Thursday, May 16, 2024

Only UBI Will Do

It concerns me that the drive for the critically needed Universal Basic Income is confused and confounded by appeals to 'Basic Income' without the essential 'Universal' aspect that makes it universal. 

As debates around economic policies intensify, it is crucial to distinguish between genuine Universal Basic Income (UBI) and other forms of basic income that fall short of addressing the fundamental issues. The following letter to the NDP, who recently advocated for a Guaranteed Livable Basic Income (GLBI), underscores why only UBI can effectively provide the security and equality we need in a rapidly evolving technological landscape. If it does not say "Universal," it is not UBI. Below is my letter to Leah Gazan of the NDP, which is followed by an analysis of why a truly universal approach is essential for our future. If you find yourself moved to add your voice, her site is here:, and her email for this issue is: [email protected]

Letter sent to Leah Gazan

Dear Leah,

I hope this message finds you well. I am writing to share my thoughts on Bill C-223, the National Framework for a Guaranteed Livable Basic Income Act. While I appreciate the NDP’s efforts to address poverty and economic inequality, I believe the proposed Guaranteed Livable Basic Income (GLBI) falls short of what is truly needed.

Concerns with GLBI

The concept of "Basic Income" is already part of our current system, albeit flawed and inefficient. The fundamental issue with means-tested programs is that they inherently exclude people. By design, means testing filters out individuals who, for various reasons, do not meet the criteria. This approach often leaves those in need without support and creates a labyrinth of bureaucracy that is costly to administer and maintain.

The Case for Universal Basic Income (UBI)

What Canada needs is a Universal Basic Income (UBI) – an income that every Canadian receives. This ensures several critical outcomes:

  1. Inclusivity: Every individual who needs support receives it without the barriers of means testing.
  2. Efficiency: Those who do not need the income will have it clawed back through the existing tax system, making the net fiscal impact manageable.
  3. Cost-Effective Administration: UBI can be implemented with minimal administrative overhead, leveraging our existing tax infrastructure and recent innovations in direct deposit systems, as evidenced by the CERB program.

Implementation and Cultural Shift

UBI is not complicated legislation. It can be rolled out rapidly, with initial payments beginning shortly after the bill’s passage. Long-term implementation will involve adjustments in tax brackets, cooperation with provincial and territorial governments, and consideration of withholding mechanisms.

However, UBI alone is not a panacea. It must be complemented by Universal Basic Services (UBS) to cover extraordinary costs for people with disabilities, healthcare, and access to public utilities. Implementing UBI and UBS requires a cultural shift. With the rapid advancement of AI and automation, many jobs will be lost, and the traditional notion that people must "earn their way" will become increasingly untenable. UBI should be seen as a "prosperity dividend," reflecting our shared ownership of the nation’s wealth.

The Problem with GLBI

The current push for GLBI risks diverting energy and resources from the goal of implementing a true UBI. This initiative may create a sense of complacency, leading to statements like:

  • "We are working on the GBI, so there is no need for UBI."
  • "We passed the GBI, so the problem is solved."

Legislation tweaking our existing social safety nets can be easily overturned, and the guarantees of GLBI could be undermined by future policies. In contrast, UBI, once established, would be challenging to dismantle as it benefits everyone, making it politically resilient.


A genuine UBI will provide a lasting solution to poverty and economic insecurity, ensuring that all Canadians can share in the country’s prosperity. I urge the NDP to reconsider its focus and advocate for a truly universal and inclusive basic income system.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Bob Trower

Only UBI Will Do – If It's Not Universal, It's Not UBI

The concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI) has garnered increasing attention as a potential solution to growing economic inequality and the impending challenges posed by AI and automation. However, not all proposals that claim to offer a "basic income" meet the criteria needed to genuinely address these issues. Here’s why only a truly universal approach will suffice:

1. Inclusivity and Simplicity

The core of UBI lies in its universality. Every individual, regardless of their financial situation, receives a fixed income. This approach ensures that:

  • Everyone Who Needs It Gets It: Means testing and conditional income supports are complex and often fail to reach those in need. UBI eliminates these barriers, guaranteeing support for all.
  • Natural Clawback: Higher-income individuals will effectively return their UBI through the tax system, ensuring that the wealth distribution is equitable without the need for complex administrative processes.
  • Minimal Administrative Costs: A universal approach drastically reduces the costs associated with administering and monitoring eligibility for various welfare programs.

2. Economic Security in an Automated Future

With AI and automation set to transform the workforce, UBI provides a safety net that allows individuals to adapt without the immediate pressure of financial instability. As jobs evolve or disappear, UBI can ensure:

  • Stability During Transition: People can upskill or transition to new roles without the fear of losing their livelihood.
  • Encouragement of Entrepreneurship: Financial security can foster innovation, as individuals are more likely to take entrepreneurial risks when their basic needs are guaranteed.

3. Reframing Entitlements to Wealth and Power

Our current economic system is rooted in outdated notions of ownership and entitlement, which can become dangerously concentrated in a rapidly automating world. UBI represents a shift towards recognizing that:

  • Wealth Should Be Shared: In a society where automation generates most wealth, it is imperative to distribute this wealth more equitably.
  • Preventing Concentration of Power: Without intervention, AI and automation could lead to extreme wealth concentration. UBI helps mitigate this risk by ensuring a baseline of economic power for all citizens.

4. Practical Implementation and the Road Ahead

A realistic phase-in plan over 60 months, starting with $300 per month and increasing by 2.5% monthly, can help manage the transition:

  • Gradual Implementation: Starting with modest payments and scaling up allows for adjustments and minimizes the initial fiscal impact.
  • Administrative Adjustments: Simplifying and automating government services can free up resources to support UBI, while retraining civil servants to manage more complex tasks.
  • Employment Opportunities: Even with UBI, people can and will seek employment to supplement their income, fostering a dynamic and resilient economy.


In conclusion, while the idea of a Guaranteed Livable Basic Income (GLBI) might seem appealing, it does not address the fundamental issues that UBI aims to solve. Only a universal, unconditional income can provide the economic security and fairness needed in our rapidly changing world. As we move forward, it is essential to focus our efforts on implementing a genuine UBI that ensures no one is left behind.

By advocating for a truly universal approach, we can create a fairer, more secure future for all Canadians, regardless of the economic challenges that lie ahead.

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