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Yukoners lobby for basic income at Whitehorse Healing Totem

‘Its time is now,’ said Yukon senator Pat Duncan
People gather around the Healing Totem near Front and Main street Sept. 15 for a Basic Income Now Rally. (John Tonin/Yukon News)

On Sept. 15, the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition hosted a Basic Income Now Rally at the Healing Totem on Front Street.

Speaker Kerry Nolan encouraged the crowd of over 40 people to begin a dialogue exploring what a basic income could look like.

“Right now, what we are here to do is get the conversation started,” said Nolan.

A basic income would allow everyone an equal platform so “there’s no need for people to feel disrespected or not a part of a society.”

“When you have to go to an assistance program and ask for money, nobody likes to ask for things, it’s really hard on people,” said Nolan.

“The way the systems are set up right now is you have to prove it. It’s degrading and it’s intrusive. If we went to something like basic income they’d feel respected because their needs for an everyday basic life are met.”

The Yukon’s Senator Pat Duncan, who’s part of the Independent Senators Group, said a basic income is something that has been tried in Canada before.

Former Canadian senator David Crawl chaired a special committee 50 years ago on poverty, said Duncan.

His findings in 1991 said we are pouring billions of dollars every year into a social welfare system that merely treats the symptoms of poverty but leaves the disease untouched.

Duncan said basic income is also referenced in the 1970 Royal Commission of the Status of Women; the 1985 Royal Commission of Economic Union and Development Prospects for Women; and the Missing and Indigenous Women and Girls Call for justice.

From 1974 to 1978, the town of Dauphin, Manitoba had a pilot project called “Mincome.” Research from Dauphin, Duncan said, showed that “when an individual has the certainty of income to purchase healthy foods there is less hospitalizations and better health outcomes.”

With these examples, Duncan questioned why all Canadian jurisdictions hadn’t implemented a basic income guarantee.

“The reality is the federal government has a part to play,” said Duncan. “There’s the reality that federal programs exist to end poverty.”

The basic income model proposes use of the tax system and administration through Revenue Canada.

“By using the tax system with the same rules that apply to everyone, that’s accessed by everyone provided they pay their taxes, the process is universal, and everyone is eligible,” said Duncan.

“It’s unconditional. It doesn’t require maintenance and it doesn’t require someone to be managed by a bureaucracy or social worker.”

In April 2020, Duncan said 50 of her senate colleagues wrote the prime minister and other cabinet members about basic income.

“Half of the senate, from different political perspectives, said to the government when this immediate emergency (COVID-19) has abated, to use the lessons of CERB and to craft social and economic reforms and develop a positive legacy for all Canadians.”

Duncan was convinced of a basic income because of the “harsh reality” that many children and families live in poverty.

“A basic income guarantee was a sound policy option to change this reality,” said Duncan.

Duncan told the crowd a basic income is not a “magic pill” that will cure all, but believes it’s time to be put into action.

“It’s been discussed, it’s been tried in Canada and now it’s time,” said Duncan. “It won’t be easy. It will take federal, territorial governments and all of us to continue to lobby. I encourage everyone here to continue to work on this.”

Contact John Tonin at