Notes on a recent meeting of Basic Income activists in Toronto

I should publish some notes about a meeting in Toronto of some BI activists. It shows how things are doing in Toronto. Right now we have a few active groups starting to emerge but they are not communicating well with each other.

There is my group which has so far mostly assembled to listen to Robyn Peterson’s powerpoint lectures about the history and issues of a BI. It is worth taking on the road.

There is a group which seems to be coalesced around Jo Grey and her “LIFT” group, and the MP Colin Vaughan. There is the mysterious group working out of Yonge street mission which wants to get this the local religious community involved. And there is this group which was started by Jon Sanderson and is now lead by Matt Talsma. I recently attended this group’s second meeting.

The meeting took place last May 24th in  an old  building in the Niagara neighborhood on the inner west side. This was  an artists colony of sorts, but they are all being evicted to recondition the place as luxury condos. The people at the meeting are mostly artistic types, younger men. So of course they already have a logo. Total attendance was ten.

Their first meeting was held on April 26. The delay between one and two was due to the Winnipeg congress. There was only one woman present, but she was fairly impressive. More about her. One person was just back form working on the Sanders campaign in the states.

The stance of political parties about BI/GLI was discussed. The Liberals have called for a pilot. The NDP is now leaning strongly towards BI, now that it was decided to move back leftward.

One participant understood well that the big impediment to progress toward BI/GLI right now was the lack of a coherent movement toward it. She has talked to politicians. She says that they tell her, in effect, “you guys are fucked! You are fragmented and all over the place”. Her message was; ” There has to be one ask!”

The response around the table was in effect, “oh, no, we have to have many points of view”. This sounds a lot like Fair Vote Canada. I, on the other hand, will likely title my next big paper on BI/GLI, ” One Ask!”

It was thought that perhaps coming up with a “vision statement” would help. As an old activist I once worked with would have said, “don’t get a vision statement, get yourself a vision”. There are enough arguments and enough ideas, someone said. The thing is to choose some and go with them.

There was discussion of whether we need to hold meetings regularly. I noted that while work does not happen at meetings, meetings are where work is organized. Or at least, should be.

There were concerns about poor communications between different groups. Someone was a big fan of nation builder. I hated to sound like a know it all, but I opined that nation builder was useless; just enough platform for internet chatter.

It was agreed that we are not communicating well. Someone noted that we keep getting confused with the “raise the minimum wage” people.

Someone wanted to get the names and numbers of BI groups across Canada. Someone else pointed out that there is already such a list; on the BICN web site. Communications, communications. Focus, focus.

There was some discussion of the mission statement. Someone thought it was a bit “run on”. These things tend to be so. They decided to leave that for now.

Toward the end we got down to some ideas for potential actions. Someone wanted a “word by word” letter campaign for city hall endorsement. This involved identifying sympathetic councilors.

Someone talked about organizing on campuses. I have had some experiences with campus organizing, and not good ones. Believe it or not, university students are notoriously hard to mobilize. A better approach would be toward campus organizations. They might want to join and also kick some funding our way.

We adjourned and went home agreeing to hold more meetings. We agreed that future meetings will be held the third tuesday of each month, which will make the next one June 21st. We have no venue for the next meeting.

To sum it all up, these are not unintelligent people. All seem to have university educations. But they are mostly quite young. What strikes me is the lack of know how about running even the simplest organization. There is something wrong with the education system.

It reminds me of Jane Jacob’s statement in “Dark Times Ahead”. People seem to be forgetting how to do things. What we need is some training. Also, a filling in of some startling gaps in general knowledge.

We shall see how it goes. And at least we have something going.

TR May 28, 2016