.

Roderick Benns.

Roderick Benns.

“This is one of the most talked-about and compelling social policy initiatives being considered by Canadian politicians now,” says Benns, who also does communication work for the Basic Income Canada Network (BICN).

“Basic income is part of a vital conversation we need to have about inequality in Canada.”

He points out Ontario is about to announce an ambitious pilot project to test basic income policy over a multi-year period, with the federal government watching closely. Quebec is considering its own initiative, as is Prince Edward Island.

“If Canada, as a wealthy G7 nation, decides to kick-start a basic income program, this could have profoundly positive ramifications for inequality around the world.”

Basic Income Canada Network urges support of basic income in House submission

The Basic Income Canada Network (BICN) has recently made its submission to the House of Commons Finance Committee pre-budget consultations, urging creation of a basic income that would be universally available to Canadians in times of need.

BICN Chair Sheila Regehr writes in her executive summary that this is “an important time to build on basic income initiatives underway in Quebec and Ontario” and on recent federal initiatives to strengthen other forms of basic income. This includes the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) for seniors and the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) aimed at families with children, both of which have proven effective in reducing poverty. (Retired Senator Hugh Segal is providing advice on design and implementation of a demonstration pilot in Ontario, and Quebec is currently looking into a form of basic income.)

In her summary, Regehr points out that income security for working-age adults “is very weak, some of it is outright harmful, and the resulting stress, poverty, ill health and other costly problems undermine the wellbeing of Canada’s society and economy.”

“The labour market is not providing everyone enough to get by,” she further writes, with more and more precarious jobs with poor pay and few benefits or protections.  An expanded system of basic income is what is needed, according to BICN, “and the greater use of refundable credits is an important vehicle to do so.”

Basic Income Canada Network Chair, Sheila Regehr.

Basic Income Canada Network Chair, Sheila Regehr.

In her submission, Regehr notes that the Canada Child Benefit is an excellent example of a limited basic income (using a negative income tax model), because the money comes with no strings attached for families. There are some prevailing stereotypes about what happens when adults are simply given money, she writes, such as that “people won’t work unless they are forced by rules or deprivation,” that “taxing people’s income makes them reduce their work effort,” and that people in poverty “are more likely than those who are better off to make poor decisions.”

Yet it is the reverse that happens, the BICN submission notes.

“…people do better when they can meet basic needs, control their money and make their own decisions. Nutrition and learning improve, stress, alcohol consumption and violence decrease, and people are better able to find and create economic opportunities.”

The BICN submission also points to a basic income as a “kind of infrastructure for individuals and families.” It would allow them to “be healthier and more productive in many aspects of their lives, whether that is parenting and caring, learning and developing skills, managing an illness, weathering a setback, working for someone else or creating something new.”

In addition to contributing to social cohesion and community health, Regehr writes that a basic income also “supports the innovation agenda by enabling individuals to develop their own creative and entrepreneurial ideas.”

RECOMMENDATIONS

BICN urges the federal government in the 2017 Budget to:

1) Take immediate steps in the direction of a basic income for working-age adults using federal refundable tax credits and other means compatible with the model of benefits for seniors and children;

2) Undertake a thorough review and exploration of ways, in the context of fair and effective taxation as well as poverty reduction strategies, to fully realize a basic income for everyone;

3) Cooperate with and support basic income initiatives of other orders of government, including by fostering public dialogue, consultation, analysis and policy development as this is in the interest of all Canadians.

To read the full, 4-page submission, click here.

Waterloo Region becomes largest municipality in Ontario to support basic income resolution

By Roderick Benns

Waterloo Region in Ontario has become the largest municipality in Canada’s largest province to support the movement toward establishing a Basic Income Guarantee in Canada.

The motion – which originated with Kingston City Council and was sent to all municipalities across Ontario – called for a national discussion on the issue, urging the provinces and federal government to work together to “consider, investigate, and develop a Basic Income Guarantee for all Canadians.”

Momentum continues to build for this new shift in social policy, which would ultimately usher in the end of the welfare system and the beginning of a guaranteed income from the government that would keep people above the poverty line.

The policy would ensure everyone an income that is sufficient to meet their basic needs, regardless of work status through direct cash transfers using the income tax system. Essentially, a basic income would ensure that no Canadian would ever drop below the poverty line.

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Waterloo Region in the Province of Ontario.

John Green, founder of Basic Income Waterloo Region, said it is “significant to have large, prosperous municipalities like Waterloo Region acknowledge that despite their successes, they still have too many people living in poverty.”

