Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Time for a Guaranteed Income?

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Time for a Guaranteed Income?

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Time for a guaranteed income?

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An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press, published June 8:

When Expo 67 opened in Montreal in April 1967, it featured a futuristic geodesic dome. Star Trek was wowing audiences with technologies such as voice-recognition and machine-supported medical diagnostic systems. Children's television cartoon the Jetsons imagined a future of robots and flying vehicles. In the era of the space age, the future looked promising, with the dream of increasing leisure time as robots took over the most mundane jobs and services.

In 2016, some of that has indeed happened. ATMs have replaced bank tellers. Pressing "1" has meant an end to hearing a human voice on the telephone. Swiping bar codes takes the place of cashiers. But the future isn't bright because automation has resulted in job losses and wage stagnation that are expected to continue.

Which is why discussions about a guaranteed annual income (GAI) seem to be more animated. GAI is fairly self-explanatory; individuals receive a basic amount of money, whether they work or not. That amount is reduced as the individual's paid wages go up, until it is eventually stopped. It would replace other social programs such as welfare and subsidized housing, and alleviate the need for the bureaucratic networks those programs bring with them.

It's not a particularly new idea. The Manitoba basic annual income experiment -- Mincome -- was implemented in Dauphin, Winnipeg and some rural communities in Manitoba in the 1970s. Some say it was quite successful, with researchers pointing to higher educational outcomes and lower hospitalization rates. People did not stop working all together because the income was too low to actually survive on, but to quote University of Manitoba economist Evelyn Forget, the income "was enough to add some cream to the coffee."

Other economists have been less positive, suggesting that since the program only ran for three years, it's difficult to determine its long-term effects. …

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