Castlegar pitched as 'ideal' candidate for basic income experiment
Former provincial Green Party candidate (for Richmond) and current minister of the Castlegar United Church Greg Powell is urging both city council and MLA Katrine Conroy to lobby to have Castlegar be the site of a pilot project designed to eliminate poverty by providing a basic income to all residents.
He said the concept was a key plank in the Green platform, and is now part of the current agreement between the Green Party and the sitting NDP government.
“There are many ways to roll it out, and I don’t know how they’ll choose to do it, but basically, those who need (the basic income) keep it and those who don’t give it back,” Powell said, adding there are currently pilot projects in Finland and Ontario (the latter sponsored by a Conservative senator). “This appeals to politicians of all stripes because it increases the efficiency of delivering economic support while addressing a variety of social issues.”
He said a pilot project in Manitoba in the 1970s saw reduced hospital stays, an increase in high school graduations, and more. Theoretically, it would eliminate welfare, and all the costs of administrating (and policing) such a bureaucratically-intensive program, reduce policing and medical costs, and increase opportunities for residents.
“The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that poverty costs B.C. roughly $9 billion a year, which would certainly help offset the cost of the program,” he said, adding the program, in theory, should not mean a significant increase in income tax – but that’s part of the reason for rolling out a pilot project first, to get a sense of the best ways to manage the dollars and cents on either side of the column. He said the Rural Development Initiative of CBT identified Castlegar as being about mid-ground in terms of poverty levels.
He said Castlegar offers several benefits as a pilot community.
“You want to limit outside factors,” he said. “Castlegar has relatively stable employment, there’s not a lot of migration into or out of the city, and it’s fairly representative of many rural B.C. communities. These factors would make Castlegar an ideal candidate community to run the experiment.”
He also said a basic income pilot project dovetails comfortably with MLA Katrine Conroy’s new portfolio as Minister of Children and Family Development, and is very much a feminist initiative.
“It compensates the kind of work that tends to be done by women – stay-at-home parenting, looking after aging parents,” he said. “I think we have a lot to gain from it.”
City council, at its regular meeting Monday night, heard Powell’s presentation and agreed to send it to council’s Health and Wellness Committee for consideration, and Powell said he has also contacted Conroy to discuss the issue.