It will always be difficult to set up a basic income plan, especially in a province like British Columbia.
The provincial government has announced it will launch a study of basic income for B.C.
Sometimes known as guaranteed annual income, basic income is a method of reducing poverty and bureaucracy in one fell swoop.
Essentially, either everyone in a society, or everyone below the poverty line, receives a no-strings-attached cheque from the government.
The benefits would be a reduction in red tape – it would replace most every form of welfare and income assistance – as well as attempting to give people economic stability.
The simple problems are easy to see. Where do you raise the tax revenue? Do you give it to everyone (and allow employers to roll back wages) or only to those below the poverty line? How high do you set a basic income?
It’s that last one that will be the toughest nut to crack here in Metro Vancouver.
When the most recent study shows it takes 88 per cent of the average salary to buy a home, where rents are rising, how high would you set a basic income? And how often would it need to be reset in this economy?
Hopefully, these are some of the questions this study will answer. It may be that there are good answers to them.
If a basic income can be made to work, it would be a bulwark against the periodic small tragedies that strike many families in B.C. Job loss, sudden illness, or the death of a bread winner can all cause economic dislocation. A simple system that kept everyone afloat would be welcome, if we can figure out how to do it.