Canada: A 20-year basic income experiment is being considered in Quebec

Canada: A 20-year basic income experiment is being considered in Quebec

Yv Bonnier Viger. Picture credit to: Huffpost Quebec

 

Gaspesie and Îles-de-la-Madeleine regional public health director Yv Bonnier Viger is convinced that basic income can have dramatic positive effects on people’s health. So much so that the local public health sector, plus other regional organizations focused on health, well-being and poverty alleviation, are pushing for a 20-year long experiment in these two localities, also including Bas-Saint-Laurent.

 

Viger already knows the usual results of basic income experiments: “The experiments done around the world have always given results that go along the same direction: reducing mortality, violence, urgent care visits, hospitalizations, etc.”, he says. Moreover, he is also aware that people (according to experiments) do not use unconditional cash to acquire superfluous things, or to stop working as a result of receiving it. In this context, an (basic income) experimental setup in this region would expectedly be confirming these same results tested at other locations.

 

This setup is being considered as a negative income tax (NIT), after knowing each recipient declared annual income. After surveying true living costs in the three municipalities abovementioned, the idea is to dispense (every two weeks) unconditional cash gradually, for all those earning less than 40000 CAN$/year. The income starting point – someone earning 0 CAN$/month – would then become 17500 CAN$/year, which approximately amounts to Quebec’s official poverty line.

 

Financing the experiment would be based on replacing conditional social aid already in place in the region, without touching, however, retirement income (which is based on lifetime contributions). The project’s overall annual cost has been estimated at 800 million CAN$, which is expected to diminish over time, as more savings are made available in the public health sector, social aid management and other public related expenditures.

 

 

More information at:

Quebec is considering a 20-year basic income pilot”, Basic Income Today, July 19th 2019

(In French)

Stephanie Gendron, “Idée d’un projet-pilote de 20 ans pour un revenu de base dans l’Est-du-Québec”, Le Placoteux, June 26th 2019

Leah Hamilton: “”Human again”: The (unrealized) promise of basic income in Ontario

Leah Hamilton: “”Human again”: The (unrealized) promise of basic income in Ontario

Leah Hamilton (left) and James P. Mulvale (right)

 

Leah Hamilton and James P. Mulvale have researched into the implications of the truncated basic income pilot in Ontario, Canada. From a set of controlled, semi-structured interviews, five participants agreed to subject to the procedure. These participants had experienced both conditional welfare programs such as the Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program, and were beneficiaries of the Ontario basic income pilot until it was terminated by Doug Ford’s cabinet.

 

The conclusions show that the basic income pilot had effects that contrasted with those experienced by the participants in the traditional social security programs. So, while in the latter, participants felt trapped in “a cycle of precarity and dependence”, the former made them feel “human again”, since “they had always desired to be members of the workforce and gain financial independence”. The study’s conclusions also match other research efforts comparing traditional welfare with basic income type of experiments, which reinforces those same conclusions. It also refers the need to consider potential hidden savings in health costs, and additional economic activity brought by basic income policies. Those cost savings and potentially larger tax collection must then be a part of any serious effort to finance basic income, particularly in high-income countries.

 

The following abstract accompanies the article:

Neoliberal social assistance programs are broadly seen as inadequate and intrusive. This phenomenological analysis compares social assistance in Ontario, Canada, and a recent pilot project to test basic income as an alternative method of enabling economic security and social participation via qualitative interviews with pilot recipients who had previously received traditional assistance. Results indicate a desire to be financially independent, but that the conditionality of traditional programs had negative repercussions including work disincentives and deleterious bureaucratic hurdles. Respondents reported that basic income has improved their nutrition, health, housing stability, and social connections; and better facilitated long-term financial planning.

