Joe Foster holds a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering and an MBA in International Business. He has volunteered with CUSO in Zambia, Worked for the UNDP in Malaysia and spent most of his career with CIDA, including overseas assignments in Jamaica, Barbados and Pakistan. After retiring, he became involved in politics and has served on a number of committees, including Chair of the Green Party of Canada (GPC). He is presently the GPC Human Rights Critic. He is also a member of KIWANIS SAGE and is currently a member of the Group Ottawa for a Basic Income (GO4BIG). the Joe is a resident of Kitchissippi Ward in Ottawa.
I wish to respond to the recentarticle on a Universal Basic Income by James O'Grady. It may not be clear to all readers what is meant by the acronym "UBI", although it is implied in the article. The U refers to Unconditional, meaning no strings attached, if you are living below the poverty line. Most welfare programs have numerous conditions that must be continuously monitored for recipients to remain eligible. This process is costly, dysfunctional and humiliating. Secondly, the U stands for universal for all those who need it. It makes no sense to give money to everyone and then have the cost and problem of attempting to claw it back from wealthy Canadians.
To avoid possible confusion, the preferred term now in common use is GLBI. The word "Guaranteed" is important as anyone in the GIG economy knows. "Livable" implies that the funding is sufficient to lift people out of poverty. "Basic" refers to basic needs being met. The UN Declaration of Human Rights spells this out very clearly. And, it is an "Income" that is not charity, but a socioeconomic tool to permit low income persons to become active members in society.
While costs at first glance may seem high as estimated by the Parliamentary Budget Office, they admit they did not consider cost savings. The costs alone to our Health and Justice systems are significant. For example, the results from the MinCome pilot in Manitoba estimated health costs were reduce by 7.5% alone. With better health, workers are also understandably more productive. While there will be upfront costs, the real economic cost to society may prove to be very low. In addition, this disregards the enormous social costs of poverty to individuals, their families, and to the social cohesion of our country.
A rough estimate is in the neighbourhood of $50 to 60 Billion per year.
We should be aware that the current welfare system costs an estimated $80 Billion and and is growing, but is failing to solve poverty. We presently have a patchwork of targeted welfare programs that are costly to administer which can be reduced or taken over by a GLBI. Nevertheless, these existing programs will need to be carefully analyzed to ensure essential benefits are not lost. Taking all of the factors into account, a GLBI is definitely affordable.
There are many myths about a Basic Income such as people are generally lazy and we that can't afford it. Pilots around the world continue to prove that, given a chance, we all want to improve our well being. With a secure income floor, individuals can focus on how to improve their economic and social status.
Poverty affects us all. Anyone can suddenly find themselves without a job. Most important, none of us wants to see people lined up at Food Banks or begging on our streets.
In conclusion, a Basic Income is not a panacea for eradicating poverty. However, Economic Poverty can and should be eliminated through the introduction of a national Basic Income. This will clear the air so we can then focus more directly on the related problems. Only then can we, with confidence, implement the national Poverty Reduction Plan.