The Case for Basic Income

The Case for Basic Income: Freedom, Security, Justice
by Jamie Swift and Elaine Power, Foreword by Dr. Danielle Martin
BETWEEN THE LINES (May 2021)
264 pages, paperback $24.95, ebook $9.99
Reviewed by Erin Matthew

Persistent poverty, employment precarity, and food and housing insecurity were not new challenges for many Canadians when the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in widespread socio-economic vulnerability in March of 2020. The common good and the need to come together to “do our part” became common platitudes in the absence of policy, despite the fact that while all citizens were to “weather the storm” of Covid-19, Canadians living in poverty would not be doing so in the same boat.
Published amidst this socio-economic backdrop, The Case for Basic Income, by Jamie Swift and Elaine Power, challenges the accepted inevitability of poverty and offers compelling arguments in favour of ensuring a guaranteed, obligation free basic income for all Canadians. Swift and Power detail a rich history of basic income both in Canada and beyond, explore relevant related discourse, and outline advocacy efforts in establishing a basic income pilot project in Ontario that began in 2017, only to be cancelled by the Ford government upon its election in June 2018. As well, and perhaps most importantly, they share powerful stories from basic income recipients, crafting an emotional narrative of transformational change in the lives of pilot participants from two communities.
The arguments offered by Swift and Power also move beyond the social benefits of basic income. Readers are encouraged to reconsider the idea that there are those in society who are deserving and undeserving and instead, explore the notion of freedom in a more modern, socially responsible context. Instead of accepting the values of neoliberal self-aggrandizement, the authors suggest that freedom can be reimagined as the ability to pursue one’s own potential without fearing life compromising consequences. At its core, basic income is offered as freedom from insecurity, enabling the true empowerment of individual choice and the possibility of a life lived with dignity.

Erin Matthew is a teacher in District 15, Trilliam Lakelands.

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