Leaders and Legacies Canadian leaders and leadership stories Mon, 06 Feb 2017 21:43:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Progressives must define the basic income we want /2017/02/06/progressives-must-define-the-basic-income-we-want/ /2017/02/06/progressives-must-define-the-basic-income-we-want/#respond Mon, 06 Feb 2017 17:50:24 +0000 /?p=3356 Toni Pickard

Until recently, Canadian austerity proponents have not paid a lot of attention to basic income. But now that governments are taking it up, things are changing.

The one influential study from the right, the Fraser Institute Report (January 2015), has become a major resource for conservative policy analysts appearing in the media these days. They are repeatedly defining basic income in its right wing version, as if that’s what it must be. There has been no comparable study from progressive analysts to help us counter this trend.

Ontario is about to launch a basic income pilot; Quebec is exploring ways to implement basic income provincially; the PEI Legislature has voted unanimously to urge the Provincial Government to seek a partnership with the Federal Government to begin a trial project for the entire Province; a few Federal MP’s, Senators and government officials are talking about studies and pilots.

Without a doubt, there will be pilots designed over the next while and they will affect the shape of future Canadian programs. The risk of a perverse conservative vision of basic income coming to dominate public discourse is growing, but designs conforming to austerity approaches will be disastrous.

Austerity policies don’t work. Even the IMF itself has finally acknowledged that. Yet austerity thinking continues to influence our governments. Without strong push-back, it will frustrate the potential for humane, sensible and effective basic income designs, kyboshing all anticipated positive outcomes.

Many studies have demonstrated basic income’s power to rejuvenate local economies as well as to provide significant downstream savings in, for example, health and security among other expensive social costs. These objectives are shared by conservative thinkers, but we won’t see those results if the upcoming trials are conceived in austerity and brought forth in stinginess.

Austerity versions of basic income would ‘marketize’ virtually all social services now available to those receiving social assistance, substituting a single cash payment for them.  This is wholly unrealistic and would be catastrophic for those receiving social assistance now. Fear of this result has caused some influential anti- poverty activists  to argue against basic income itself lest people end up still worse off than they now are. This fear is not foolish. But the answer is not to settle for an increase in rates or minor improvements in the current system, but to join forces to see to it that effective and humane values govern the pilot designs. The last thing we need is to leave it to right wing thinkers to define what basic income is or should be. Canadians must be able to hear and read confident and competent progressive articulations of basic income, solidly based in evidence with careful analyses of design issues in the context of Canadian federalism.

I coordinate the Kingston Action Group for a Basic Income Guarantee. We are part of a nationwide grassroots movement, affiliated with the Basic Income Canada Network, which is, in turn, affiliated with the Basic Income Earth Network. Basic income campaigns have grown quickly over the last few years, both here and abroad.

In Canada, basic income is backed by many local, provincial, and national health care, food security and social justice organizations, as well as by mayors, municipal councils, a variety of Members of Parliament and Members of Provincial Parliaments from all parties, as well as the drafters and supporters of the Leap Manifesto.

A wealth of research is available detailing positive results of many basic income experiments conducted abroad, and of course there’s Dr. Evelyn Forget’s seminal work on Canada’s Mincome experiment in the 1970s in Manitoba. But more work on design challenges is needed, especially work tailored to the contemporary world and Canada’s multi jurisdictional income security systems.

An adequate, fairly funded and well designed basic income will improve life not just for welfare recipients, but also for the working poor, people with disabilities, low income seniors, disadvantaged children, and those in part-time or precarious work. Income sufficiency, though only one strand in an adequate safety net, is a necessary one.

Furthermore, automation is taking over more and more workplaces. Robots don’t get sick and need no pay, but they also have no money to spend.  Humans will need to find other ways to provide for themselves, and businesses other ways to generate demand for what they supply. So, business leaders are beginning to see the importance of basic income as well. We all need to adjust to a world where more and more jobs are taken over by robots. The “work ethic” can no longer drive our sense of social and moral worthiness or govern our social support programs.

Progressive thinkers who resist basic income, choosing instead to argue for more and better jobs, or increases in welfare rates, seem unable to move past time worn positions that have produced little in the way of real advances either for workers or for people receiving benefits.  Nor do those thinkers come to grips at all with automation.  They are undermining the progressive campaign for basic income, leaving the austerity discourse to occupy the terrain.

The more and better jobs argument, while important of course, is now inadequate to the need. Precarity and technological unemployment are restructuring the world of paid labour beyond the power of any government to reshape fundamentally.

