Home » Basic Income/Healthy Communities » Federal election would be a great time to have a discussion about basic income, says Saskatoon mayor

Federal election would be a great time to have a discussion about basic income, says Saskatoon mayor

By Roderick Benns

The four-term mayor of Saskatchewan’s largest city says an upcoming federal election would be a great time to have a policy discussion about a basic income guarantee.

Don Atchison, mayor of Saskatoon, thinks a basic income guarantee is “an interesting concept” to explore and one that “we need to think about.”

Also known as a guaranteed annual income, or negative income tax, the policy idea has been gaining steam thanks to support from high profile senators like Art Eggleton, Hugh Segal, and Michael Meighen. After Calgary’s Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he was in favour of it at a national poverty conference, this was picked up by Leaders and Legacies and then later by national media. Edmonton’s Mayor Don Iveson also announced strong support for the initiative.

“The federal election would be good place to have these discussions,” says Atchison, although he noted a municipality has other responsibilities to deal with, from police and fire services, to waste management issues and more.

When it comes to other poverty reduction measures, Atchison points out that Saskatoon has been a national leader in attainable housing.

“The CMHC (Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation) rated us number one in Canada. Then the Province copied our program,” notes Atchison.

The mayor is a big believer in each person having a strong foundation.

“People need to have safe, clean housing to live in. That’s the foundation of a community. I think of the children all the time, and the better housing they live in, the better off their family will be, which leads to better education, which leads to better jobs.”

Atchison says his administration has worked to help the homeless in the community by working closely with the YWCA.

“And we’ve had tremendous success with that.”

The mayor notes that another area of social focus is Saskatoon’s indigenous population, which he estimates to be about 14 percent. The City works with the Saskatoon Tribal Council to solve issues from housing to transportation.

Some people, Atchison says, are very close to being able to afford their own home but their wages don’t always rise as fast as home price increases.

“The local private sector is also trying to innovate for people who are a little short,” says the mayor, such as pre-paying the new owner’s taxes for the first five years.

Atchison says he’s not a believer in putting all attainable housing in one area of the city, which leads to social segregation.

“I believe you need to be putting (affordable housing) throughout the community” to encourage integration, he says.



  1. Spoken like a politician … That is my impression here.
    We need to talk about this all across Canada.
    Election? Promises that follow waves of opinion?
    When are those promises ever kept once the euphoria subsides?

    Personally I think I will only vote for the one who proves to me that he or she is serious about making sure that every citizen is considered equal. A person with no income is hardly equal. That is why I will vote for one who actually begins the process of establishing Unconditional Basic Income all across Canada. I really don’t care what party owns them.

    Parties are mostly about power and rarely about people. I don’t vote for parties. I wonder if there will be anyone who will inspire me to vote come next Federal election. I guess I’ll just wait and see.

  2. The conversation grows. And regardless of Margaret’s comment, I’m happy to hear of any and all “politicians” talking about BI, UGI, whatever. After all, with politicians talking about “it”, there is more of a chance that the public in general will wise up and demand it, thereby realizing our potentially pleasant Spaceship Earth.

    Socioeconomic Democracy is here offered as a peaceful, effective and democratic resolution to humanity’s present and needless systemic problems and sufferings. Socioeconomic Democracy will further be found to satisfy the increasingly acknowledged need for a “Next System Project”, advocated by, among many others, Gar Alperovitz.

    The crucial question is whether humanity has yet evolved sufficiently to understand and peacefully resolve the utterly unnecessary obstacles to further healthy development and evolution.

    It is here respectfully suggested that all of humanity seriously confront the multitude of needless problems created by the growing and unjust distributions of monetary income and far more importantly monetary wealth, within and among every country on this planet.

    Fortunately, this appears relatively easily accomplished by simply recalling and reconsidering just a few insights and observations of writers and thinkers down through the decades, centuries and millennia, starting somewhat arbitrarily, to be sure, in ancient Greece.