Green says poverty has a negative effect on everyone’s prosperity, since inequality is understood to be bad for economies overall.

“Passing this resolution shows that Waterloo Region recognizes the potential of Basic Income to increase the prosperity of the region by ensuring that everyone is able to participate, contribute and enjoy high quality of life and well-being,” says Green.

The Waterloo resolution report noted 12.7 percent of people in the region subsist on low incomes. The region was listed as the sixth most food insecure health unit out of 36 in the province in a 2015 report created by Cancer Care Ontario.

In addition to the municipal level support, nine provincial and territorial capital leaders support basic income or at least pilot projects, with innumerable smaller city and town mayors across the nation declaring their support as well.

Ontario announced a Basic Income pilot project would begin in 2016. The Province recently appointed long-time Basic Income advocate and retired Tory Senator Hugh Segal to provide advice on the design and implementation.

Green points out that Waterloo Region is known for being progressive and innovative and hopes this will help its chances of being considered as a possible test site when the Province announces the new pilot’s location.

My uncle, my Canada, and the nation we want to be

Samuel-getachew_lgBy Samuel Getachew 

I was in Debre Libanos, Ethiopia, visiting family, when the conversation turned to Canadian politics.

My uncle reflected on the Canada he understood and remembered. In a world where many wondered where Canada had been under Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decade, he detailed the Canada he remembered. This included having an international perspective, respect for international institutions such as the United Nations, and a Canadian society that acted like a neighbour when disasters struck.

From the the Ethiopian famine of 1984 or the Asian Tsunami of almost a decade ago, Canada was an admired society that often raised its voice and resources when injustice occurred. I also think of South Africa during the apartheid regime, of Burma and Cyprus.  I think of the Canada that acted on behalf of the African South Asian victims of Idi Amin and the nation that acted on behalf of the modern-day victims of Bashar as-Assad’s brutality.

My uncle talked about the only prime minister he knew in glowing terms, the late Pierre Trudeau. Then, he asked, what happened to Canada recently? I explained to him that Justin Trudeau, his son, happened.

For a number of hours, under beautiful Ethiopian weather, the politics of Canada became the only topic of our conversation. The reality is, Justin Trudeau became PM without a Rhodes scholarship like John Turner, the life-time political electoral success of Jean Chretien, the diplomatic experience and depth of Lester B. Pearson, or the unique cerebral qualities of his father.

What he had was just a controversial last name, youthful vigour, and an understanding of people. It is proving more than enough.

My Uncle, Teshome Tadesse.

My Uncle, Teshome Tadesse.

Since his election, he has been well received and respected by many. What is personally appealing about him is the people he chose to surround himself with, the standards he lives by and the ideals he has embraced since being elected prime minister. History one day will rightfully credit him for saving the Liberal Party of Canada from near death and ending the ultra-conservative Harper era.

I explained to my uncle how Justin Trudeau has brought much respect and substance to our politics.

I told him how he has started to make gender parity the norm, diversity our strength, compassion our tradition and the issue of indigenous Canadians, the concern of all Canadians. I explained how his devotion to his family, his eloquence in both of Canada’s official languages and his willingness to engage everyday Canadians in political discussion is bringing us closer together.

The prime minister has opened up his own family’s struggle with mental health, and how he has been a powerful defender of young people. I told my uncle about his concerns for refugees and Canada’s neglected indigenous people and how he has been an advocate for what is right and not just popular. This is what should be expected from our political leaders — the standard to pick the leaders of the future. This is essentially the ingredients of what makes us all proud to be Canadians and defenders of our traditional values — whether we are in a rural part of Ethiopia or within Canada.

We saw some of that mojo in Washington D.C. a week ago, as the PM made his mark next to President Barrack Obama. I was not old enough to have experienced, what former CBC reporter Brian Stewart, once described as “Trudeaumania” half a century ago, nor had I the opportunity to endorse a “just society” signature of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. However, I welcome, embrace and celebrate the Justin Trudeau era.

With this leader at Canada’s helm, perhaps, the world will no longer ask us, “Whatever happened to Canada?” They will have their answer in the deeds we do as a nation and the values we will aim to live by.

Kingston the first Canadian municipality to call for basic income guarantee

Mayor Bryan Paterson.

Mayor Bryan Paterson.

By Roderick Benns

The City of Kingston has become the first municipality in Canada to call for the development of a basic income guarantee for all Canadians.

