December 14, 2016
There are at least two ways in which income is related to health. First, income allows people to purchase the things that are necessary to survive and thrive, such as nutritious food and safe shelter. Second, income affects health indirectly, through its effect on social participation and the ability to control life circumstances. Put another way, the biggest disease that needs to be cured in Canada is the disease of poverty, and part of the cure is to implement a big idea: A Basic Income Guarantee for all Canadians.
We can eliminate income poverty by ensuring that no one in Canada has an income below what’s needed to achieve a basic standard of living. If we did so, we’d see a considerable improvement in the health of Canadians. The Basic Income Guarantee goes by various names (such as the guaranteed annual income, the negative income tax, and the basic income), and there are different ways to design it. The version I like best works like this: if your income from all sources falls below a certain level, you get topped up to a level sufficient to meet basic needs. That’s it. A true Basic Income Guarantee would ensure that everyone in Canada has an income above the “poverty line.”