Capital is well served by these changes and people could be protected from, and to a large extent served by them, so long as the new forms of work are firmly regulated and livable wage levels are legislated. But what of an adequate and reliable source of income apart from the jobs being lost so rapidly to automation? What alternative other than basic income is there to deal with galloping technological unemployment?

As for the welter of differing Provincial welfare programs,  even with better rates their punitive, humiliating, and ineffective approach to social assistance can’t be a path to a future any of us wants to see unfold. Even improved welfare rates and services will do nothing for underemployed people. Nor will they relieve the ongoing stress of Canadians who realistically fear they’ll lose their jobs and tumble right into the welfare maw.

Basic income – the progressive, forward-thinking version – will be transformative and must be the version to prevail in the months and years to come.

— Toni Pickard is coordinator and co-founder of the Kingston Action Group for Basic Income Guarantee.

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NDP MPP says well-designed basic income could result in better care of aging parents /2017/02/02/ndp-mpp-says-well-designed-basic-income-could-result-in-better-care-of-aging-parents/ /2017/02/02/ndp-mpp-says-well-designed-basic-income-could-result-in-better-care-of-aging-parents/#comments Thu, 02 Feb 2017 21:25:44 +0000 /?p=3352 Roderick Benns

Ontario MPP, France Gélinas, says a well-designed basic income policy could help women stay home if they want to take care of their aging parents.

Gélinas, an MPP with Ontario’s New Democratic Party (NDP) and a health critic for her party, says women in the 50-65 age bracket often find themselves in the difficult position of placing their mother or father in a long term care home.

“Many women – and let’s be honest, it’s mostly women who would choose this – would love to stay home and take care of their moms and dads,” says Gélinas.

“If they had a basic income it would be possible,” she says, and without any stigma attached to such a decision.

Now, most women can’t afford to lose their jobs in order to do this, she says, and so the business of long term care flourishes.

However, the MPP says it takes $90,000 a year to keep someone in a long-term care bed in Ontario. If someone were to receive even a $20,000 annual basic income it would still be “way cheaper.”

“Will there be a disincentive to work? Well, let’s not kid ourselves. It’s a ton of ‘work’ to keep your mom or dad at home – it’s demanding and tough but many would choose to do it,” she says.

She says she knows “how hard it is for people to place their parents in a long term care home. If you give them another option, they will usually take it.”

The MPP says Canadians hear with too much regularity about abuse that happens in long term care homes. A basic income would help adult children take care of elderly moms and dads for longer.

This would be “phenomenal for health outcomes for the elderly” and women, as the dominant caregivers, “would not be condemned to live in poverty,” she says.

More Money is a Healthy Choice

Gélinas says the body of evidence is solid that for every $1,000 dollars a family gets there is measurable improvement in their health.

A single man getting around $700 per month (the approximate rate of social assistance in Ontario) is “pretty bad,” says Gélinas.

At $1,320 per month – the amount recommended by special government adviser Hugh Segal for a basic income program – “this person will automatically be healthier,” she adds.

“Income has a direct impact.”

Where it becomes worrisome with basic income, says Gélinas, is for someone on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). Even with the additional $500 per month that Segal is recommending, she notes there are often many expenses that total more than this for people with disabilities.

For instance, someone in a wheelchair living in rural northeastern Ontario – where Gélinas’ riding is located – automatically means additional expenses. Not only would this person need a larger apartment so they can get around with their wheelchair, she says, but there is also a lack of some medical services in the area. Right now, ODSP will cover the full cost of travel to a larger centre for specialist appointments, including hotels and transportation.

Gélinas points out that like anything with wheels, even wheelchairs give out and need to be replaced, too. “So that extra money per month (from the recommended basic income) won’t be enough” unless there are other accommodations, she says.

As well, she says if the government is looking for cost savings associated with shuttering ODSP offices and workers, she doesn’t think this is advisable.

“I think it would be short-sighted. The ODSP workers, they help a lot and so many people depend on them” for guidance in their day-to-day living.

Gélinas says the NDP will be waiting to see what the Ontario government comes up with more specifically on basic income before endorsing just any version of it.


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The nature of work and how we define ourselves is now in question: Opposition MPP /2017/01/30/how-to-buy-stock-shares-a-short-guide/ /2017/01/30/how-to-buy-stock-shares-a-short-guide/#respond Mon, 30 Jan 2017 19:29:18 +0000 /?p=3346 Roderick Benns

Progressive Conservative MPP, Julia Munro, says the very nature of work is changing so rapidly that societies are having difficulty figuring out how to respond.

Munro, who is the PC critic for the government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, says the “nature of work has changed so much.”

“Everything has always been pinned on our work – our employment. It’s the way we have defined ourselves for so long,” she says.

