A Basic Income for Canadians by Evelyn Forget

Reviewed by Eleanor Cowan

The unexpected struck (COVID) and emergency financial supports happened. That is precisely the role of Basic Income, but a true Basic Income would not have excluded people with disabilities or others living in poverty.

Dr. Evelyn L. Forget is Professor of Economics and Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba. Her research examines the health and social implications of poverty and inequality, and she is often called upon by governments, First Nations, and international organisations to advise on poverty, inequality, health, and social outcomes.

For over thirty years, Evelyn Forget’s research program has focused on one issue: how can social policy ensure that everyone has access to the resources they require to live with dignity? “Everyone benefits from basic income…in exactly the same way that all Canadians benefit from universal health insurance even if they do not now need hospital care, and in exactly the same way we benefit from fire insurance even if our house does not burn down. Basic income is an insurance policy against unpredictable life events.”

In her updated volume, this Canadian scientist promotes her well-considered plan for a healthier, happier, and more secure life for all, and underscores that Basic Income is an insurance policy to protect all Canadians. “Anyone of us can have a child with disabilities who alters all our well-laid plans. Anyone of us can suddenly be called upon to provide extra care for a parent or spouse or sibling who falls ill or who find themselves retired a decade earlier than expected. Under the present system, such responsible adults must spend all their savings before qualifying for provincial support. “A lifetime of working to save for retirement can disappear in a flash.”

Dr. Forget invites all Canadians to consider this life-saving option she has championed for many years.

To digress for a moment – Recently, I was shocked to learn that CEOs of Canadian charities entitle themselves to salaries of well over $370,000 per year. As a donor to Plan Canada, I wrote to their Toronto administration about my astonishment at the wealth drawn from donors who believed their money was going to desperate children. I received a reply stating that a salary of 350K was “in line with the earnings of the six main charity CEO’s in Canada.”

While reading Forget’s convincing research, it occurred to me that the enormous salaries of those who dispense such charities would end. No need. With a government-approved policy, Canadians whose annual income fell short during hard times would be as legally entitled to aid as are Medicare cardholders. Not a charitable offering by those well-paid to dole it out, but a right.

Consider the benefits to university students who wait tables at night to pay the rent and housing. Fewer dropouts. Less depression. Less suicide. The amount they receive could pay for courses and shared housing too. In time, these graduates would become contributing taxpayers.

Imagine new mothers supported to raise their kids themselves. Imagine the diminished stress levels to relieve the mental health levels of whole communities.

As I read, I considered how much basic income would have rescued me, a responsible, working mother, and my children, back in the day.

Even as my children grew into teens, this taxpayer could not afford more than our housing, food, and clothing. Vacations were rare. Dental bills were distressing. Gratefully, my children were avid readers, and our library cards well-worn. When I broke my leg, I had to cash out my life insurance policy, which got us through the months of my healing until I could return to my three part-time jobs. How wonderful for my children and me to have received a financial boost, even for a while.

I calculated that with the ‘earnings’ of one CEO’s 400K from his charity business, four Canadian students could complete a four-year university degree – courses and housing paid – or 400 students could receive a $1,000 amount to chip off their annual rent.

From every angle, and with well-researched numeric data, Prof. Forget irons out the wrinkles for those concerned about abuses and costs. She confronts every possible scenario of this fail-safe/disaster-prevention recourse for responsible adults who fall upon hard times – which includes most of us.

Well-written, engaging, filled with winning stories and factual data, all doubts vanished. I consider Basic Income a welcome step in Canadian advancement and evolution.

 

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