National News

A Tribute to Hugh Segal

Hugh Segal, grandfather of the Canadian movement for a basic income guarantee, has died.  Basic income activists and our allies are feeling his loss acutely. He was a relentless foe of poverty, an indefatigable speaker for basic income throughout his life, and for us, an inspiring, humane and dedicated forebear and leader. We, and the whole country, have lost an important presence.

In his book Boot Straps Need Boots: One Tory’s Lonely Fight to End Poverty in Canada (2019), Hugh tells us movingly of people who provided core ideas in his youth which set him on his future path: his parents whose sense of justice he captures in recounting the incident of “The Missing Toy Box,” which “activated a nascent sense of conscience in me”; Prime Minster John Diefenbaker, whose speech at his high school introduced the idea that one person who cared and fought for better things could truly improve people’s lives, and ended with a plea for help “not for myself, but for the future of the country”.  Hugh writes that these words lit a pilot light for him, and he “felt a sense of duty related to that moment”; finally, still in high school, he interviewed folk singer Joan Baez from whom he learned “something profound: that poverty, human rights, war and fairness were connected in far more intense ways than I had understood before.”  

In college, Hugh became an aide to Progressive Conservative leader Robert Stanfield, and after graduating volunteered to work for MP David MacDonald of PEI. He was later to become Chief of Staff to Ontario Premier Bill Davis. These men, skilled and socially progressive Red Tories all, cemented his decision to devote his life to public service within the Progressive Conservative Party.  He eventually became Chief of Staff to PM Brian Mulroney, and afterwards was appointed to the Senate by Liberal PM Paul Martin.  His approach to politics in general was balanced, to opponents genial and respectful. All through the years that Hugh was pursuing his full-time, very active and influential political career, he pursued his basic income goal – ever before his eyes – actively and eloquently.  He spoke forcefully for implementation of a basic income for Canada hundreds of times, eventually being asked to design the Ontario Basic Income Pilot, implemented by Premier Kathleen Wynne. 

Hugh was a tireless and stunningly eloquent speaker, but initially lonely, as the subtitle of his book “One Tory’s Lonely Fight to End Poverty in Canada” makes clear. An income tested basic income was the means to that end in his view.  He quickly became the natural leader, advisor, guide and inspiration to growing numbers of individuals and organizations who, persuaded by him or otherwise, became committed to basic income as well.

Struggling to capture their appreciation of Hugh in words on hearing of his death, individual advocates shared some of their main impressions of him. The two indented paragraphs below look as if they were written by a single individual, but are an assemblage of borrowed phrases from those impressions set in italics to indicate that unusual editing: 

Hugh was a fine, fine human being, statesmanlike without ever being stuffy. He was passionately principled and purposeful, yet always ready with a quick witticismThere aren’t many who have made so many contributions in so many realms including our own.  He smiled a lot, perhaps because he was a true optimist and believed progressive thinkers would eventually shape public policy in a more humane way.  Would that all our political leaders shared his intelligence and integrity.

Though he was our longest, strongest and most compelling advocate for an income tested basic income, Hugh was a modest person, with not an iota of pretense or phoniness. His mind was razor sharp, his views incisive. His comment, “Neoliberalism is the intellectualization of greed,” is a typical example. Always generous with his time and insights, he was considerate to everyone. Even his humour was never ad hominem. He understood politics both broadly and in detail. His loss will leave an enduring hole in our world.

Hugh Segal was a truly remarkable and dear man. We who share his passion to bring basic income to Canada are grateful for the path he marked out so clearly, for the vivid vision he created of a caring country, for his dedication and deep humanity, his optimism, personal warmth and unfailing graciousness.  We can best honour him by holding firmly in our own hearts his faith that our country is capable of taking this step toward social justice. 

May we seek to bring to our efforts a generosity of spirit, affability and dedication approaching his own.

