Monday, January 7, 2013

A guaranteed income would eliminate poverty

The Vancouver Sun:

While a Canada without poor people may sound like a pipe dream, in fact it is an achievable goal.

So says Conservative Sen. Hugh Segal, who makes an argument for a poverty-free country in the Literary Review of Canada. It’s worth noting that Segal, a former chief of staff to Brian Mulroney appointed to the Senate by Paul Martin, is more Red Tory than Harper-style Conservative.

Accordingly, the Ontario senator argues, a guaranteed annual income is as worthy a Canadian project as Medicare.

He says it could be arranged by way of a tax credit through the income tax system, to top up income of anyone falling below Statistics Canada’s Low Income Cutoff (LICO).

LICO for a single person is about $22,200; for a family with three children, roughly $47,000.

“In other words,” writes Segal, “being poor would become a problem we all buffered in the same way as we buffer all Canadians relative to health care.”

He estimates the annual cost at about $10,000 per person.

But when all the billions now spent on health care and heavily stigmatized welfare payments — to alternatively address needs of the poor — are subtracted, the net cost to government would be zero.

“The cost to our Canadian economy of poor Canadians dropping out of school, getting sick faster, staying in hospital longer and living shorter lives than the rest of us is in the billions.”

Imagine what a guaranteed income might have meant to the Downtown Eastside women murdered by Willie Pickton.

Wally Oppal, in a recent report on the murders, drew a direct link between poverty and the women’s plights.

Cost savings to governments would indeed be real, according to a study cited by Segal, carried out by University of Manitoba health sciences professor Evelyn Forget.

Forget tracked an 8.5-per-cent drop in hospital visits among a sample group of farm families in Dauphin, Man., who were part of a 1970s-era federal experiment guaranteeing minimum incomes in case of crop failures.

That experiment also rendered invalid a notion that guaranteed incomes prompt recipients to quit work to become couch potatoes.

“The efficient and humane thing to do is to take the example of Dauphin and learn from it,” writes Segal, noting Ottawa wouldn’t need a new bureaucracy to deliver guaranteed incomes.

“We have the (tax) system in place.”

Continue reading here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.