She suggests the rise in at least some of the mental health problems that have been occurring is because of a lack of occupational identity.

“These foundational concepts are in question now,” says Munro.

While acknowledging the starkly different employment landscape, the PC critic says it’s too early to decide definitively if the creation of a basic income guarantee is the way to go.

“It’s possible that a basic income could help. But my view is that we need to look at it in tandem with things like better matching education with available good jobs.”

Munro gives the Ontario government credit for their consultation process on basic income, happening now across the province. She says it has been a “helpful way” for people to get an idea of what others are thinking. Once the government has heard from Ontarians, the plan is to announce more details about the province’s basic income pilot in April.

“Basic income is thought provoking. It’s something to keep in mind, given all the societal changes,” she says.

Munro had already attended one consultation session and was headed to another one in London on Tuesday.

She says one common theme she has noticed is that “younger people don’t have the same feeling towards a job as people have had in past generations.”

“It’s a common thread. They know they won’t be in the same job forever,” as members of past generations were.

Munro says a recent poll by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business reveals that when they asked their members if they supported pursuing a minimum income guarantee, 71 percent said no.

She shares this to illustrate that it’s important to “look at what everyone’s saying” before committing to one direction.

The PC MPP believes the government has a huge undertaking in front of them in simply figuring out where to locate the pilots. Retired Conservative Senator, Hugh Segal, who wrote a report on basic income to offer guidance to the government, suggests a saturation site in southern Ontario, one in northern Ontario, and one in an indigenous community.

She says figuring out which specific communities will be difficult, as will be figuring out how to conduct a control group.

As for party support for basic income, Munro says the PCs are “interested and open to hear about what comes out of the consultation process” and will be more prepared to comment in the spring, after the government releases more details.

Munro says two of the most important questions for governments to answer is ‘what are the jobs of the future and how will they be filled,’ as well as ‘are our students getting what they need to move in that direction?’

The MPP represents the riding of York-Simcoe where there is a mix of runaway construction and affluence, along with pockets of poverty, including a youth shelter.


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DiNovo says Basic Income must work in tandem with new workplace standards /2017/01/18/what-to-consider-before-investing-money-in-real-estate/ /2017/01/18/what-to-consider-before-investing-money-in-real-estate/#respond Wed, 18 Jan 2017 20:40:08 +0000 /?p=3338 Roderick Benns

Fifty years ago, MPP Cheri DiNovo’s father was involved with the Basic Income movement in Canada.

That shows the longevity of an idea that has refused to die, she says, as Ontario and other jurisdictions in Canada and around the world contemplate moving forward with some kind of minimum income guarantee.

While the NDP’s DiNovo is very supportive of the idea of a Basic Income for Ontarians, she is adamant it must bring people over the poverty line and that it be created in tandem with stronger workplace standards.

The new norm of precarious work in Ontario – defined as part-time, contract, or temp work, often without benefits – is “not serving us well,” she says.

“People are desperate. The rich are getting richer, the poor are poorer, and this kind of precarious work is terrifying for people,” she says.

“It’s no way to build a life.”

DiNovo, who serves as the NDP’s critic for Community and Social Services, also points out the “epidemic of poverty” in the province. Toronto is the child poverty capital of Canada with 133,000 children living in poverty, according to a report released last year. She says there are also too many people who are under-housed or homeless.

The MPP says that’s why she favours bringing in a Basic Income that brings people over the poverty line – about $20,000 per year – and then changing the landscape in which businesses operate. This includes making it easier for people to unionize, bringing a halt to so-called ‘scab’ labour, bringing in a minimum wage that begins at $15 per hour, and providing tax incentives for businesses to choose to hire people for full-time, permanent jobs.

“We don’t want a Basic Income to act as a subsidy for bad employers,” she explains.

The MPP isn’t worried about a Basic Income creating any kind of ‘work disincentive.’

“Nobody wants to sit at home making the poverty rate if they can make double that. People do want to work – it’s often what gives them satisfaction. They don’t want jobs that grind someone into the ground or employers that treat them like crap.”

When asked if jacking up the minimum wage, in tandem with a Basic Income and creating new workplace standards, would make Canada less competitive, she says this is the climate of fear that many multinationals try to stoke.

“It’s all based on fear. I’m just not that worried that McDonald’s or Tim Horton’s will pack up and leave” if we have better workplace standards, she says.

She points out that the Nordic nations and Germany have excellent labour standards compared to Canada’s, and that they have “solid economies.”

“Ontario can do better.”

Ultimately, DiNovo says that some form of minimum income is needed in Ontario. But she wants no part of a Basic Income that simply becomes a way for government to do social policy “on the cheap.”

“If it’s a tool in our toolbox then that’s great.”

