Basic Income Nova Scotia (BIG NS) Principles
The members of BIG NS believe that no person’s basic survival should depend on the market. We believe that the current patchwork of social assistance programs meant to lift people out of poverty actually do much harm. They are stigmatizing, often insufficient, and put people into a situation where they might face greater insecurity by looking for work than they do while on social assistance.
We advocate for a Basic Income at a level that provides for the necessities of life, including food, clothing, shelter, and other resources that facilitate social engagement, such as access to travel and means of communication. A Basic Income should do more than just keep a person out of poverty; it should guarantee that person the ability to participate as a full citizen in society, with dignity and security.
A Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) must ensure that the level of benefit will never fall below a certain level. It is premised on the notion that all Canadians have a universal responsibility to create a secure income level for their fellow citizens.
A Basic Income should be accessible to each individual, regardless of any other factors. Family situations and regional situations may be taken into account to determine the level of the Basic Income Guarantee, but the recipient of the Basic Income Guarantee should be the individual. This also preserves the cost-saving benefit of living with others, reduces the size of the bureaucracy otherwise needed to check into living arrangements, and reduces the potential for power dynamics within households that could deny some individuals the freedom to use their benefits.
- Universality and Unconditionality
A BIG should not be contingent on wages or other earnings. It is not means-tested and is not based on exclusion criteria. A BIG would not create or rely on a massive bureaucracy to assess people’s deservingness. This is in deliberate contrast to social assistance benefits that require recipients to prove they are poor and living within certain moral boundaries (e.g. looking for work, going to school, etc.). This means it would be paid to everyone, rich and poor alike. However, because it would be funded through a progressive tax regime, technically the rich would fund their own and others’ basic income benefits.
A BIG must be sufficient to lift a person out of poverty. This means it should be above the Low-Income Cut Off (LICO) or other reasonable measure of poverty.
- Universal Responsibility: Funded through a progressive taxation scheme
A BIG rests on the moral premise that every segment in our society has a responsibility to contribute to that society. The implementation of a Basic Income Guarantee will provide opportunity to review the tax system with an eye on simplification, fairness and universal responsibility.
- Economic Integrity
The introduction of a BIG has to be financially viable. It cannot come at the cost of the country’s economic integrity. Careful consideration of a national policy has to take place in a context relevant to the economy and the laws of the country. Thus, a BIG would have to exist alongside a legislated minimum wage and a free labour market. Historical examples of basic income have failed where severe restrictions on labour mobility meant that local employers could offer local workers only a pittance. Workers could not go anywhere else to look for work, so employers had no competition. There were no legislated minimum wages so no wage was too small. A legislated minimum wage and a free labour market are essential to ensure that employers do not use the BIG as a way to offer below-subsistence wages.
- Social Integrity: It would not replace all extant social assistance or welfare programs.
A basic income could never replace, even partially, our publicly-funded, universal healthcare system. It would not replace disability support payments for people who have additional costs and limitations on their ability to earn extra income. It would not replace Employment Insurance, which is already fully funded by workers and employers. However, it might replace social assistance/welfare payments that fall far below the poverty line and are clawed back once a person is employed. It might replace OAS, it might replace existing tax credits schemes.
(Developed by: Karen Foster, PhD Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Rural Futures for Atlantic Canada, Dalhousie University, BIG NS member and Pierre Stevens, MSc, Mathematics and Statistics Department, Dalhousie University, BIG NS Member, Basic Income Canada Network Secretary)
BIG NS Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/basicincomeNS/
BICN website: http://www.basicincomecanada.org/