When speaking about poverty reduction, we often use the line that, though poverty isn’t only about income, it’s always about income. That’s why cash transfers—think of policies like the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors and the Canada and Alberta Child Benefits for families—are effective at reducing poverty among target groups. In fact, recent numbers from Statistics Canada tell us that since the Canada Child Benefit was enhanced and the Alberta Child Benefit created, child poverty rates have been cut in half in our province. It’s for this reason that we think a basic income, if done properly, could also be a game-changer in terms of our efforts to reduce poverty among adults aged 18-65.
And we’re not the only ones. The basic income discussion is gaining newfound momentum—including in Canada, where provincial governments in British Columbia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec have toyed with the idea in recent years. Even the current federal government has hinted at the eventual inevitability of a basic income for all Canadians.
Within this context, 11 organizations from Calgary’s Social Policy Collaborative—a group of community organizations and funders committed to working together to inform the development and implementation of public policies that improve the economic and social well-being of all Albertans—have asked economists at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy to explore the feasibility of basic income in Alberta.
In the report, An Alberta Guaranteed Basic Income: Issues and Options, economists Wayne Simpson and Harvey Stevens show that a basic income program that reduces poverty could be introduced in Alberta at no cost to the provincial government and without an increase to taxes. By turning five existing non-refundable tax credits into a single refundable credit, the authors suggest that the province could achieve a basic income that would increase the incomes of roughly 40 per cent of Albertans, reduce poverty by almost one-quarter and eliminate poverty for single parents.
As with any policy proposal, Simpson and Stevens’ program raises a few questions—not least that it would leave many non-elderly single Albertans below the poverty line. Nevertheless, the report contributes fresh insight to the national basic income discussion, and most importantly is proof that a basic income that reduces poverty is possible in Alberta. At Momentum, we look forward to seeing where the conversation goes next.