Council recently and unanimously passed a motion calling for a national discussion on the issue, hoping this will lead the provinces and federal government to work together to “consider, investigate, and develop a Basic Income Guarantee for all Canadians.”

A basic income guarantee is known by many names, including a guaranteed annual income, a minimum income and a negative income tax, among others. But the essence is that it ensures everyone an income that is sufficient to meet their basic needs, regardless of work status. It provides a direct cash transfer to the people who most need economic security.

Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson says he believes a basic income “appeals to both the left and right on the political spectrum.”

“It’s a question of reaching out to those in need, but also in doing this in the most efficient way possible,” Paterson tells Leaders and Legacies, and basic income policy seems to meet both desired outcomes.

The mayor, an economist by training, says there is a sense that current system is inefficient and that there are better ways to spend tax dollars and make them go further. He acknowledges there are a lot of questions about how it might look, and how to transition from the current patchwork system of benefits.

Paterson points out that his municipality sees “the challenges with the current system,” including “the disincentives for work.”

As an example, he says that under the current welfare model people “are penalized for having assets.”

“A basic income guarantee wouldn’t do that,” he says, so someone doesn’t have to be completely destitute to receive some help.

The 2011 National Household Survey showed that 14.9 per cent of the Canadian population lives in low income circumstances, a percentage exceeded in Kingston where the percentage is closer to 15.4 per cent.

The mayor says Kingston resident and former Conservative Senator, Hugh Segal, has been out front on this issue for decades, and that a “number of community members have reached out personally to me to encourage this (motion).”

In the motion that passed, Council pointed out a number of converging factors and reasons to support basic income, including income insecurity, precarious employment, inequality, and adverse public health outcomes for people living in poverty. All of which, in turn, can lead to low levels of education, chronic stress, and criminal activity, which is more costly than poverty in the long run.

Long List of Mayors

Paterson joins a long list of other mayors across Canada who are speaking out in favour of the policy change, including big city mayors like Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, and Halifax Mayor Mike Savage.

He says the Kingston resolution will be forwarded to all municipalities in Ontario with the request that they consider indicating their own support for the initiative. It will also be forwarded to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The hope is that these groups will engage with the provincial and federal governments to further its case.

Other indicators of a building interest in a basic income guarantee include:

  • The election of an NDP government in Alberta, which was once a Conservative bastion
  • Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, an economist by training, signalled strong support for a basic income guarantee in a 2008 Institute for Research on Public Policy brief, as first published in the Post.
  • The election of an Ontario Liberal government that is keen on bold poverty reduction measures
  • The support of an increasing number of health-related organizations, such as the Ontario Public Health Association and the Canadian Medical Association.
  • The poverty reduction report solicited by the Saskatchewan government and its recommendation to support a basic income policy
  • The election of a Liberal government in Prince Edward Island earlier this year that indicated its support for basic income during the campaign

 

Food Banks Canada calls for basic income policy

Food Banks Canada is the latest national organization to call for a basic income guarantee for Canadians.

Writing in their latest Hungercount 2015 report just released, the group says the time has come for the provinces and territories “to dismantle what has become an understaffed, stressed, and ineffective bureaucratic system that hurts more than it helps.�?

Food Banks Canada notes there exist several workable models for a basic income that would be administered through the tax system. This would instantly “eliminate the bureaucracy, the intrusiveness, and the stigma associated with welfare.�?

“Our recommendations include this significant, forward-thinking plan,�? as well as several other common-sense actions.

Other recommendations include:

  • Dismantling existing social assistance bureaucracies and creating a basic income, administered through the tax system.
  • Ensuring that basic income has a logical relationship to the level of earnings offered through work.
  • Removing non-cash benefits from social assistance and make these benefits available to all low income households, regardless of their eligibility or participation in other government programs.

Food Banks Canada notes that “such benefits include but are not limited to child care subsidies, affordable housing supplements, and drug and dental insurance.�?

The national group is one of many health-related organizations, such as the Ontario Public Health Association and the Canadian Medical Association, who have all endorsed basic income policy.

‘There’s a good case to be made for a basic income:’ Halifax mayor

Another big city mayor in Canada says he supports the concept of a basic income guarantee to combat inequality and create better social cohesion.

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage says “there’s a good case to be made for a basic income,” pointing out there are many advantages in ensuring that people have their basic needs met.

“I think we would have more social cohesion and a better balance of opportunities. We would have a narrowing of the gap between the very rich and the very poor. And we would have a more productive workforce because many would access new opportunities,” says Savage, who heads the largest city in the Atlantic Region of Canada.