 

More information at:

Leah Hamilton & James P. Mulvale (2019) “Human Again”: The (Unrealized) Promise of Basic Income in Ontario, Journal of Poverty

Leah Hamilton, “Why Welfare Doesn’t Work: And What We Should Do Instead”, Basic Income News, June 29th 20128

Canada: Report “Signposts to Success” shows how beneficial the cancelled Ontario basic income experiment was being

Canada: Report “Signposts to Success” shows how beneficial the cancelled Ontario basic income experiment was being

The reading of results from basic income type of experiments is, apparently, dependent on who is reading them. The Ontario present government officials did not think, for instance, that there were particular advantages or benefits from pursuing with the Ontario basic income experiment. The particulars of the Ontario (basic income) pilot cancellation have been extensively reported on (some examples below), so much so that a new report was published with some evidence of the benefits experienced by more than 400 participants, according to their responses. This may be another case of dissonance between government power and common citizens: what is felt by the latter as beneficial is discarded as ineffective and wasteful by the former. Why, then, was this basic income pilot program cancelled is a legitimate question one might ask, if the participants themselves felt it as a success.

 

Overall, participant experience compiled in this report partly mirror Finland’s basic income-type experience first results: more agency, anxiety relief, more social connection and financial security. The majority started eating better, and were able to make plans for the future…which evaporated as soon as the pilot was cancelled by Doug Ford’s government. In numbers, answers returned the following results (from Basic Income Canada Network):

 

  • 88% of respondents reported less stress and anxiety and 73% had less depression (the baseline survey reported that at the start of the pilot 81% of participants were suffering from moderate to severe psychological stress);
  • 58% improved their housing situation;
  • 34% found the basic income supported employment by affording transportation to work, child care or ability to start or expand a business;
  • 32% of respondents were able to go back to school or upgrade skills (note that a majority of employed participants in the government baseline survey – recipients and control group – said they were in dead-end jobs);
  • 74% were able to make healthy food choices and 28% stopped using food banks;
  • 46% were able to pay off debt;
  • 52% were able to see friends and family more often, 55% were physically more able to do activities, and 45% reported fewer health problems;
  • Many respondents talked about working hard their whole lives, often at multiple jobs, but never really having a life, until basic income made that possible.

 

More information at:

Kate McFarland, “ONTARIO, CANADA: New Government Declares Early End of Guaranteed Income Experiment”, Basic Income News, August 2nd 2018

Sara Bizarro, “Ontario, Canada: Reactions to Ontario Basic Income Pilot Cancelation”, Basic Income News, September 18th 2018

Daniel Fabbri, “Four Ontario Mayors asking the Federal Government to take over the Basic Income Pilot”, Basic Income News, September 30th 2018

André Coelho, “Canada: Ontario’s basic income experiment ended, but the ground is fertile for more pilots”, Basic Income News, December 22nd 2018

Sheila Rogehr and Joli Scheidler-Benns, “Signposts to Success: report of a BICN Survey of Ontario Basic Income Recipients”, Basic Income Canada Network, February 2019

André Coelho, “When a few drops of rain allow flowers to blossom: Finland’s basic income experiment generates its preliminary results”, Basic Income News, February 16th 2019

Canada: Ontario’s basic income experiment ended, but the ground is fertile for more pilots

Canada: Ontario’s basic income experiment ended, but the ground is fertile for more pilots

Jean-Yves Duclos. Picture credit to: The Star.

After the cancellation of the Ontario basic income experiment, country-wide discussions about the issue continues in Canada as the Federal Government approaches the policy, although a direct intervention in Ontario is unlikely. Prime Minister Trudeau and his Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos have already stated that the Federal Government does not intrude into regional policy programs. However, Duclos has said, this month, that existing benefits will eventually cover more people than those already eligible for state (not universal) guaranteed minimum income. In his words: “At some point, there will be a universal guaranteed minimum income in Canada for all Canadians”.

So, despite all the opposition, rallies and advices against the Ontario axed basic income experiment, apparently it is indeed buried. However, it seems, interest in the concept is higher than ever, which is not surprising since the causing needs are still there (poverty, bureaucratic conditional welfare, precariousness, unemployment). Pundits on television agree over the concept, while looking at it as a tool to reduce the government influence radius (a more conservative approach to basic income), but certain that other basic income pilots will effectively be tried out in Canada (if not by other reasons, for beefing up the liberal agenda). Trudeau, on his end, has expressed sympathy for basic income, as a way to support workers, giving people some stability. That and a myriad of other considered policies, according to him: “I don’t think I’d be speaking out of turn to say that [basic income] it’s still something that is in the universe of all sorts of tools that we’re looking at on how to best help Canadians”.

