Report from National Convention - Armine Yalnizyan Asks Questions About Basic Income

Saturday, June 18, 2016

When Armine Yalnizyan took the stage, she began by drawing parallels between herself and COPESEPB. “It seems like you’re ananomaly – so am I,” she said, referencing her minority status as a female progressive economist. But Yalnizyan wasn’t content to leave it there. She also bucks the trends in progressive policy circles by asking serious questions about basic or minimum income. Currently being considered in Ontario to address poverty, and growing in popularity around the world, basic income most often has one key characteristic: everyone is guaranteed a basic income. In Canada, the most common amount discussed is $1,500 per month. Making it clear that this is an ongoing debate within the CCPA, Yalnizyan offered a handful of critiques. She noted to give everyone in Canada $1,500 per year would cost $60 billion, an onerous ask in the current environment of sustained slow growth. “But what if we could take halfof the amount needed for basic income – $14.7 billion – and invested it in things like child care, primary dental care for all, affordable housing, pharmacare, public transit infrastructure…” This approach, she stated, wouldn’t pit sections of society against each other, and would build solidarity. “The question is: is income the best way of addressing poverty, or is it services?”

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