?Wall of Silence? (written in 2006)

black and white drawing of man's face with one hand coming from left over left eye, one hand coming from right over right eye and one hand from right over mouth
sticker on pole in Victoria, BC 2006

When you do not speak out in favour of guaranteed livable income, it is assumed that you are calling for economic growth.

about guaranteed livable income actually supports the idea of a forced consumption, forced production economy since silence is tacit consent to the current pro-growth economy.

Silence about a guaranteed livable income actually supports the continuation of waste and harm to the environment and to health.

If you support a guaranteed livable income write letters and ask questions.

Note: Since the article was written in September 2006, things have improved slightly.

There are many organizations in Canada which have resources devoted to examining the causes of, and solutions to, poverty. And yet...

...in spite of there being much information about Guaranteed Livable Income*, Guaranteed Annual Income, Basic Income Guarantee, Citizen's Dividend, Citizen's Income that is easy to find if you care to look for it...

...in spite of Canada having had its own guaranteed income pilot project in the mid 1970's called the Manitoba Mincome ...

...in spite of there being Canadian books on Basic Income by Sally Lerner, Charles Clark and Robert Needham (1999)... by Francois Blais in 2002 ... and efforts by Sally Lerner to promote the idea...

...in spite of there being a Guaranteed Minimum Income conference in Quebec in April 2006 attended by 150 people (BIEN newsflash, July 2006)...

...in spite of the fact that guaranteed income was a demand of Martin Luther King's Poor People's Campaign ...

...in spite of guaranteed income being one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women...

...in spite of 800 copies of the Women's Economic Justice Report on Guaranteed Livable Income having been distributed to social justice and women's groups and interested individuals across Canada (including the groups listed below) ...

...in spite of there being growing worldwide interest in the concept of guaranteed livable/basic income as evidenced in the Basic Income Earth Network newsletters ...

...in spite of there being over 150 well-researched discussion papers on the US BIG website...

...in spite of there being a call by South African churches, unions and many other organizations for a Basic Income Guarantee...

...in spite of 800 people showing up to hear about Brazil's basic income program at the 2005 World Social Forum (BIEN Newsflash, January 2005)...

...in spite of there being more and more books published on the topic...

...in spite of there being a new international Basic Income Studies Journal...

...somehow here in Canada the main social justice organizations say nothing about guaranteed income.  

Looking at the websites of the groups listed below, it appears, for now, that there is an information whiteout on the topic of guaranteed income for these social policy groups in Canada.

Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group (VIPIRG) Formed 1983. Located in the same city as LIFE and the Women's Economic Justice Project. As of August 18, 2006, there is not one article on guaranteed income on their website including no mention on their publications page or their page about welfare.
Email: vipirg@vipirg.ca
Website: www.vipirg.ca

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA)
Formed in 1980. Several offices across Canada, hundreds of publications. Can anyone find mention of guaranteed annual income, guaranteed livable income, basic Income? We found none.
Email: ccpa@policyalternatives.ca
Website: www.policyalternatives.ca

Canadian Council on Social Development (CCSD)
Formed in 1920. The CCSD concerns itself with social programs, and yet there is scant mention of guaranteed income on their website and even this is difficult to find.
Email: council@ccsd.ca
Website: www.ccsd.ca

Centre for Social Justice (CSJ)
Formed in 1997. No mention of guaranteed income in their list of publications or in their press releases.
Email: justice@socialjustice.org
Website: www.socialjustice.org

National Anti-Poverty Organization (NAPO)
They are actually FOR a guaranteed adequate income, but this information is not easy to find on their website.
Email: napo@napo-onap.ca
Website: www.napo-onap.ca

Social Planning and Research Council of BC (SPARC)
No mention of guaranteed income on their income security page.
Email: info@sparc.bc.ca
Website: www.sparc.bc.ca

Caledon Institute of Social Policy
Formed in 1992 to do research and analysis; "inform and influence public opinion and to foster public discussion on poverty and social policy." They emphasize "the vital links between social and economic policy" and "on what can be achieved". One article on Guaranteed Annual Income from the year 2000. They make some hints towards recommending a incremental basic income in a 2006 report.
Email: caledon@caledoninst.org
Webmail: www.caledoninst.org

Resources: According to 2004 Revenue Canada charity information, CCPA's six offices had 3.9 million revenue; CCSD 2.3 million; SPARC 1.6 million; Caledon Institute 1.1 million. CSJ, NAPO and VIPIRG unknown.

How is it that so many groups have funding to study poverty in Canada but do not mention guaranteed income, even to dispute it?