Savage represents the sixth provincial or territorial capital leader in Canada to support basic income policy, following the capital cities of EdmontonVictoriaSt. JohnCharlottetown, and Iqaluit. As well, other big city mayors like Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi and scores of small town mayors across Canada are also speaking out in favour of this issue.

The mayor – who was also a former three-term Liberal MP for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour riding – says he believes Canada should set up some pilot projects so modern data can be gathered within Canada about the effects of a guaranteed annual income.

“Pilots are absolutely essential. We need the data. It’s unfortunate that we don’t have the long form census which could give us good information” about where to best set up the pilots.

Savage says there must be an understanding of what programs would disappear, such as welfare or employment insurance, and what ones would be kept, even with basic income policy in place.

“There would need to be some consensus, so we’re all on the same page,” he says.

As a Liberal MP, Savage worked with Conservative Senator Hugh Segal and Liberal Senator Art Eggleton on issues connected to poverty and inequality. The mayor was also the critic for Human Resources Development and served on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health. In addition, he served as the vice-chair of the standing committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

One of the unfortunate trends that has become more popular, says the mayor, “is speaking about the middle class.”

“Nobody really defines it particularly well. I think that we all need to take more responsibility for those who are really struggling,” he says.

Savage is emboldened by the “progressive group of mayors” currently helming big cities in Canada.

“We talk about these issues, like guaranteed income, housing – the broader social concerns that affect people’s lives.”

He says he always points out that “the feds have the money, the provinces have the jurisdiction, and the cities have the problem.”

But when it comes to challenges that effect huge parts of the population, “we need to put jurisdictions aside,” says Savage.

Savage says that to see the level of change that is needed around basic income, inequality, and other social policy issues, the people who are already volunteering in these sectors need to make their voices heard at the political level.

Across this country, says the mayor, people volunteer in food banks, social service groups, faith groups, and community organizations.

“Those people, especially, need to raise their voices,” says Savage, because they are already active in the community.

“They need to tell the politicians that they’re going to expect them to answer questions like ‘are you interested in basic income?’ ‘Are you going to provide mental health?’ ‘What about housing?’ Ask your MP what their plan is. I call it activating the activists,” says Savage.

Back when it was more of a political issue, Savage says he was in favour of civil marriages for gays and lesbians.

“I must have heard from thousands of people on that issue. I don’t think I’ve heard from 150 people on poverty. That will have to change if we want to see results.”

Saskatchewan takes ‘the most serious, official look at basic income’ in Canada in decades

From the province that brought the concept of Medicare to millions of Canadians, Saskatchewan’s progressive policy credentials are being tested yet again in the form of basic income policy.

The Advisory Group on Poverty Reduction – formed by the conservative Saskatchewan Party led by Canada’s most popular Premier, Brad Wall — recently recommended that the provincial government implement a basic income pilot project.

Dr. Ryan Meili, who served as one of the advisors for the group, calls this “the most serious official look at basic income from a government in Canada in decades.”

“To have five assistant deputy ministers from five ministries come to consensus with community leaders and experts in calling for a trial of this approach is a significant step toward taking this from a nice idea to a real policy option,” Meili tells Leaders and Legacies.

The five ministries involved were Economy, Health, Education, Justice and Social Services.

Meili says if the Saskatchewan government carries through with a pilot, “it will bring basic income to the forefront of serious considerations” for reducing poverty and improving the health of Canadians.

The doctor is also the founder of Upstream: Institute for a Healthy Society, notes that the advisory group’s report called for an “ambitious” reduction in poverty from 10 percent in 2012, using the Market Basket Measure, to five percent by the end of 2020.

saskatchewan

“This 50 percent reduction would have a significant impact on health outcomes, given that income is the single biggest predictive factor of longevity and wellness,” he says.

Steps needed to reach this goal were included in the report, including recommendations for child care, housing, employment, food security, health, and income itself.

“If followed and successful, the next generation in Saskatchewan could be among the healthiest ever seen,” Meili says. The Upstream founder says it’s not clear at this point whether government will accept the recommendations in whole or in part, but he is hopeful they will be on board.

Donna Harpauer, the minister of Social Services, “was very involved during the process.”

“In fact, it was her guidance that we maintain the current trajectory of poverty reduction that led us to select the goal we did.”

Meili acknowledges there are fiscal restraints on the government during a time of low oil prices, given that the prairie province is second only to Alberta in oil production.

“However, that’s exactly the time we should invest more in reducing and preventing poverty in order to prevent short-term economic woes from sending another generation through the cycle of poverty,” he says.

