Delegates at the 2022 Convention of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) in Whistler approved a resolution that calls on the federal government to implement a guaranteed livable basic income, but not without some debate about the effectiveness of such a move.
Coun. Jeremy Loveday of Victoria, who helped to spearhead the resolution, welcomed passage. “There is a lot of grassroots support for the exploration of a guaranteed livable income and I imagine those groups who pushed the City of Victoria to endorse the resolution in the first place and also across B.C. will continue to do that work and hopefully, we will see a positive response from (senior governments) as well.”
Mayor John Ranns of Metchosin, who had spoken against the motion, said the resolution has the potential to create unintended consequences. “The unintended consequences of anything that we do have to be considered and one of the big ones is giving the federal government far too much authority over individuals,” he said. “We have seen already the denial of charter rights through coercion with regards to the vaccine mandates, and whether you agree with that or not, the fact remains that that can happen again in some fashion. All the federal government has to do is set conditions for a basic income and then they can coerce people into doing just about anything they want.”
The motion specifically states that UBCM would call on the Government of Canada to implement a guaranteed livable basic income, “ensuring everyone has sufficient income to meet their needs, which would go a long way to towards eradicating poverty and homelessness, alleviating the pressure on municipalities to use their limited resources to fill gaps in our failing social net.”
The resolution found itself among a block of resolutions that the UBCM endorsed prior to their presentation to delegates. But an effort by Director Susan Clovechok of the Regional District of East Kootenay removed the resolution from that block by a vote of 154-115, raising questions about whether it would survive a separate vote, which it ultimately did.
Ranns for his part said the final vote on the resolution, should have been subject to a formal vote count, given the amount of people who had earlier voted to bring it out of the pre-endorsed block of resolutions.
“When I looked at the count, it still looked like it was at least even,” he said. “So I don’t accept the results very much.”
Loveday said opponents of the resolution actually did proponents a favour. By pulling it from the block of pre-endorsed resolutions, they actually amplified it by bringing attention to it. “It’s good to get pulled because then we get to have the debate, and in the debate we heard clearly from delegates across the B.C. that is something that should be looked at.”
Loveday said during that debate that guaranteed livable basic income could be one tool to help address what he called “crushing poverty” in many communities. Coun. Tony St-Pierre of Sooke agreed with Loveday during the debate, saying that government spent more money on keeping people in poverty, pointing to resources invested in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside with little to no effect for affected individuals.
Others were not convinced. Clovechok agreed with the general need for more social supports but said that she could not vote on something without having all the necessary information, as the introduction of a guaranteed livable basic income would be a large society-wide undertaking with unknown variables. Mayor Al Siebring of North Cowichan agreed with these concerns and predicted that such a guaranteed income would discourage job seekers.
Ranns said the resolution stands little, if any, chance to come into practical reality. “I never felt that there was any relevance to these motions ever,” he said. “They are never considered.”
A number of jurisdictions, mainly in northern and central Europe, have experimented with guaranteed incomes and Loveday said Victoria has previously offered itself to the province as a test site for a pilot project. “That is something that would have support in Victoria and could help us with some of the social issues that we are facing in the city.”
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