Toni Pickard, on behalf of Coalition Canada


New Basic Income Bills in the House and Senate

On December 16, 2021, Member of Parliament Leah Gazan (NDP Winnipeg Centre) introduced Private Member Bill C-223 in the House of Commons for first reading (read text here). If passed by the House, this would establish the first national framework for a Guaranteed Livable Basic Income for all persons over 17 across Canada (watch the video here). On the same day, in solidarity and support of Bill C-233, Senator Kim Pate introduced the same bill in the Senate as Bill S-233

Artists For Basic Income News

Toronto Arts Council endorsement

Toronto Arts Council supports a federal Basic Income Guarantee

See the opinion piece published in The Globe and Mail, on March 20, 2021, and in La Presse on March 25. PDF of the article here

British Columbia News

How a Basic Income Could Save Lives in a Pandemic

Victoria – The Tyee (Jan 07, 2021): Emergency benefits showed the value of ensuring all Canadians are guaranteed enough money to meet basic needs. A basic income program could have saved lives and reduced COVID-19 transmission when the pandemic struck last spring, says Evelyn Forget, economist and professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba. And basic income, as both a health and a poverty reduction policy, could still help people weather the second wave and those to come, says Forget.


Canadian academics call for a Basic income Guarantee

December 17, 2020: The Royal Society of Canada released Renewing the Social Contract: Economic Recovery in Canada from Covid-19. Authored by 11 leading Canadian academics in the fields of economics, law, environment and health, the report provides 16 recommendations in 4 key areas: (1) Renewing the social contract; (2) Reinvigorating the Canadian economy for Innovation and resilience; (3) Enabling innovation; and (4) Improving  crisis policy response. Their #1 recommendation to renew the social contract is to establish a basic income guarantee. They also recommend ensuring paid sick leave, universal childcare that provides Early Childhood Education. To pay for these they recommend comprehensive tax reform that calls for taxing all income earned from capital gains the same way we tax earnings and also re-instituting an inheritance tax in order to address inequality.


Canada’s economic recovery depends on a renewed social contract

The Royal Society of Canada published a new report by leading Canadian economists that make 16 recommendation in four areas to support economic recovery in Canada from COVID-19: renewing the social contract; reinvigorating the economy; enabling innovation; and improving crisis policy responses. The first recommendation from this report is that Canada establish a basic income guarantee (BIG). Read the full report here.


Canada’s poor continue to be told “not yet”

The Senate – 9 Dec, 2020: Using a rare procedural step to oppose the second reading of Bill C-17, an Act granting money for federal public administration to the end of March 2021, Senator Kim Pate made a stunning speech in the Senate Chamber. Despite promises from the federal government, 3.5 million Canadians living below the poverty line continue to be excluded from income support programs like CERB and enhancements to EI, because the government says “not yet” to those living in deepest poverty. Read or watch this brilliant and impactful speech here.

Media coverage News

BIG: A more effective stabilizer for people and the economy

Dr. Evelyn Forget, an economist at the University of Manitoba, explains in the November issue of Policy Options why “A guaranteed minimum income would be more effective than current government programs” and why replacing the raft of recovery benefits with a simple, permanent guaranteed income would be an automatic stabilizer for people and the economy.

Artists For Basic Income News Ontario

Toronto Artists For Basic Income: An Introduction video

This video celebrates and shares performances, speeches and calls to action by and from politicians, artists and concerned Toronto residents. The Time for Basic Income is NOW.

This video features performances and statements by:

Created by the Toronto Artists for Basic Income group.

Artists For Basic Income News

CARFAC – Voice of Canada’s Visual Artists webinar

Carfac Webinar Series

Universal Basic Income webinar, on September 16 at 2pm Eastern Standard Time, organized by CARFAC.

What is Universal Basic Income? Why is it important to artists? How would UBI work in Canada?

Join independent artists Adrian Stimson and Craig Berggold, and Sheila Regehr from Basic Income Canada Network for a discussion about how Canadians would benefit from UBI as a social safety net during uncertain times. The discussion will be moderated by artist Sydney Lancaster.