There has been great movement in Canada to push for basic income policy. The Canadian Medical Association recently passed a resolution in support of basic income. Prince Edward Island’s government has also pledged to look at a guaranteed income policy. As well, mayors across Canada are speaking out in favour of some kind of minimum income for Canadians.

The Saskatchewan Green Party is in favour of basic income policy, as is the NDP Party, the Official Opposition in the province. They are also urging Premier Wall to adopt the policy.

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David Forbes, NDP Social Services critic.

“If we successfully tackle poverty in our province, we’ll reap the benefits of better health outcomes, better social outcomes and better economic outcomes. That means brighter futures and a stronger province for every one of us,” says NDP Social Services critic David Forbes.

“Guaranteed basic income programs have shown promise elsewhere, and they’ve received support from across the political spectrum. So we think it makes good sense to implement a pilot project here,” Forbes says.

Mayor of Iqaluit says basic income policy would bring dignity to northern territory

The mayor of Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, says basic income policy would bring dignity and equity to Canada’s largest territory.

Mayor Mary Wilman says the multiple challenges of northern living on Baffin Island and in the rest of Nunavut are so great that citizens need basic income policy to lift them out of poverty.

“Due to a lack of roads and access, the only means of getting food here is through an annual shipping route and by air,” says Wilman. “That means we have to pay about three times as much for food as people pay in the south.”

Minimum wage in Nunavut is $11 per hour – the same as Ontario. However, as the mayor points out, four litres of milk in Ontario is $3.99. In Iqaluit, it’s $12. The average cost of 2.5 kilograms of flour in Nunavut is $13, and about $5 everywhere else in Canada.

“The minimum wage economy is based on southern living,” she says.

Iqaluit map

According to the Globe and Mail, seven in 10 Inuit preschoolers in Nunavut live in homes without enough to eat. Median income for non-aboriginals in Nunavut is $86,600 a year; for the Inuit, it is $19,900. Eighty per cent of Nunavut’s 36,585 people are Inuit and almost half the population is on social assistance.

“There’s a lot of people up here who are unemployed,” Wilman tells Leaders and Legacies.

She also points out that even old age pensioners often just get the bare minimum because there are few job opportunities where people could have had the chance to a pay into a pension. “Therefore most live on the basic allotment from the government when they become of age — about $500 a month with no additional income.”

Wilman is among 327 Canadian mayors who were invited to complete a national survey by Leaders and Legacies, in order to gauge municipal level support for a basic income guarantee policy. A common definition of a basic income guarantee ensures everyone an income sufficient to meet basic needs and live with dignity, regardless of work status. It involves a regular, reliable distribution of money from government to people to help ensure total income sufficient to meet common, basic needs.

Wilman says she can “really see the good that basic income policy could do.”

“It would bring dignity back to the people here. It could supplement other incomes,” and improve education levels if people know they can go back to school without fear of being impoverished.

In a 2013 report prepared by the Caledon Institute of Social Policy, commissioned by Nunavut’s Anti-Poverty Secretariat, the Institute recommended that Nunavut move to dismantle the welfare system and replace it with a basic income policy.

Wilman says many residents of Iqaluit want to become hunters to provide for their families, given there are few employment opportunities to choose from. The debate over the definition of what constitutes ‘work’ is clearly seen in Nunavut, where traditional ways of life are not recognized.

“Many people want to earn their own way, but people are struggling. If you’re a full time traditional hunter, there’s no extra income to can tap into. Traditional lifestyles up here are not recognized, so people end up becoming social assistance recipients.”

People in the south often think becoming a hunter is practically free, she points out, but when you factor in the need for the right equipment, it can be quite costly to get set up. Transportation like a boat or a snowmobile is necessary, as is a weapon and ammunition, gas, and tools.

“All of this is needed to enable the hunter to become a viable contributor to the family.”

Wilman sees basic income policy as a way of creating “social wellness.”

“When you don’t have the means to be independent it affects individuals’ self-esteem. It’s disheartening, not empowering. It’s degrading.”

The mayor says basic income policy was brought up again at a Baffin Island mayors’ meeting last year. She points out that she is the only mayor in the territory lucky enough to be employed full time, because Iqaluit has city status. Almost all the other mayors in the territory are part time and could, in theory, benefit from a policy like basic income.

“I advocate for my people here in Iqaluit, and in the other Nunavut communities,” says Wilman.

“We have talented, skillful people here who may not have the same opportunities to earn income like in other places in Canada.”