October 30, 2017 – Today, the Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) releases a position paper recommending a Universal Basic Income (uBIG) to ensure no person in Canada lives in poverty; bolster the Canadian economy; and put an end to income assistance systems that are often inefficient and unkind.
“The cost of current income support programs in Canada is close to $200 billion per year, but are piece-meal, often stigmatizing, vary from province to province, and are ultimately unsuccessful at breaking the cycle of poverty,” said CASW President, Jan Christianson-Wood. ”uBIG builds on ideas already enshrined in our national laws and identity, such universal health care, the Canada Child Benefit, and Old Age Security: the foundation has already been laid and we’re ready for the next step forward.”
CASW proposes that uBig would see everyone receive the same benefit with wealth redistributed through progressive taxation. This model differs from most other basic income plans in that it is not built around the Negative Income Tax Model, which can create a so-called ‘benefit trap.’
“It’s very easy to blame the individual, but when you take a closer look, many income assistance systems actually trap people in poverty. It’s time to change that, and move from the idea of a ‘safety-net,’ to an equitable floor on which we can all stand,” stated Christianson-Wood. “What makes uBIG special is that it doesn’t use a clawback – people should be empowered to work, while knowing they have a stable support system behind them.”
Another benefit of uBIG is the potential to grow the economy from the inside, as investments to lift Canadians out of poverty will be most felt in small businesses and local economies. Additionally, as income is one of the most important social determinants of health, addressing poverty will also help with costs in health care and other sectors in the future.
Careful design and implementation of uBIG, involving all levels of government and including First Nations, is crucial. “Implementing uBIG would be a complex process that would significantly shift the social landscape,” noted Christianson-Wood. It is important to be clear that while uBIG would replace existing income assistance programs, it would not eliminate other social services. Through uBIG, CASW advocates for social expansion – not service elimination or privatization.
“uBIG isn’t a panacea – but it is the next piece of the puzzle. We have the means in Canada to lift everyone out of poverty, and we need to act on the knowledge that poverty isn’t a personal problem, it’s a systemic one,” concluded Christianson-Wood.
For further information:
Fred Phelps, MSW, RSW
CASW Executive Director