In comparison to the numbers of people researching poverty in Canada, there are very few people who openly support a guaranteed livable income. Staggering amounts of resources are spent researching welfare as if the problem of welfare can be solved. What this means is that practically no money is spent supporting a movement for a guaranteed livable income.

It is disrespectful to all people living and dying in poverty around the world if people who have resources devoted to social justice refuse to discuss the topic of a universal guaranteed livable income for everyone.

Maybe the solution is just too simple:

"To be poor is to have too little money. The immediate need of the poor is for more money. The immediate need is not moral uplift, cultural refinements, extended education, retraining programs or makework jobs, but more money."

-- Robert Theobald, The Guaranteed Income - Speech given before a leadership conference on the Guaranteed Income,
Chicago, May 21, 1966.

"A system that is less expensive than welfare and also less debasing to the poor, it seems to me, should not be objectionable to anybody but hardcore sadists." Robert Anton Wilson.

If groups can't go on the record to support guaranteed income, because it would jeopardize their funding, they should say so. It is perfectly understandable that no one wants to lose their job because of the very fact that we don't have a guaranteed livable income.

On the other hand if the idea of GLI is wrong, then everybody needs to know this and take other steps to solve the problem of systemic poverty. Currently the only way to grow the economy is through increased consumption, environmental damage, health damage, overproduction, war and exploitation of women's unpaid work? Is this the solution put forward by social justice groups? If it is they need to say so.


Email the above groups:


Dear ________

Your organization has resources devoted to examining the causes of and solutions for poverty in Canada. There are a growing number of groups in many countries in the world who are looking at guaranteed income (under various names) as an urgently needed solution to poverty. Please write back and let us know:

  1. What is your organization's position on Guaranteed Livable Income and when you are planning to release a position statement?
  2. When will your organization post information (or links) about this concept on your website?
  3. When will your organization publish a paper, write an article, or hold a meeting on this topic?
  4. What is your organization's proposed solution to poverty? Is this a universal solution that recognizes the problems of increased consumption, environmental damage, health damage, overproduction, war and exploitation of women's unpaid work?

    Sincerely _____________

Email LIFE (gli2020@shaw.ca) if you get a response. LIFE will also email the above groups and will start posting the responses on this page in October 2006.

* Why do many groups today use the term Guaranteed Livable Income instead of Annual or Basic Income? Because a guaranteed annual income could technically be as little as a penny a year. In addition, there are many "living wage" campaigns which recognizes the importance of the concept of "livable." There would be less dignity were it called "Basic" Wage.

See also the article "Who's afraid of a Guaranteed Livable Income"

For articles on the "free market" think tanks see the article about how groups like the Fraser Institute are charities or the most popular article on our website: Top Ten Reasons to be Opposed to a GLI

Cracking through Crusty Economics
(Update Aug. 2007)

It has been almost one year since we published "Wall of Silence" (see below) about the silence from social justice groups on the topic of guaranteed income in Canada -- even to dispute it. Now in the summer of 2007, there are a few cracks in the crusty economic theories to which social justice groups have been their giving tacit consent.

1) The National Anti-Poverty Organization now mentions guaranteed income on their pamphlet (calling it "adequate" income - contact them and let them know what you think about this terminology). They are also connecting guaranteed income proponents from across Canada and held a meeting on the topic in July 07; and the new executive director has spoken on the issue.

from NAPO's 2007-8 pamphlet

2) The Social Planning and Research Council of BC has shown some interest in being willing to discuss guaranteed income, but there is still no mention on their website.

3) The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives invited international speaker Guy Standing --co-chair of the Basic Income Earth Network-- to speak at the "Jobs and Justice" conference. However, they did not mention in the biographical information his connection with basic income, nor did speaker Guy Standing directly mention the concept in his keynote address (he did address it in answering the questions that followed, however this part of his talk is not available on webcast.) The CCPA will also be releasing a report on guaranteed/basic income in the fall of 2007. However, no information about this project is available on their website. Update... report released in 2009; short review: ho hum weak waffling, maybe yes, maybe no regarding Guaranteed Livable Income.

4) Unfortunately, the Caledon Institute, the Centre for Social Justice, the Canadian Council on Social Development, and the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group still remain silent on the issue of guaranteed income which means then they then are give their tacit consent to the job system and all the damage that this brings to peace, people and the environment.

Some progress has been made. But given the number of people living and dying in poverty, if people can't prove jobs are the solution to poverty and they don't have another solution, then what is stopping them from endorsing a guaranteed income in the mean time, until they can come up with a better solution?

Especially since many of them have a guaranteed income already.