May 27, 2019

Is Alberta ready for a basic income?

Public forum on May 30 to address the effect of a guaranteed income on poverty

Anti-poverty advocates have a message for Alberta: The time is now to implement a basic income guarantee in the province.

A public forum on May 30 at the Central Public Library, co-hosted by Basic Income Calgary and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM), will bring experts from a range of backgrounds, from health and economics, to those living in poverty, to make the case for implementing a basic income program in Alberta.

Pictured above are Make it B.I.G. Public Forum panelists Mary Salvani, second from left, and Lynn McIntyre, right, speaking on a Basic Income Calgary networking event panel in 2017. 

“We have to address poverty differently and providing people with a sufficient income would significantly improve the condition of Alberta’s most vulnerable,” says Dr. Lynn McIntyre, MD, a health policy researcher, adjunct professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences and a past associate scientific director of the O’Brien Institute.

Several groups in Canada, including seniors and children, already receive a regular, no-strings-attached payment from the government similar to a basic income and McIntyre says the results speak for themselves. 

McIntyre studies the effect that Canada’s Old Age Security program has on low-income seniors and says that their difficulties accessing healthy food can drop by half after the income support kicks in on their 65th birthday.

“There has been tremendous progress in reducing child and senior poverty through various income support programs,” says McIntyre. “However, we are still seeing high rates of poverty among 18- to 64-year-olds. This is the last chink in the armor of persistent poverty in Canada.”

Today, as economist and public forum keynote Dr. Evelyn Forget, PhD, points out, many people are finding themselves in situations where they are working multiple jobs, but still struggle to make ends meet. Basic income, she says, will help fill that gap.

“Basic income will address the deep pockets of poverty that still persist in Canada,” says Forget, a professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba. “It will also offer economic security for all of us who work in a rapidly changing economy, in which even jobs that used to be considered stable are vulnerable to offshoring or technological change.”

According to research being conducted at Oxford University in the U.K., 47 per cent of today’s jobs will no longer exist in 25 years.

Evelyn Forget, economist, professor, author, and one of Canada’s leading researchers on basic income and Manitoba’s Basic Income Experiment, will be the keynote speaker at the Make it B.I.G. public forum on Thursday, May 30.

Evelyn Forget, economist, professor, author, and one of Canada’s leading researchers on basic income

Evelyn Forget

Basic income is an opportunity to provide not just money, but dignity, to those on the receiving end, according to Mary Salvani with Disability Action Hall, who will also speak at the forum. 

“Social assistance programs such as Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) or Alberta Works, while somewhat helpful, also hinder people from feeling included as full citizens in society because benefit levels aren’t enough to live on,” says Salvani, herself an AISH recipient.

Most importantly, Salvani says, is that a basic income would allow everyone to participate fully in society, offsetting some of the deep divisions created by increasing income inequality.

The Make it B.I.G. Public Forum is part of a two-day conference which will bring community groups from across the province together as part of a movement to advocate for a basic income guarantee in Alberta. 

Dr. Lynn McIntyre, MD, is an adjunct professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, a professor emerita at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, and a member of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health.

Basic Income Calgary is an action group of the Basic Income Canada Network and an Enough for All stakeholder. Basic Income Calgary's goals align with Enough for All, Calgary's poverty reduction strategy, and the growing national movement for a basic income guarantee 

The Cumming School of Medicine’s O'Brien Institute for Public Health at the University of Calgary supports excellence in population health and health services research, while realizing the benefits of such research by using that knowledge to inform community, policy and health practice stakeholders. The institute's membership includes more than 500 multidisciplinary researchers from 13 Cumming School of Medicine departments, nine additional University of Calgary faculties, including Nursing, Veterinary Medicine, Kinesiology and Arts; health professionals in Alberta Health Services; and, research users and policy-makers from municipal and provincial institutions.