A government-commissioned panel is recommending against the introduction of a basic income for all in British Columbia.
The panel’s report, co-authored by academics at the University of B.C., Simon Fraser University and the University of Calgary, says a basic income is not the cure-all that some advocates believe.
The authors say a more successful strategy would be to reform current policies and programs as well as provide a targeted basic income for youth ageing out of care and those with disabilities.
The panel’s 500-page report says it believes a basic income pilot project would not provide useful information and raises ethical concerns.
David Green, the panel’s chair and a professor at the Vancouver School of Economics at UBC, said a basic income project is also not as simple as many believe either.
“If we want to address poverty, what simpler way (is there) to proceed than to send everybody a cheque that is equivalent to the poverty line?” he said. “The problem is when you get close to it and you ask, ‘How would I actually implement that?”’
Many Canadians don’t file taxes or aren’t known to the tax system, and a basic income program needs a system that can track people down to ensure they’re receiving the proper amounts, Green said.
“A basic income would not be the panacea that some advocates believe, with many of the claims about the social issues that a basic income would address unlikely to be true in practice – or at least, it is unclear that a basic income would be the best way to address the issues, if justice is the objective,” the report says.
The report says a more successful strategy would be to reform current policies and programs, while providing targeted basic income for youth aging out of care, women fleeing domestic violence and those with disabilities.
“The top one would be the youth ageing out of care. This is a group of great concern and movement could be made on that in every bit as short a time frame as implementing a pilot (project),” Green said.
If B.C. adopted the most straightforward form of basic income, where those living at the poverty line are sent a cheque, Green said it would cost the government $52 billion.
That would double B.C.’s budget and Green believes it would be less cost-effective than implementing the panel’s recommendations estimated at $3.3 billion to $3.5 billion.
The report makes 65 total recommendations ranging from extended health supplements to adjusting tax system-delivered benefits, such as aiming B.C.’s child opportunity benefit more directly toward families with children living in poverty.
“We are now reviewing the recommendations closely as we build an economic recovery that supports all British Columbians,” notes Nicholas Simons, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.
The B.C. government commissioned the panel in July 2018 to examine the issue as part of the New Democrat’s minority government confidence and supply agreement with B.C.’s Green party.
The full report called Covering All the Basics: Reforms for a More Just Society, can be found here.
With files to the Canadian Press.