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Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson speaks out in favour of a basic income guarantee

By Roderick Benns

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson says the “evidence is overwhelming” for providing a basic income guarantee for Canadians – and he thinks his city and Calgary are great places to try out pilot projects.

On the heels of a national poverty conference in Ottawa, in which Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi voiced his support for a basic income guarantee, Edmonton’s Iveson says not only is he in favour of the policy, he thinks Alberta’s two largest cities should work with the Province to figure out how to make it happen.

“We (Edmonton and Calgary) may be in a position to pilot some different solutions. As partners, we may be able to help the Province implement” a basic income guarantee pilot.

The policy is also sometimes known as a guaranteed annual income or negative income tax.

Last week, Leaders and Legacies learned through Nenshi’s communications adviser, Daorcey Le Bray, that Calgary’s mayor was intent on building support for a basic income guarantee through fellow mayors across Canada. Iveson’s support – and his suggestion of pilot projects with the Province – may gel nicely with Nenshi’s vision.

“This is the advantage of him (Nenshi) and me working together in Alberta. We already have ongoing discussions with the Province,” says Iveson.

The task force on poverty that Iveson initiated is still considering the policies of basic income and a living wage, which are not incompatible concepts, the mayor notes. The task force will report back with their recommendations on a number of policy fronts this fall.

“It’s definitely a measure we’re evaluating. There is a lot of phenomenal evidence from Dauphin, Manitoba to support this. There is no doubt to me that income security is a pillar…and will be a part of our plan,” he tells Leaders and Legacies.

A Conversation with Hugh Segal

Two days after Rachel Notley’s NDP swept to power in Alberta, Iveson found himself having a conversation with former Conservative Senator, Hugh Segal, and now Master of Massey College. Segal has long been the conservative standard-bearer on basic income guarantee policy.

“I had an extraordinary conversation with him about a guaranteed annual income,” recalls Iveson. Segal was proof, he says, that there is a “broad coalition of people who think this is the right things to do.”

The mayor says a basic income guarantee “would cut to the chase on a lot of this work” on poverty reduction. He believes it would also help the housing situation for people living in poverty, since they could then afford to have the foundational base they need for success.

Iveson says he is aware the federal Liberal Party has talked about trying out pilots. As well, the Green Party also supports a form of basic income guarantee.

The mayor says that city leaders like him “can help move the needle on public acceptance” for such policy, given the absence of party affiliations.



  1. Long overdue and best action for equality

  2. Hugh Segal has been an eloquent proponent of a basic income guarantee. His recitation of the “Mincome” pilot in Dauphin, MB is thorough and instructive for policy- makers in the field of income support. However, given that the lessons of Dauphin are some 40 years old, I think Mayor Iveson’s suggestion for two large urban pilot projects should be supplemented with one (or more) small urban pilot to ensure applicability in 2015. Municipalities such as Drayton Valley offer economic and demographic profiles which are distinct from larger centres, and offer unique insights to program administrators and researchers alike.

  3. Roderick Benns

    You’re right, Glenn, it will be important to be representative of the country — from rural to urban and small town to big city. If you haven’t heard, Prince Edward Island might be first to try this out in Canada. See this story: /2015/04/24/all-prince-edward-island-party-leaders-united-in-exploring-basic-income/

  4. In the face of shifting political winds, it takes a lot of intestinal fortitude . . and perseverance, to launch such programs. Premier Ed Schreyer was that kind of man . . he came to power in Manitoba in 1972 . . the program operated from approx. 1974 to 1978, before the Federal winds changed and the program ended in mothballs.

  5. I would love to see such a program implemented. I am self employed and in the first two years start up so pretty much I am living on my credit cards and credit line, getting deeper and deeper into debt until the sales pick up enough to pay all the debt from start up costs back to myself and then actually make money. This means to keep my store open I sacrifice things such as food, clothes without holes in them, and phone at home so I can pay my business bills, utilities and lot rent for my trailer. Self employed people are only allowed three months maximum on Alberta Works, no EI, and retail businesses do not qualify for grants, and loans are impossible until after two years of business taxes being filed. When employment for someone else does not come through (because not everyone is able to get jobs easily) people are often forced to create their own jobs and hope they can survive long enough until that business hits the profit stage three or four years after starting. A basic income guarantee would enable people like me to be able to create new businesses which have the potential to create more jobs down the line.

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