Over 50 participants from across Canada gathered in Ottawa last week to discuss guaranteed income at the inaugural BIEN Canada conference. The conference featured thought-provoking presentations on the nuts and bolts of guaranteed income, its expected impact and outcomes, and questions of implementation. Participants eagerly contributed comments and questions, creating an atmosphere of curiosity and dialogue.
Highlights included Senator Hugh Segal’s speech on “Core Freedoms: Why Freedom from Fear and Freedom from Want Cannot be Separated,” Evelyn Forget’s presentation on the health outcomes of the Mincome experiment, and Member of Parliament Tony Martin’s presentation of his new poverty elimination bill.
Senator Segal addressed the moral and practical nature of freedom in his speech, arguing that we cannot effectively achieve physical security unless the physical needs of every person are met. Poverty, exclusion and lack of well-being all contribute to the destabilization of politics and security, leading to costly wars and the development of extensive security measures. Investing in the eradication of poverty would be a wiser, more humane approach, Senator Segal persuasively argued.
Dr. Forget, an economist in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Manitoba, shared her research on the health outcomes of the Mincome experiment in the 1970s. During Mincome, all families below the poverty line in Dauphin received a Guaranteed Annual Income in the form of a Negative Income Tax. Dr. Forget’s research demonstrates the positive health and educational outcomes this experiment had. Her research provides strong evidence that guaranteed income promotes the health and well-being of communities.
Finally, Tony Martin shared a rough draft of his poverty elimination bill. This is the result of several years of work by Tony, consulting with Canadians across the country, participating in the hearings of the Human Resources Committee on the Federal Role in reducing poverty, and dialoguing with social policy organizations. The response to Tony’s draft bill was very supportive, and many in the room saw it as a very positive step forward for the effort to eradicate poverty in Canada. Tony’s bill calls for a basic income for all Canadians.
Such a conference reflects the work of many people. On behalf of the organizing committee, I want to thank everyone who participated, as well as everyone who contributed their time, resources and expertise. This conference was an important event for public education and networking among those interested in guaranteed income in Canada.