Retired Conservative Senator Hugh Segal provided the Ontario government with recommendations for setting up a Basic Income in the province. In his report, 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 at least $500 a month.

The Ontario Liberal government is expected to announce details this spring about the basic income pilot it is setting up. It is currently conducting consultations across Ontario to get feedback on the pilot.



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John A. Macdonald would have supported a Basic Income policy /2017/01/10/finding-money-for-investments-shaping-the-budget/ /2017/01/10/finding-money-for-investments-shaping-the-budget/#respond Tue, 10 Jan 2017 17:48:04 +0000 /?p=3329

Roderick Benns

If there’s one thing Prime Minister John A. Macdonald could do exceptionally well, it was to recognize where the political winds were blowing. That’s not a criticism. The most able of politicians help move societies where they actually want to go anyway. Leaders and governments merely ensure a smooth transition, if they are doing their jobs well.

As we get set to celebrate Macdonald’s birthday on Jan. 11, there is a fascinating development occurring on the policy front in Canada that our sage first leader would have already seen coming – the implementation of a basic income policy.

A basic income ensures everyone an income sufficient to meet essential needs and live with dignity, regardless of their work status. We already have a type of basic income for seniors with the Guaranteed Income Supplement that has greatly improved older Canadians’ quality of life. We also have a type of basic income for children under 18, which we know as the Canada Child Benefit. Yet for the vast majority of Canadians in between, nothing like this exists.

Most jobs today are precarious in some way – part-time, temporary, contract, and without benefits. A good education and even a stable work history are no longer a guarantee of economic security. This is impacting our economy, but also our social cohesion.

According to a recent paper from the Mowat Centre (Working Without a Net: Rethinking Canada’s social policy in the new age of work) part-time positions accounted for 89 per cent of job creation in Canada between October 2015 and October 2016, and more than half of all Greater Toronto Area workers are employed in positions with some degree of precarity.

Economist Guy Standing calls this new class of people ‘the precariat.’ As he wrote in a Canadian newspaper just a year and a half ago, the precariat is “the growing mass of Canadians who are in precarious work, precarious housing and hold precarious citizenship: the perpetual part-timers, the minimum-wagers, the temporary foreign workers…” and more.

Standing writes that Canada’s main political parties’ neglect of this new class is “producing a fragmented society in which the old middle class dwindles…and the precariat takes shape in anxiety, alienation and anger.”

The bubbling up of a new class – especially an angry one — is something Macdonald would have recognized and addressed. He would have done so because he would have seen the need, but also because the politician in him wouldn’t have countenanced the electoral threat.

Macdonald was technically a ‘Liberal-Conservative,’ the unwieldy name that was used at the time to describe what we would likely call a ‘progressive’ today. He favoured high tariffs to protect Canadian jobs. He was a pragmatist, not an ideologue. Macdonald, in fact, coined the phrase “progressive conservative.”

Beyond his generally progressive credentials, there is further evidence that Macdonald, today, would support a basic income policy and deal with the precariat head on.

As Richard Gwyn writes in Nation Maker, Macdonald had a particular interest in the Salvation Army, a church well known for its effort to help the poor. What Macdonald was doing through his visits and networking with the church, writes Gwyn, “was learning about the effects of the depression on Canada’s new class of urban workers.”

This shows that Macdonald, who was no stranger to financial difficulty, had a deep interest in understanding how a new emerging class would cope. He wouldn’t have wanted an entire class of people in economic and social difficulty, given that Canada, at its inception, was a largely egalitarian nation of modest means.

This spring, Ontario kick-starts a basic income pilot program in Canada’s largest province. Last year, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard tasked François Blais, minister of employment and social solidarity, to figure out how a basic income might work there. In Prince Edward Island, all parties recently supported a motion to request the federal government use their island province to conduct a pilot.

As Canada turns 150 this year, there is real momentum for this initiative and a sense that basic income is a policy prize worth fighting for. Our first prime minister would have heard the precariat’s cry for fairness. Our current PM must not let it go unanswered.

Roderick Benns is the author of Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World. He is also the author of The Legends of Lake on the Mountain: An Early Adventure of John A. Macdonald. This article originally ran in the Waterloo Record.

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Our most basic needs in society surely includes money /2016/12/19/our-most-basic-needs-in-society-surely-includes-money/ /2016/12/19/our-most-basic-needs-in-society-surely-includes-money/#comments Mon, 19 Dec 2016 14:49:21 +0000 /?p=3325 By Robin Boadway and Roderick Benns

For too many years Canada has danced around what is perhaps the central issue in social policy development. What are the most basic needs of Canadian citizens?

