The Vancouver Sun:
While a Canada without poor people may sound like a pipe dream, in fact it is an achievable goal.
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.
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.
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
He estimates the annual cost at about $10,000 per person.
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.
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.
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.”
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