The concept of a guaranteed annual income, a subject I have written about previously on this blog, seems to be gaining traction. A relatively simple way of uplifting countless people from poverty and in the process ultimately saving money through a streamlining of our fragmented systems of social programs, it is now finding interest within the halls of power.
Recently, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Jean-Yves Duclos, told the Globe and Mail
the concept has merit as a policy to consider after the government implements more immediate reforms promised during the election campaign.Support for the idea seems to cross party lines.
The general concept is that a guaranteed income would cover basic needs and reduce demand on existing social programs. However, proposals vary widely on whether it should be paired with a drastic reduction in social programs such as welfare and unemployment insurance or complement them.
This means versions of the idea have appeal across the political spectrum, as it could lead to a larger or smaller role for government depending on the model.
Conservative MP and finance critic Lisa Raitt said she would like the House of Commons finance committee to study the idea. She also said she raised the issue with Finance Minister Bill Morneau recently during a private pre-budget meeting.
“He seemed favourable,” she said. “I have an open mind on it. I know that there’s been progress made on it around the world in terms of how people are viewing it. I don’t know if it will work in Canada but the work of the committee will help us figure out whether or not it is something that is good or not good.”
And across Canada, momentum is building. François Blais, Quebec minister of employment and social solidarity, has been asked by Premier Philippe Couillard to look into how that provinces social supports can move in the direction of a guaranteed annual income. But that's not all:
The political cast includes Calgary’s Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Edmonton’s Mayor Don Iveson and Halifax’s Mike Savage. In fact, no less than nine provincial and territorial capital leaders support basic income or at least pilot projects, with innumerable smaller city and town mayors across the nation declaring their support as well. They know — as government leaders who are closest to the people — that a guaranteed income would reduce inequities in their communities, reduce crime, improve health outcomes, and strengthen social cohesion.Are we reaching critical mass? Long observation of politics suggests that is not yet the case, but clearly we seem to be moving in the right direction.