If one were to read a recent report from the Mowat Centre called Working Without a Net: Rethinking Canada’s Social Policy in the New Age of Work one wouldn’t think it was money.

The new report written by Sunil Johal and Jordann Thirgood attempts to make sense of of the real problems facing labour markets in a thorough way, particularly the increasingly precarious nature of work. However, the authors curiously limit themselves to six social policy areas – Employment Insurance and training, pensions, healthcare, child care, housing and employment standards. The report then does a pretty good job of showing how these particular programs are not meeting the challenges facing the labour market.

The problem with their selective focus is that it leaves out an obvious contender for retooling social policy – income transfers. Wouldn’t basic needs include a Basic Income for Canadians? This is vital to deal with increasing inequality and poverty, coupled with decreasing opportunity.

In fact, one of the challenges they pose asks “how we best move forward with a society that provides all citizens with basic needs…”

The paper seems to accept counter-intuitively that the basic needs of citizens are dominated by childcare, healthcare and affordable housing. These are called the foundational programs that the report suggests needs strengthening. What about adequate incomes with which to buy the necessities of life like food, clothing, transportation and more — things not directly provided by public programs?

Some recognition is given to selected transfers, such as reforms of Canada Pension Plan and the Guaranteed Income Supplement, the Canada Child Benefit and the Working Income Tax Benefit, which should be “reviewed for adequacy and coverage.”

Some lip-service is also provided to the inadequacy of social assistance. But it is very selective. Only once in the entire report do the authors even ponder transformational change when they discuss the issue of a guaranteed annual income (or Basic Income) and then only dismissively.

Depicting this Basic Income as a payout to every Canadian of $15,000 each per year (i.e., $500 billion based on a population of 33 million) is nonsensical. Almost no one is arguing for a fully universal Basic Income in that sense. However, a Basic Income that is there to ensure people do not drop egregiously below the poverty line – say $15,000 or even $20,000 per year – and with a tax-back rate of 30-50 per cent is perfectly affordable. We would do this by rearranging the existing system of non-refundable and refundable tax credits. As well, there will be substantial savings by collapsing the inadequate welfare system. All of this can be done without reducing spending on other programs.

A Basic Income is the most cost-effective way of addressing both low incomes and volatile earnings, and would be a complement to affordable housing, health care and childcare, not a substitute. Indeed, it seems to be an ideal instrument for dealing with the problems of precarious employment so well outlined in the first half of the Mowat paper.

The paper makes the absurd claim that a Basic Income “would become a more realistic alternative in a job-free future, where capital resides in the hands of the few, who are taxed to provide for the needs of the many.”

The need for a Basic Income Guarantee cannot wait for such an unlikely future. It is important for policy makers and think tanks not to fall victim to what Professor Deborah Stone calls ‘path dependence.’ This is the idea that early policy decisions establish institutions and procedures that perpetuate themselves, making it difficult to find other solutions or even to adjust original policy at all.

Canada can’t afford to stay on the same path. We can’t afford a lack of creativity in social policy any longer as the inequality gap widens. The most basic needs of all Canadians are not being met and a Basic Income would address this challenge head on.

— Robin Boadway is an economist at Queen’s University and is former editor of the Canadian Journal of Economics. Roderick Benns is the publisher of Leaders and Legacies and is the author of Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World.

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New Leaf co-founder aims to help homeless and sees parallels with Basic Income /2016/12/18/new-leaf-co-founder-aims-to-help-homeless-and-sees-parallels-with-basic-income/ /2016/12/18/new-leaf-co-founder-aims-to-help-homeless-and-sees-parallels-with-basic-income/#respond Sun, 18 Dec 2016 15:03:02 +0000 /?p=3316 By Roderick Benns

In 2015 Claire Williams left her career behind in Vancouver to volunteer at an orphanage in India. When she returned to Vancouver six months later, the issue of homelessness in her city preoccupied her. She wanted to make a lasting impact in the lives of others.

With her co-founder, Frans Tjallingii, the New Leaf Project was born. New Leaf is a simple concept. A one time cash grant of $7,500 is awarded to a person who is homeless, with no strings attached.

In Vancouver the pilot project will run in association with UBC and The Lookout Society next Spring. Fifty participants will be selected to receive the one-time cash grants.

It’s the system of direct cash transfers to an individual where Williams sees parallels with the Basic Income movement in Canada.

“Basic income and the New Leaf Project share the common philosophy that everyone should be able to meet their basic needs,” says Williams.

“We live in a wealthy society and more needs to be done to redistribute that wealth to support people in need,” she adds.

Williams notes that being homeless “is a circumstance, not a character defect,” and the same can be said for those living in resource-poor circumstances.

