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Local economies would benefit from basic income policy: Victoria mayor

By Roderick Benns

The mayor of Victoria, Lisa Helps, says basic income policy and robust local economies go hand in hand.

“There is a strong link between having a basic income and creating a strong local economy. There is more money to circulate and it supports the ‘buy local’ movement,” she says.

“So that means it’s good for the people who need more to live on, but also for the goods and services being sold by our business community,” Helps says.

Helps 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. Her city – Victoria – represents the third provincial capital leader to support the policy, along with Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and St. John’s, Newfoundland.

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.

Helps says that out of the 13 municipalities that make up the Greater Victoria Area, with a population of 345,000, her city has the lowest average and median income in the region, at $38,000 a year.

“That’s not affordable with the cost of housing and food,” she says.

That’s why Helps likes to talk about how to create prosperity for all, rather than ‘combat poverty.’ This reframing is valuable, she says, because it serves to keep thinking about growth and improvement, rather than in a deficit model.

The Federal Election

Helps is hopeful that the federal party leaders will begin to address inequality issues more rigorously. She points out that the NDP have touched on important issues with their promise of a $15 universal child care program and the Liberals’ promise of an enhanced Canada Child Tax Benefit is welcome news. The Green Party, she notes, has talked the most consistently about inequality – including a guaranteed liveable income.

“I don’t think we can continue with the status quo in Canada. I want to see the rubber hit the road on these issues,” she says.

Helps tells Leaders and Legacies that she already has her plane ticket booked for Ottawa in early December to petition the new government for action on basic income policy and other inequality issues, such as housing and homelessness. The federal election will be held October 19th.

Once she knows who the ministers are and what portfolios they hold, Helps says she will be on top of these issues for Victoria.

She knows that mental health and addictions support, in addition to housing, would have to go hand in hand with a basic income guarantee.

Cities and Citizens Making a Difference

The mayor says she will continue to advocate and speak out about basic income and other issues that prevent economic prosperity for all people.

“I work to pass motions to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. I focus on local economic development strategies. I also believe in creating social enterprises so that we can generate revenue and create a social good at the same time.”

Helps says governments at all levels “need to pay attention to low income earners” because getting such earners more fully engaged in the economy benefits everyone.

Citizens need to make noise, write letters, and pressure politicians, she says, to bring about the changes they want to see. At the same time, she believes it can only be effective “if elected officials are listening.”

“The election is a great time to ask if there’s any listening going on. We can point to the income inequality we are seeing in Canada. We can ask everyone what they’re going to do about it. And we need to be very specific in our advocacy.”

“We’re working hard in the cities here and it would be nice to have a federal government that could help out,” Helps says.


  1. Inasmuch as I am somewhat familiar with and do respect your work, I would like to discuss with you, at your convenience, some of the opportunities presented by the general public’s increasing awareness of the always present but growing economic inequalities throughout every country, corner and continent of 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 forty 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 many “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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