OBIN's rebuttal to John Milloy Basic Income 'slam dunk' article

Tracy Smith-Carrier's response to Mr. Milloy's recent article:

John Milloy’s recent piece in National Newswatch states that Basic Income is far from a slam dunk on a number of counts, not least of which includes the assumption that it would create the conditions of “a steady stream of tales of misuse, double dipping and downright fraud.”

This is unfortunate given that for years now researchers have shown that income support systems are not regularly subject to rampant fraud. Work by Janet Mosher from Osgoode Law School and Joe Hermer from the University of Toronto, for example, found that welfare fraud is exceedingly low – out of 38,000 investigations of Ontario Works cases in the early 2000s, the total number of convictions represented only 0.1% of the overall caseload. The link to fraudulent activity asserted here serves to perpetuate the unfounded myth that people needing assistance are liars, cheats and criminals. The criminalization of “poor people” has been perpetuated for decades, although now more than ever, we need to reconsider the faulty, and harmful, stereotypes we have about the “poor” that impede us from making positive policy changes. The leading population of people using food banks today are families, with parents that are working (typically multiple jobs to make ends meet). People living in poverty are no more prone to criminal activity than the general population – they want to work, get a good education and provide for their children.

John Milloy and Doug Ford have both claimed that what people really need is a job. The reality is though that many people living in poverty already have one (or did before the pandemic started). The assumption that people are lazy and need incentives to work, is just that, an erroneous assumption not based on evidence.

Research on Basic Income is vast and growing. The positive outcomes associated with Basic Income programs (also called cash transfer programs in the international literature) are now well documented. Our own Canadian examples of Basic Income have demonstrated the positive impacts of having the assurance of a guaranteed income – at one point in our history, the Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement programs eradicated poverty for the older adult population, the Canada Child Benefit is now reducing poverty for families, and the Mincome program in Manitoba showed significant reductions in hospitalizations (a huge cost savings), while improving people’s mental and physical health.

What rarely is considered in conversations related to the cost of Basic Income is the immense cost of poverty that we shoulder now – one that will only increase as we experience the full impact of COVID-19. We currently spend billions of dollars in treating the symptoms of poverty. Through a Basic Income, we could address its root cause. Rather than drawing on myths and stereotypes that are not only incorrect but discriminatory, we need to consider a vision that includes the well-being and prosperity of everyone.

Tracy Smith-Carrier is a member of the Ontario Basic Income Network (OBIN) C-Team, Chair of Basic Income, London, Ontario and Co-Director of the Multidisciplinary Applied Research Centre at King's.

Tracy's program of research touches upon a number of different fields in the social policy arena, including access to social welfare benefits, social assistance receipt, food and income security, and basic income. Dr. Smith-Carrier started her journey as a middle school teacher and later moved onto to pursue a career in research and policy analysis, particularly examining if, and how, marginalized groups access programs and services in the post-welfare state. She brings years of experience in social planning and non-profit organizations, government and hospital settings. Current research projects involve examining trends in intergenerational social assistance receipt, research on charitable and justice models of social support, human rights, and the design and delivery of basic income.

See John Milloy's article here.