“Current approaches are failing homeless men and women and their families. Inadequate shelter and meagre social assistance payments trap people in poverty and thwart social mobility,” she says.

She says the direct giving model has been proven to empower recipients to find housing, and purchase goods that improve their lives. It also helps restore a sense of dignity and well-being.

Williams, who spent eight years helping governments, indigenous communities and private sector clients achieve sustainability goals, says direct cash transfers provide income security and the dignity of choice not afforded by traditional responses.

“Both models (Basic Income and direct cash transfers) reinforce the emerging international view that handing control to the individual will yield better results,” she adds.

Williams says Canada’s homeless population continues to grow, despite the billions of dollars spent annually. She and her New Leaf partner, Frans, were convinced that they could leverage their skills to design a different way of doing things.

“It’s a more streamlined approach that would create a positive impact on someone’s life at precisely the time they need it most.

The one-time cash grant of $7,500 is awarded to a person who has been homeless for less than one year. Individuals are carefully screened for program eligibility which includes the age of recipients, length of time they have been homeless, functionality, and employability. The intent is to support participants to the highest degree possible, assess their readiness for change, and reduce the risk of harm.

“Direct cash transfers could be an elegant solution to an intractable social problem,” says Williams.

“There is a cost to doing nothing and that was our call to action. Sometimes you just have to go for it.”

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P.E.I. Green Party leader: Look beyond economic measurements for full benefits of Basic Income /2016/12/12/p-e-i-green-party-leader-look-beyond-economic-measurements-for-full-benefits-of-basic-income/ /2016/12/12/p-e-i-green-party-leader-look-beyond-economic-measurements-for-full-benefits-of-basic-income/#comments Mon, 12 Dec 2016 17:54:35 +0000 /?p=3308 By Roderick Benns

Although he counts himself lucky not to have experienced poverty firsthand, the Green Party leader of Prince Edward Island, Peter Bevan-Baker, has many friends who haven’t been as fortunate.

When he rose in the P.E.I. Legislature last week and got all-party support for a Basic Income project to be set up on the island, he may have had them in mind when he introduced his motion. The Legislature agreed unanimously to have the province work with the federal government in the hope of running a Basic Income pilot on the island.

Bevan-Baker’s motion had its origins in the island’s May 2015 election. At an all-party leaders’ debate, it was the Green Party leader then, too, who brought up the issue, given it is prominently featured in all Green Party platforms across Canada. What he didn’t expect during that debate was to hear widespread openness toward the idea.

“I discovered, to my delight, that they all thought Basic Income was at least worthwhile exploring. It was a pleasant surprise, this unanimity.”

Bevan-Baker brought it up at least on “a dozen occasions” in the Legislature when opportunities arose. “There were all sorts of possibilities to do so, since Basic Income has the potential to make an impact across all departments,” says the Green Party leader.

He says if a Basic Income were to go into effect, it would have far-reaching ramifications. The obvious one is the virtual elimination of poverty.

“It’s the right thing to do from that standpoint.”

But there are far greater effects it may have to create a thriving society, he notes.

“It would remove the tremendous stress that people feel. It would provide people with enough income to meet their basic needs. It would help with the great mental stresses that people endure.”

Bevan-Baker says there are tremendous collective benefits, and that it’s important to go beyond considering only the economic when measuring. Everything from reduced health care costs, fewer law and order issues, increased civic participation, and better educational attainment are but a few areas of life that should be measured under a Basic Income to see if these improve.

“I believe a pilot project will show that Basic Income is going to improve the collective well-being of our society.

Now, the ball is in the federal government’s court. They would have to work out a partnership with the maritime province in order to make it happen. So far, there’s been no word whether or not federal involvement might happen.

In Ontario, which is embarking on its own Basic Income pilot, Ontario’s Minister Responsible for the Poverty Reduction Strategy, Chris Ballard, told Leaders and Legacies that Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development for Canada, “is certainly interested in the pilot, as are my provincial colleagues across Canada.”

When it comes to P.E.I., Bevan-Baker says he met with Family and Human Services Minister Tina Mundy personally many times and he knows she has had discussions with her federal counterparts.

The Green Party leader says this is “an enormous opportunity for the government” for an issue that has widespread momentum across Canada.

“There’s a compelling case for involvement. We don’t even need to use the whole island. We could use smaller pockets, different communities with a rural-urban mix and…it would be a drop in the bucket in federal terms.”

Bevan-Baker says islanders love to refer back to that historically-important week in 1864, when the so-called Charlottetown Conference marked the beginning of discussions to create a united Canada. To this day, P.E.I. is considered the ‘birthplace’ of Canada. They like to draw all sorts of parallels, he says, when there’s a chance for the small province to do something grand.

