No one living in poverty

A guaranteed annual income could leave poverty behind.

Lack of money. No stable income that you can rely on. Your access to food and housing is threatened. Your cycle of poverty has now begun.

You’re forced to rely on emergency services: food banks for hunger, emergency shelters for a place to stay, and hospital emergency rooms for medical help. But none of these offer long-term solutions.

The cost of housing our homeless is high -- to individual healthy and dignity, and to the Canadian healthcare system.

But what if every citizen was entitled to a minimum income? For low-income earners, it could mean no longer having to choose between rent and food. It could also mean the end of the stigma attached to poverty and much less stress on our healthcare system.

Canada’s current poverty reduction programs for seniors have already established one of the lowest rates of seniors in poverty in the entire world. A Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI) would ensure Canadians of all ages have the minimum income required to meet basic needs and protect against budget shocks -- those sudden, unexpected changes that can affect the stability of a family.

GAI is not a new idea: The federal government ran a test project of GAI called “Mincome” in the 1970s. The experiment shows a decrease in hospitalization, in particular related to mental health, and an increase in students continuing to grade 12, within the target population.

Perhaps more important, as participant Amy Richardson said, “Everybody was the same so there was no shame.”

The guaranteed annual income is a simple idea, but implementing it would be a tremendous challenge. It would take hundreds of hours of negotiation, consultation and planning to make a GAI, involving all three levels of government, social agencies and First Nations communities.

But can we really put a price on health and dignity?