Guaranteed-Income Idea Kept Alive by Many

Article excerpt

Winnipeg Harvest asked me to represent them at the recent North American Basic Income Guarantee Congress held in Toronto two weeks ago.

The congress was developed to discuss the various aspects and the pros and cons of instituting a guaranteed annual income in Canada. I've always been in favour of a GAI, as has Winnipeg Harvest, but I had no idea that there would be so many factors to consider and so much controversy, such as the notion of the "deserving" and "undeserving" poor.

My "experience" began when I landed at Pearson International Airport. When I went to receive my wheelchair from the baggage hold, to my horror, I found the steering device had been crushed and my chair was completely unusable. The staff of the airline got another chair to use while mine was taken away to be repaired. My attendant and I finally got to our inaccessible hotel room very late that night.

When I entered the congress at the University of Toronto the next morning, there were approximately 175 delegates, primarily Canadian, with some American representation.

In the plenary speech, Armine Yalnizyan, of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, provided an historical overview of the GAI, beginning with the 1950s when Milton Friedman, a libertarian who believed in less government, introduced a negative income tax (a form of a GAI).

The 1960s saw a war on poverty. The 1970s were when the GAI was more seriously considered and the Mincome program, a pilot project, was established in Manitoba from 1974-1978. Since then, there has been globalization, unemployment, growth with no prosperity and further inequality.

Rhys Kesselman, of Simon Fraser University, spoke about why "universal cash benefits" provide consumer sovereignty, independence, an efficient private market and low-cost choice. He alone at the conference provided cost figures for a universal GAI -- $380 billion per year. …