“But that parallel is well drawn here. It would be lovely symmetry if we were the place to give birth to a Basic Income. We’re less than half of one percent of the national population. We are our own jurisdiction. You can do a really solid pilot project here.”

Bevan-Baker came to Canada at age 23, having grown up in a middle class family from the highlands of Scotland. They didn’t have a lot of material possessions, and he points out that he had “a real sense of the value of things growing up,” which helped to shape him.

Politically, it is that sense of what matters in people’s lives which may have served Bevan-Baker well here — especially if his role in kick-starting a Basic Income project for P.E.I. soon bears fruit.

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Followed by poverty, Peterborough man finds hopeful cause in Basic Income /2016/12/09/followed-by-poverty-peterborough-man-finds-hopeful-cause-in-basic-income/ /2016/12/09/followed-by-poverty-peterborough-man-finds-hopeful-cause-in-basic-income/#respond Fri, 09 Dec 2016 18:04:22 +0000 /?p=3305 By Roderick Benns

When he was a young man, just leaving high school, Jason Hartwick always pictured himself in front of a classroom. He saw himself as a high school teacher, helping to inspire young people and to guide them along their lives’ paths.

The thing is, Hartwick didn’t have anyone to guide him.

He grew up in poverty, bounced around from town to town across a wide swath of southern Ontario, dependent on where his single mom could find work and affordable housing.

From Bowmanville, where they lived on Mother’s allowance payments, to Grasshill, Pefferlaw, Sutton, Sundridge, Burk’s Falls, South River, Beaverton, Peterborough and Argyle, Hartwick figured out they had moved 32 times before he turned 21.

Now 38 and living in Peterborough, he says he knows that “poverty was definitely a barrier” when he was growing up with his six siblings. When he thinks about his early dream of being a high school teacher, Hartwick remembers how he felt as reality set in.

“I knew there would be no way for me to afford it and OSAP (Ontario Student Assistance Program) always seemed out of reach,” he says.

There is a mindset among those who live in poverty, he says, that college or university is for those who have money already. More importantly, there’s a feeling that if “we’re struggling already, the risk of adding more debt is too high,” he explains.

Without the benefit of an education, Hartwick had a checkered job history. He worked on many farms while growing up.

When he was 18 he worked in a factory until he got injured, which ended in a “mess” that ended up with him quitting.

Hartwick became a basement sealer for a year in Peterborough, then a mover in London. He worked at call centres for years and also spent time as a construction framer.

For most of the last nine years, though, he has been a stay-at-home father who has also begun doing advocacy by serving as co-chair of the Basic Income Peterborough Network. He heard about the concept behind Basic Income when he was working to bring a program called Blessings in a Backpack to Peterborough about four years ago.

“I immediately saw the many advantages to such a program and I have been advocating ever since,” he says.

A Basic Income ensures everyone an income sufficient to meet basic needs, regardless of one’s work status. In Canada, the most common form of basic income discussed is a ‘top up’ approach.

Retired Senator Hugh Segal’s report on a minimum income for Ontario was released recently, which will see Ontario set up a multi-year pilot to measure its effectiveness starting in April, 2017. Segal recommended a monthly payment of at least $1,320 for a single person which is about 75 per cent of the province’s poverty line. For those with disabilities, Segal suggests a top-up of $500 more per month.

Although Hartwick is still living in poverty, it’s been “one of the easier times in my life.” It helps that he’s married and his wife has a job as a Personal Support Worker.

They have four children, with an income of about $3,000 per month. Once you factor monthly expenses in, there’s not a lot left over though, according to Hartwick. The kids are 16, 8, 6, and two and he admits that he and his wife both smoke.

“Depression is the only mental illness that can actually be caused by poverty,” Hartwick says. “When you are depressed, you will try anything to relieve the figurative weight that it puts on you, and smoking definitely creates a weird sort of euphoria.”

“Smoking is not just physiologically addicting, it is also emotionally and habitually addicting.”

Hartwick says if a Basic Income were available tomorrow, the family would be able to afford childcare which in turn would allow him to find work.

“And then we would soon not need it anymore,” he says.

He notes this is the whole idea of a basic income, giving people a chance to bounce into other opportunities.

Former Peterborough resident, Roderick Benns, 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. He turned his research into a book entitled Basic Income:How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World.

This article originally appeared in Peterborough This Week.

