Have Patience Policy Analysts, Souls are Stirring

Momentum is building to reduce poverty. Multiple strands and strategies are evident: fair wage, minimum wage, welfare reform, financial literacy, Cities Reducing Poverty When Mayors Lead, affordable housing, economic development, enshrining social and economic rights in our Charter and more…

The most recent entrant is Basic Income, an approach I’ve been following since the successful Manitoba pilot in the 1970’s. Simply put, Basic Income guarantees a minimum income without a means test – think, for example, of Old Age Security. Interest in Basic Income is spreading all over the world, including Canada. A Guaranteed Annual Income (an earlier descriptor) is now federal Liberal party policy. Ontario is moving forward with a Basic Income pilot under the design of longstanding champion, retired Senator Hugh Segal. Federal Social Development Minister, Jean-Yves Duclos studied guaranteed income programs before he entered politics.

Not surprisingly, the idea has not yet taken hold. It’s a threat to current welfare programs and perhaps to current anti-poverty strategies. Besides, there are a variety of Basic Income approaches to be considered. And getting from here to there isn’t obvious.

Nevertheless, policy analysts have already entered the fray. The more benign weigh in on the pluses and minuses. Others are more direct. It won’t work. Can’t work. It’s too costly. Too idealistic. Naïve.

With all due respect, the policy analysts are missing the point. Souls are stirring. Spirits are rising. People want to shake things up. They are tired of a welfare system that keeps people poor and provides little hope and no dignity. They want something better. Even if they are not entirely certain what the final version of ‘better’ will be.

Policy analysts miss the importance of imagination and desire. They misinterpret the messiness that sometimes accompanies the birth of a new story.

Dear policy analysts, please be patient. You have two choices. Wait until folks are ready and you are asked. Or soak up what is going on and factor that indefinable but fundamental ‘essence of soul’ into your analysis.

Policy analysis can be helpful but not when “the night is turning and the waves of darkness are beginning to brighten the shore of dawn.”


I am part of a group of disability advocates in British Columbia who are exploring the potential of Basic Income to end the soul-destroying effects of poverty experienced by people with disabilities. Click here to read our short post, The Soul of Poverty.

Also, check out the IMPACTability webinar series that Vickie Cammack and I are hosting. Coming up are Lynda Kahn and Jack Pearpoint, without whom the concept of ‘inclusion’ would not be a household word.


We cannot grow in love and compassion unless, in all truth, we recognize who we are and accept our own radical poverty. (Jean Vanier)

Musical accompaniment this post, Cathedral Bells by Hey Rosetta. Purchase.


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