Even though the Federal parliamentary budget office has calculated that supplying a guaranteed financial floor to all Canadians (up to an average of CAN$ 9421/year) would implicate an expenditure rise on social benefits of around 30%, basic income captures interest even on the Conservative side of the political spectrum. Karen Vecchio, MP for the Conservatives, has favoured the concept, although rising cost implications and questioning eventual long-term benefits for Canadians. That’s exactly why Hugh Segal, one of the Ontario basic income experiment designers (and former Conservative senator), affirms that such pilots are necessary: “to figure out whether the idea works”. Segal, as well as Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, argue that the Federal Government should pick up the cancelled Ontario basic income experiment, or at least help in financing further regional pilots.

More information at:

Kate McFarland, “Ontario, Canada: New government declares early end of guaranteed income experiment”, Basic Income News, August 2nd 2018

Shawn Jeffords, “4 Ontario mayors asking feds to take over basic income pilot”, Global News, September 7th 2018

Kate McFarland, “Ontario, Canada: Project advisors oppose termination of pilot study”, Basic Income News, August 7th 2018

Health officials and poverty advocates call on PC government to reverse decision on basic income pilot”, Global News, August 9th 2018

Jordan Press, “Liberals looking at national basic income as a way to help Canadians cope with job instability”, Global News, December 19th 2018

Canada: CEO’s for Basic Income

Canada: CEO’s for Basic Income

From left to right: Mike Garnett (Bay Street Labs), Paul Vallée (Pythian), Floyd Marinescu (InfoQ & QCon), Audrey Mascarenhas (Questor) and Chris Ford (Capco). Credit to: Moses Leal

 

A letter, signed by over a hundred Canadian business leaders, was delivered to Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Lisa MacLeod on Thursday the 18th of October 2018. The letter urges these political leaders in this large Canada region to reinstate the basic income pilot experiment, which had been setup by the previous government and held as a promise to be continued by the present one. These business leaders represent about 1,4 billion CAN$ in total revenue, and were presented by Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner at the event.

 

The CEOs constitute yet another group in society raising its voice for the preservation of the social experiment, joining communities, activists and academics. According to these leaders, universal basic income (UBI) can invigorate the economy, eradicate poverty and supply the opportunity for many people to start their own business.

Floyd Marinescu

Floyd Marinescu

In this presentation, an event held at Queen’s Park in Toronto, co-author, signatory and CEO of InfoQ and QCon Floyd Marinescu has said that “We are here today to urge the government to embrace a forward-thinking, business-friendly solution to the great economic challenges of our time”. Although the core philosophy of the letter is related to economic competitiveness, it does so in order to “empower all Ontarians to grow alongside the economy and partake in its prosperity. We see basic income as a way to embrace the future of work: it is not just a welfare solution, it is an economic necessity”, according to Marinescu.

 

Marinescu’s co-author in writing the letter, and CEO of Pythian Paul Vallée also believes that basic income makes perfect business sense, and so fully supports the reinstallment of the basic income experiment in Ontario. He has said “we firmly believe that basic income is essential to supercharge Ontario’s economy in the 21st century” and that the government should “listen to this growing chorus, respect the dignity of Ontario workers, and let the pilot run its course”. Among other signatories there can be found Chris Ford (Managing Partner, Capco Canada) and Audrey Mascarenhas (CEO, Questor).

 

The event has made the news in several posts. The full letter can be read online.

 

More information at:

Kate McFarland, “ONTARIO, CANADA: New Government Declares Early End of Guaranteed Income Experiment”, Basic Income News, August 2nd 2018

Why 100 CEOs are asking Doug Ford to bring back basic income”, CBC radio, October 18th 2018 (podcast)

Laurie Monsebraaten, “100 Canadian CEOs urge Doug Ford to rescue Ontario’s basic income project”, The Star, October 18th 2018

CEOs Bring Case for Basic Income to Queen’s Park”, NetNewsLeadger, October 18th 2018