We wanted a book that reflects a conversation series we are running throughout 2021.
The “Conversations with . . .” series will focus on those hard-to-talk-about conversations on topics such as disability, poverty, people of colour, women’s rights, and more in a safe space. Basic Income for Canadians is the web that connects these issues to the many social justice issues we face in North America and forces the reader to look behind the scenes at the underlying causes.
Forget has done her homework on this one and skillfully guides the reader through the various reasons that a Universal Basic Income (UBI) should be employed in Canada. As I mentioned the topic to my husband, the first two things he said were: “Who’s going to pay for that?” and “everyone will just stop working.” Forget puts those concerns to rest, explaining in quite some detail who may be paying for it and some potential scenarios (it’s not as expensive as you might think) as well as why people will not stop working. My gleanings equipped me to at least get my husband to pick up the book and examine it a little closer.
Although “Evelyn Forget is an economist in the School of Medicine at the University of Manitoba” and a scholar, she conveys her message clearly in plain language. I’ve seen some of her video presentations and they are fine, however, the book allows her the space to give more precise information and data that she is not able to convey over a shorter video (as opposed to a lecture). Her interest in Basic Income comes from researching “Mincome” which was a three-year basic income experiment in Manitoba during the 1970s. It was Mincome that inspired Ontario’s more recent experiment.
After defining basic income and giving the reader a taste of her research, Forget elaborates how employing basic income will alleviate the costs of health care in Canada. She writes:
And yet our hospitals are full of people who are there not because they have bad luck or faulty genes, but because they have spent years living in deteriorating housing, working badly paid and physically demanding jobs, eating inadequate diets and living with economic insecurity and the stigma associated with poverty. Their bodies are not injured as much as worn out; chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, arthritis and cardiovascular disease have replaced infectious diseases as the primary causes of hospitalization and death, and chronic conditions even more than infectious diseases are strongly influenced by the broader circumstances of our lives.
Forget suggests that our current efforts to help those living in poverty are helpful but do not resolve the problem at its root. Poverty does not just affect those who are on welfare or disability and the homeless. She stresses that the working poor are one of the largest groups of people that basic income can help. This information is used as a springboard by Forget for us to consider other social justice issues beyond poverty to women’s rights, people of colour, and everyone’s right as a human being to live with dignity. She forecasts the future of work and how this will change as more jobs are replaced with machinery. Then to ensure that the reader has well understood her, she clarifies what basic income is and isn’t by dispelling some myths like: basic income being an “attack on the social welfare system,” or that good jobs in small communities will disappear, or the loss of low-wage jobs will reduce the number of people working and shift those jobs abroad, etc.
Forget concludes with a few potential models for a basic income in Canada and how we might reach these targets. She reminds us that anyone can hit a bump in the road and get tangled in the weeds. It is our job as a community to help everyone through rough patches because we will all experience ups and downs in our lives and everyone deserves a second chance. Evelyn Forget shows compassion for the underdog and a desire for their success in life. Her final words are motivational - that basic income is possible and that by examining our values, we can prioritize basic income as a way forward. Although Forget does not bring faith into the equation, her plight screams social justice and it isn’t hard to imagine Jesus or the good Samaritan in her words.
Forget has since added information to her 2018 edition in regard to COVID-19 and how that has impacted us. Those who read along and wish to participate in the Lenten study can read either version as it will make for some interesting conversation. Join us on Zoom on Mondays during Lent at 7pm! Email us at email@example.com to register.
Caroline Sharp is a member of the diocesan Social and Ecological Justice Committee.