Universal Basic Income—Conservative media undermining Poilievre’s attempt to woo the underprivileged | Unpublished

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Unpublished Opinions

James OGrady's picture
Ottawa, Ontario
About the author

I am the founder of Unpublished Media Inc., a company I started in 2012. I am also a communications professional and community activist, living in Nepean, Ontario. And, I am a hockey goaltender, political hack and most importantly, an advocate for grassroots, participatory democracy at all levels of government.

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Universal Basic Income—Conservative media undermining Poilievre’s attempt to woo the underprivileged

January 27, 2024
Man holding up sign that reads: I have a job but still Basic Income

The Liberals are moving toward implementing a Universal Basic Income in Canada but right-wing media and small poverty groups fear it for different reasons...

I can only classify an article that appeared in the National Post last week about the potential for the Liberals to bring forward a Universal Basic Income (UBI) program for Canadians before the next election as ‘fear-mongering'. 

“Unaffordable” they say, and then turn to a ‘poverty expert’, someone’s whose job is likely to be eliminated by it because all smaller poverty and relevant social programs will be rolled into a Universal Basic Income program when it happens, in order to save money. As a result, they will become redundant. At least $40 Billion worth of  jobs will be eliminated in the federal government alone.

This is according to the Parliamentary Budget Committee report a few years ago (see PDF below). The number was slightly less in the report, but with inflation, the number will be higher than $40 Billion now. All to save millions of Canadians struggling as their economic production declines later on in life, single parents struggling to make ends meet under the heavy weight of inflation, and for Canada’s youth, who are struggling to get established in the workplace. Yes, a UBI program will cost more than $40 Billion, but the extra cost will be made up down the road with all the benefits and taxes these new taxpayers will earn. Think of it as a Pay-It-Forward plan. 

The potential for a program like a Universal Basic Income to boost Canadians living on the poverty line, and the economy as a whole, is tremendous. UBI Works' research shows that  it could generate as much as $80 Billion annually. So, yes, it will pay for itself. More importantly, it will allow people to improve their skill sets by going to college or university, or through work improvement courses, and, it will allow these people to live with dignity and help them to contribute again to our society in a meaningful way. My late mother was a social worker who helped drug addicts return to the work force.  A very noble undertaking and something a UBI program would do in spades.

When you see the right and left wing conspiring together against a program that will lift those struggling to feed themselves and take care of their families, especially during these trying times, people who have worked their butts off all their lives to do so, you really have to wonder about their true intentions.

When I campaigned door-to-door in Cape Breton in 2019 everyone loved the idea because it’s exactly what an aging population and a new generation of young people discouraged by their future job prospects, need to make it through the lean years.  Young men and fathers often head out west to work in the oil and gas industry, or forestry, instead of remaining in Cape Breton. That’s not good for the local economy or society. A Universal Basic Income is a win-win-win from my perspective.

Canadians need to know that this idea came from former Progressive Conservative senator Hugh Segal, who resigned from the Senate when Pierre Poilievre became leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. Why? Because he didn’t want to represent Poilievre’s policies and ideals in the Senate.

This is why, I believe, newspapers like the National Post are writing highly critical pieces about a UBI program, trying to scare Canadians away from a great idea to support baby boomers in their old age, young people, and single parents struggling to make ends meet.  This isn't a group of people anyone should want to malign. 

At the same time though, it seems counter productive to Conservative Party election prospects for these criticisms to  come from right-wing media. Especially given it’s a Conservative senator’s idea, and because the benefactors of a UBI program are the very people Pierre Poilievre is trying to woo to vote for him in the next election. 



Steve Bossel
January 30, 2024

A couple of things to unpack here. First, UBI is not the brainchild of Hugh Segal. Thomas Paine was already mauling the idea back in 1797…Second, there seems to be a bit of a realignment in Canadian politics. This is good and healthy. Perhaps, Mr Segal would feel more at home in where his true heart has always resided—as a Liberal. And finally, while I do not outrightly oppose UBI on its theoretical merits, the only way it would be acceptable to me is the way it was defended by the great Milton Friedman—that UBI be implemented in a way that it would be equally distributed to everyone (rich and poor alike) AND, be used as a complete replacement of ALL government programs aimed at people (this means the end of all welfare programs, education subsidies, healthcare subsidies, childcare programs, etc, etc..).  We all know this will never happen! The grievance/victimhood/poverty industry will never allow it. They will pull upon the heartstrings to do what they have always done, to create feelings of guilt among the population in order to establish ever more social programs, bureaucracy, regulations, and government. No thanks, my parents left Europe in the 80’s to get away from that dumpster fire only to find ourselves in one we have now created here. The answer is not more government. Nothing pays for itself. Ever. It must be paid for at the point of spending, only to hope that eventually there is a return. “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are,”I’m from the government and I’m here to help””—Ronald Regan



January 30, 2024

Thanks for the feedback Steve. I know it seems daunting but I agree with you, a taxable UBI that goes to everyone, no matter their economic status, would be the best way to ensure we lift everyone out of poverty and provide all Canadians the ability to choose their own path. As long as it’s taxable the extra funds come back into the government coffers. Allowing people to decline it up front if they do chose would help prevent excessive ad in.  And, as you say, it would help simplify our social assistance programs by eliminating most, if not all of them. That doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be jobs for social workers elsewhere or in the private sector. My mother had her own counselling practice long before joining the provincial government. 

As for Hugh Segal, he was the heart and soul, and I’d say the brains behind Mulroney’s government. He essentially ran Mulroney’s PMO if I remember correctly. He was a Progressive Conservative. No one equates the Liberal government of Justin or even his father Pierre Trudeau with Joe Clarke or Brian Mulroney’s PC governments. I know this was a slogan of Poilievre’s during the leadership campaign to slag his main opponent, but it’s not based on any factual history. It’s just his idea of short m, sound bite marketing. And, take it from a politico/marketer with a degree in history like me, it’s total bs.