Don't get a "Poverty Reduction Strategy"; just fucking end poverty!

It is now thirty days since I did my three minutes of fury at the city's executive committee, regarding the proposed "poverty reduction strategy". I did a slightly longer pitch to a provincial government get-together about labor law a few weeks earlier. I recycled that presentation for my oral to the city.

I also submitted a written statement to the city. It is below. My angle on all these issues is, of course, a Basic Income. Or, as I am starting to call it, a Livingrant. Actually, the Livingrant would be a handy portmanteau for a particular kind of Basic Income which addresses the real need.


regarding ex 7.2, the Poverty Reduction strategy.

Attached are two articles for distribution to all councillors.

Oral presentation will be made by:

Tim Rourke

#138 260 Adelaide St E



My web site on the topic is found at


It includes a good archive on the topic to get anyone up to speed on the issues around it.

There is a links page to all relevant web sites, for contact with other Canadian groups advocating the concept.

Keep in mind this is not a settled idea. There are too many contradictory ideas about it, and no well organized advocacy organization. There is not even agreement about what to call it.

It is not well understood by advocates of the concept that it is not as simple as it seems. It is a quite elastic idea, which can have negative consequences for society and lower income people, as well as positive ones.

The negative ideas are;

1. That BI is a reason to eliminate other social programs.

2) That it is a wage top up system to keep people attached to the labor force.

3) That it is a cheaper means of "regulating poverty"

The core principles of a Bi or Income Guarantee are;

1) It must be universal and without conditions.

2) It must be adequate for a dignified existence.

3) It must be administered as a demogrant and not as a "negative income tax"

4) It must be funded by taxes on wealth.

The Basic Ask of the city is an endorsement of the concept of a Basic Income in line with the cities of Calgary and Edmonton, and with the province of Prince Edwards Island.

There is no organized public group for a BI in Toronto at present. I believe the reason for that is the kind of hyperpartisan politics that goes on in Toronto. People do not want to act outside a political network. And this idea is antithetical to many political agendas.

A public statement from a council member might be a way to begin catalyzing a BI advocacy group. Or, calling a public meeting about it at city hall.

An ultimate aim would be cooperation between city government and local unions, to do an economic study of the BI concept. This is of course, what is needed right now, until a pilot project can be funded.

The questions to be asked are;

1) The economic consequences for the city economy of a BI.

2) The consequences to the labor market dynamic in the city and to worker's rights.

There. I filed two copies of this with the clerk. I told her the city could afford toner cartridges more easily than me, so I was not printing a copy for each member of the committee, let alone all the councilors. Now here is the oral, though not exactly as I did it.

I managed to edit on the fly and get it in within three minutes. I originally thought I was going to have five. When I did it in front of the labor ministry, I took longer but somebody said I could have taken more time.

At neither the labor ministry nor the city exec. committee, did I get any questions about a Basic Income. They were just on to the next speaker.

At neither forum did I have to wait at all. At the labor ministry they were running a bit ahead and waiting for somebody to walk in the door. At the city, I somehow ended up as number one on the speaking list.

I stayed around and listened for awhile. At the labor ministry, they were concerned about the decline in labor standards; problems with collecting owed wages and so forth. The worker's action center people were there.

At the city, the usual agency types were there, and some union people. Al this "poverty reduction strategy" nonsense was wrapped up in everybody's agenda but the actual poor. But here is what I said.

hello. I am Tim Rourke I have never been part of any labor union. I have been a useless eater all my life; someone the nazis would have gassed off. I live on a disability pension. I spend what energy I have informing myself, thinking, and trying to influence positive social change

I have long been an advocate for the idea of ending poverty by just giving people enough money so they are not poor. Lately this idea is in one of its fashionable periods. All sorts of people are advocating for variations of it, using names like Basic Income or Guaranteed Annual Income or Citizens Income, Liveable Income, and so on.

The cause is not really well served by its adherents. All these different siloed internet ideological tendencies want to make it their own vehicle. But they can't got past being a debating society on the net.

I have been working with Basic Income Canada Network. We have been able to organize several forums on the idea; most recently in Montreal last year. I think another one will happen in Winnipeg next year.

The strength of this idea is its inevitability. If you think about it without any ideological blinders, there is no other way out of the situation post industrialism is putting us into.

The idea of a one one relationship between available work and those available to work has always been a vicious myth. But it is becoming more ridiculous as automation eliminates ever more sources of paid work. Already about 80% of work is make-work. It would make no difference to the total output of society if these jobs were eliminated.

Historically, the solution to technological unemployment has been to reduce working hours. But we would have to reduce working hours drastically to create so called full employment again. Reducing hours would reduce peoples incomes proportionately, unless wages were raised proportionately.

Trying to solve poverty by raising wages is a fools game. This is the basic fallacy which unions pursue, as well as the poverty fighters. Raising wages at the low end would only create inflation in what people need to survive, especially housing. Those without wages, the program dependent, will be hurt by this because they will never keep up.

I do not understand this push for higher minimum wages when most marginal workers are saying that what they really need is more hours. And of course, to actually get the wages they have been promised.

Let me cut to the chase. The only way out of this conundrum is free money for everybody. Working classes and unions are declining in power not so much because of rising neoliberalism as due to the decline in need for workers due to post industrial automation. If low wage workers had another source of income besides wages and welfare, that would be all they need to even the scales against employers.

So what unions and poverty fighters are asking for is not going to fix the problem, not going to even those scales. What will give low income people and unions some power again will be to separate survival from work. t is going to take a long and hard fight to achieve that, but it is time to get on with it.

I am not going to go here into the details of debates of what a "money for living" system would look like, or even what it would be called, or how to win it politically, how to fund it, all that. There are lots of people on the net who would love to debate it with you ad infinitum.

What is really needed is a government and union funded think tank to study the idea and come up with the optimal format for an income security system. Hint, hint, government and union people.

If you would like my own succinct ideas of what a living grant would look like, I will be happy to send it off to you. Otherwise, just look at my web site at http://www.basicincome.ca/

So there is my oral presentation. I asked someone later how I did. He was noncommittal but thought I got right to the point. That is what I always try to do. I am not a long winded person. ( That is because I am not long on wind. My voice starts to give after 15 minutes.)

I am now in the process of rearranging my web project. I think I finally have the kind of web host I want. The site will be called Livingrant and I will need to get an e-mail list going with it. That is still the best way to communicate over the net. The best newswire and bulletin board is now Twitter. I don't know if I should get a second twitter account just for Livingrant.

I will be putting in a reroute for the Basic Income, so for awhile feel free to go there to read the two articles about Alberta mayors backing BI, which I copied for their councillorly-nesses.

So, I end blogging and start page spinning. tr