Possibilities and Prospects: The Debate Over a Guaranteed Income
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, November 2009
38 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2014
Date Written: November 1, 2009
The idea of a guaranteed income has a long and respectable history in Canadian political and economic thought. Recently, in the face of both wide criticism of the Canadian income security system and growing recognition of the unacceptability of current poverty rates, there has been a resurgence in calls for implementation of a Canadian guaranteed income. But the idea is a controversial one; progressive activists, academics, and politicians disagree about the desirability and the practicality of a guaranteed income.
This report: Traces the history of guaranteed income proposals in Canada; Catalogues both the most common reasons supporting advocacy of a guaranteed income and the most telling concerns raised by the notion; Provides an overview of basic dimensions along which proposals for a guaranteed income differ and sets out models that capture much of the range of proposals in the current debate; and Suggests a number of other social welfare measures that should be central elements of any reform program, but that guaranteed income debates often ignore.
The term “guaranteed income” refers to a specific although broad category of social reform. As a starting place for discussion, the idea of a guaranteed income is used to signal reform proposals that advocate some variant of an income benefit scheme in which the state provides a minimum level of basic income on a continuing basis to every adult, irrespective of personal circumstances or need, with no or very few conditions attached.
Proponents of a guaranteed income cite a range of reasons supporting the idea: A fix to poverty; Liberty and individual opportunity; Social and democratic citizenship; Gender equality; Shared social ownership; A flexible and just labour market; and Environmental sustainability.
Keywords: Canada, Law and Society, Guaranteed income, Income security
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