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École Polytechnique anniversary reminds us of missing and murdered indigenous women /2016/12/05/ecole-polytechnique-anniversary-reminds-us-of-missing-and-murdered-indigenous-women/ /2016/12/05/ecole-polytechnique-anniversary-reminds-us-of-missing-and-murdered-indigenous-women/#respond Mon, 05 Dec 2016 13:59:07 +0000 /?p=3302 By Doreen Nicoll 

December 6, 2016 marks the 27 anniversary of the mass femicide at École Polytechnique. Vigils will be held across Canada to commemorate the murder of 14 female engineering students.

On that day in 1989 a lone gunman entered a classroom of 60 engineering students and ordered the men to leave. The murderer was heard to scream, “I hate feminists,” before opening fire with the intent of killing as many women as he could.

Anne St-Arneault, 23; Geneviève Bergeron, 21; Hélène Colgan, 23; Nathalie Croteau, 23; Barbara Daigneault, 22; Anne-Marie Edward, 21; Maud Haviernick, 29; Barbara Klueznick, 31; Maryse Laganière, 25; Maryse Leclair, 23; Anne-Marie Lemay, 22; Sonia Pelletier, 23; Michèle Richard, 21; and Annie Turcotte, 21 were murdered because they were female.

This single act of violence meant to terrorize, intimidate and coerce women and girls let all Canadians know there are no sanctuaries or safe havens for women and girls. There can be no denying this vicious act targeted women in general and feminists in particular.

Absurdly, the shooter failed to realize both women and men can be feminists. Supporting women’s equality and recognizing women’s rights are human rights is all that’s necessary to be a feminist.

As devastating and horrible as the massacre at Ecole Polythechnique was, I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge the largest ongoing mass femicide in Canadian history – the targeting of Canada’s Aboriginal women and girls dating back to the time of first contact.

In no way is this inclusion meant to detract from the importance of the massacre that resulted in December 6 being declared the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada. Instead, including our Aboriginal sisters who have been murdered or gone missing at the hands of male perpetrators must be included in this day of remembrance because their femicide is a catastrophe of epic proportion with effects that have touched every aspect of Aboriginal life.

Since first contact, Europeans have undermined and usurped the authority and power of First Nations, Inuit and Metis women and girls. This was institutionalized through the implementation of the Indian Act which effectively stripped Aboriginal women and girls of their basic human rights.

Every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner, but Aboriginal women are killed at rates six to seven times greater than those of non-Aboriginal women.

Aboriginal women are almost three times more likely to be killed by a stranger than non-Aboriginal women.

The RCMP estimate a total of 1,181 Aboriginal women went missing or were murdered between 1980 and 2012. Grassroots organizations and the Minister of the Status of Women put the number closer to 4,000. But, this number does not even begin to reflect the true number of Aboriginal women and girls who have been the victims of large scale femicide for the past 150 years.

December 6th is a day of remembrance and mourning, but it should also be a day when we remind our politicians at every level of government that in order to end gendered violence we need to have true equality for all women and girls.

It starts by designing policies, laws, institutions, services, agencies and organizations using a gendered lens. That can only happen if when there’s equal representation of men and women at all levels of government, on company boards, and in positions with decision making power.

But, let’s be realistic, these are long standing institutions that are not welcoming of change – especially when the ruling elite are asked to share the power and control that they have enjoyed for decades if not centuries.

So, we may need to shake things up a little. So, take a moment before you don your coat and venture out into the cold to stand in solidarity with your sisters and brothers to commemorate a very sad day in Canadian history. In that moment, sign on to your computer and sign your name to the Leap Manifesto.

Let’s create a new Canada based on caring for the earth and one another.


To help with understanding the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, I’d like to offer a film for adults to watch and a wonderful children’s book for all ages.

Watch the National Film Board movie, This River:

The 20 minute film by Katherena Vermette and Erica MacPherson follows the spiritually and emotionally challenging work performed by the volunteer members of Drag the Red (river) Organization based in Winnipeg. This film won the 2016 Coup de Coeur Award at the Montreal First Peoples Festival.

DTR originally organized to shame the Winnipeg police department into searching for missing Aboriginal women and men. Instead the DTR continues to drag the river on a daily basis from May to October. Ground crews search the riverbanks weekly.

DTR is run entirely by volunteers many of whom have missing family members so locating a body is always better sweet.

This River was made available for free starting on the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Need a gift this holiday season? Then buy multiple copies of author Melanie Florence’s book Missing Nimama.  The winner of the 2016 TD Children’s Book Award, Missing Nimama is a child-centered reflection on missing and murdered Indigenous women.

A young girl is raised by her grandmother after her own mother goes missing. The story is told through the voices of the young girl, her grandmother, and her missing mother who watches over her as she grows up.

It’s time to share the story with all of our children so they know the truth and so that history does not repeat itself.


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