Canadian academics and activists are engaged in that country's first national campaign for a basic guaranteed income, which they say would "help prevent poverty, reduce inequality, enhance individual freedom, boost human creativity, stimulate entrepreneurship, promote citizenship, increase efficiency in public services and reduce government intrusion in private life."
Last weekend's 15th International Basic Income Earth Network Conference, held in Montreal, marked the public debut of a campaign to raise awareness about and support for the concept of a basic income in Canada, which is home to about 35 million people. The Basic Income Canada Network's BIG Push campaign suggests that an annual income of between $20-25,000 would be sufficient for a working-age adult.
"A basic income guarantee is a feature of a society in which people are not just isolated individuals but rather are selves in relation to one another, where people are treated with fairness and equality." –Kelly Ernst, BICN
"A basic income guarantee is a feature of a society in which people are not just isolated individuals but rather are selves in relation to one another, where people are treated with fairness and equality. It is a society that understands we are not alone in any endeavour we undertake," wrote Kelly Ernst, secretary general of Basic Income Canada Network (BICN), in a blog post.
While Canadians are no strangers to the concept of basic income—the "Mincome" experiment that took place in the province of Manitoba during the 1970s had positive effects on health and education—there is still widespread skepticism about the idea, particularly around how such a policy would impact work and labor practices.
"Where it does become more radical is when you get into the area of the working age population, and the idea that people should receive some income whether they are in the labour market or not," BIG Push campaign director Rob Rainer told the Canadian Press. "That's a fairly radical idea in our culture, because most of us were brought up to believe that in order to survive you have to work."
Several countries, including Brazil, already implement some sort of basic income program (or pilot program). Later this year, voters in Switzerland will have their say on a proposal to give every citizen $2,800 a month. The idea has also gained some traction in the United States, from thinkers across the political spectrum. The movement in Canada hopes to capitalize on that broad appeal.