    Plato, in his last and most mature Laws, preferred equality of personal property but realized that was difficult, if not impossible, to precisely define. He therefore thoughtfully suggested limits on both poverty and affluence. Plato’s attentive student, Aristotle, suggested, with admirable specificity, that “No one should have more than five times the wealth of the poorest person.” Prior to Plato, Thales of Miletus provided a reasonable assessment of the situation: “If there is neither excessive wealth nor immoderate poverty in a nation, then justice may be said to prevail”.

    Reluctantly neglecting all too many other important contributors to the increasing understanding and advancement of an economically and psychologically healthy humanity, may it briefly be mentioned that a powerful sequence of thoughtful humans, down thru the ages, considered and contributed to the discussion.

    A valuable list of some of these people is available at “A Brief History of Basic Income” (see below). Of course, the rapidly increasing popularity of some form and amount of universally guaranteed income for all (by itself) leaves in question just how it is to be financed.

    Nevertheless, this writer cannot constrain himself from explicitly mentioning two of the many contributors to this crucial conversation. First, the world-changing work and dedication of that Societal Engineer, Thomas Paine, who, in a later work following Common Sense entitled Agrarian Justice, proposed and discussed the virtues of a guaranteed income for all.

    Then there was Henry George who, not unlike Paine, did time in a print shop to get his writings printed. One of Henry’s major contributions was to link financial assistance for the poor with a suggested tax or limit on personal wealth, then mostly being land property.

    Over forth years ago this writer, and would-be Societal Engineer, was given the specific ideas of Socioeconomic Democracy. A history of the development and presentation of these ideas is available in our Bibliography (see below).

    Socioeconomic Democracy (SeD) is a theoretically consistent and peacefully implementable psycho-politico-socio-economic system wherein there exist both some form and amount of locally appropriate Universally Guaranteed Personal Income (UGI) and some form and amount of locally appropriate Maximum Allowable Personal Wealth (MAW), with both the lower bound on guarantee personal income and the upper bound on personal material wealth set and adjusted periodically and democratically by all participants of a democratic society.

    Socioeconomic Democracy is easily implemented with elementary Public Choice Theory. The median values of society’s preference distributions regarding these two crucial societal parameters peacefully, democratically and unambiguously resolve the matter.

    Whether society realizes some appropriate form of Socioeconomic Democracy is a cogent question. Clearly, public dissemination and discussion of the suggestions presented here will prove determinative. An alternative to Socioeconomic Democracy as defined above would be where the two economic boundaries discussed here were considered and established by, say, the legislative branch of a “Representative” Democracy.

    This planet’s trivially eliminated or significantly reduced societal problems, by realizing Socioeconomic Democracy, include but are by no means limited to, those familiar ones associated with Automation, computerization and robotics; Budget deficits and debts at the personal, national, regional and global levels; Contempt for much presently practiced politics; Costly crimes and costly prisons, both governmental and corporate profit-motivated; Corporate profit-motivated as well as general publicly expensive exogenous pollution; Inadequate public education for all ages, “races”, and both sexes of humanity; Oversights and confusions of some, but certainly not quite all, Economists and Politicians; Ignoring the elderly, to whom we all owe our very existence; International costly conflicts; national costly conflicts; Involuntary employment; Involuntary unemployment; Lack of access to necessary physical and psychological healthcare, causing unnecessary harm to the individuals themselves, their “close” relatives, and any “innocent bystanders”; Pay injustices to both sexes, all ages and all “races” of our human family; Corporately profitable yet publicly costly “Planned Obsolescence”; Political non-participation, carefully planned, designed, legislated and realized by some, but not all, power-intoxicated politicians; Population explosions; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) caused by “patriotic” and/or pathetic human-killing wars, as well as all the PTSD created by all the other unnecessary societal problems; Voting district gerrymandering; Needless and obscene poverty, racism, sexism, and everything else that effectively opposes, neglects or negates the General Welfare.

    Break Time: Consider and enjoy “Rapids of Change” at

    Responses to this communication are welcome and sought.

    “A Brief History of Basic Income Ideas”

    You may enroll for a daily mailing of BI Newsletter at

    A Bibliography of Socioeconomic Democracy is available at

    Robley E. George, Founder and Director
    Center for the Study of Democratic Societies
    [email protected]

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