Paper for “Commitment to Community” on strategies for ensuring funding for poverty reduction initiatives.

I wrote this for the “commitment to community” group which is run by the social planning council to try to pressure the city government for more social spending. Especially, for more funding for the social agencies which make up social planning council. They did not get far with the city budget process ths year.

I also ‘tabled’ this at the social planning AGM the next day and it did not get much “take up” there either. I will send it around to some of the groups which make up planning council or have been lobbying the city for more social spending.

What I have proposed, essentially, is that they have to demand a large increase in city revenues if they are going to get anywhere at all. This should not be a really hard sell because anyone with any brains can see that this is exactly what must happen.


I have been watching this group for awhile. What you are doing is getting you nowhere. You do not correctly understand the situation you are working within, nor do you know what your ultimate goal is.

The city government can do nothing to reduce poverty. The provincial government can do little. Ending poverty is within the power of the federal government with its control of monetary and macro economic policy.

Local government can relieve the worst effects of poverty. It can also provide citizen’s organizations with the basic resources with which to promote real poverty abolishing measures to the federal government. That is all local government can do.

But to do that local government needs to have sufficient fiscal resources. Right now is the worst time to ask the city of Toronto for more spending. It is faced with a fiscal crunch due to inadequate revenues.

The revenue problem is the result of the disastrous “amalgamation” of Toronto twenty years ago, which must be undone. It is not the purpose of this paper to go into the details of the problems of Toronto governance. Yet ultimately this must be dealt with by removing the city from further destructive interference from the province and establishing a more democratic internal governance form.

Lack of democracy allows a privileged class to control local government and block increases in revenue which are critical to enabling the city to carry out its functions. The property tax in particular is grossly unfair and must be reformed. Renters pay three times the property tax of home owners.

The home owners pay far too little tax, even compared with other municipalities around Toronto. They are getting a free ride at the expense of the lower income people, and to an extent, from the residents of the surrounding municipalities. Yet the wealthier home owners are a minority in Toronto.

The key is for people to begin demanding more direct democracy from the city government. This means, more public decisions made by referendum. This is a step toward more participatory democracy. A democracy that is both direct and participatory is called a deliberative democracy. The public deliberates and decides, and commands government to carry out.


A first step to democratic development in Toronto is to demand referendums on key issues, and since the revenue crisis is the biggest problem facing the city right now, a referendum is needed in order to resolve the issues within the budget crisis. This should be the strategy of the Commitment To Community group and the social planning council, and other allies it can draw into the campaign.

Nothing else is likely to break the fiscal deadlock in the city. The austerians have the ability to stop any tax increase in council, no matter how justified. The decision must be taken away from council. A referendum must be demanded to break the deadlock, mandating a reform to the property tax system in the city.

The reform would have three main features. It must insure that enough funds are raised to meet the cities needs, in line with other municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area. It must correct the extremely unjust, three to one, imbalance between renters and owners in the city, and the injustice to lower income people generally. And it must put budget power in the hands of citizen councils, in line with participatory budgeting principles in other municipalities.

In future budgets must be set, not according to how much the cities budget can be squeezed down, but on how much the residents of the city, as a whole, can afford to pay. The city must seek to maximize its fiscal capacity because there will never be enough money to do all that could be done. There is a huge capital backlog at present.

Rather than being set up to increase as the land is more intensively used, the property tax should be set to decline as it is made the best use of. This will greatly facilitate planning. But best of all it will allow relief for people who genuinely cannot afford higher taxes, such as the retired and disabled, and the unemployed.

Allocation of revenues must be put under the control of local budgeting councils, according to the Porto Allegre model. This also facilitates the decentralization of the city government which is urgently needed.


All labor and social agencies in the city with an interest in stable city spending have thus an interest in supporting such an initiative. The provincial government and the other GTA municipalities also have an interest in ending the endless headache caused by the austerian foolishness of the Toronto council. Most of the Toronto electorate would vote for such an initiative as most would pay less taxes and have better services.

A powerful coalition could be developed around this idea. It requires some leadership skill on the part of its organizers. If it were developed from active citizens and front line social workers, it would be free from the objection that it is one level of government intruding on the jurisdiction of other governments, or a special interest group seeking special advantage for a few.

It will take enormous work and resources to bring this off, but nothing else is going to be effective. Do the people now working with C2C want to go on being ignored year after year, perhaps to make themselves feel better for having made some token effort? Or, do they believe in themselves enough to do the job which needs to be done?

Winnipeg congress sessions Part one

Before we even started we had a snag. Somebody with mobility problems tripped coming down the stairs into the plenary room. They had to call an ambulance for her, but I was informed that she was all right.

I also have some walking problems and was still using a cane at the time, but I did not have too much trouble with these steps. The venue was supposed to be accessible but one wheel chair bound person was not too happy with the ‘access’ arrangements.

I noticed her often at the back of the hall, sometimes having difficulty getting noticed in order to ask a question. I talked with her at the airport. It seems the wheelchair lift was a rickety affair that she did not trust at all.

identity politics

The next calamity to befall the conference was to insult the aboriginal community who had supported the congress strongly. This is what I do not like about identity politics; it leads to hypocrisy.

Yes, we were on the ‘traditional’ territory of the Anishnaabe nation. Six other ‘first nations’ also live in Manitoba, which has the highest proportion of aboriginals in the country. Yes, Canada is a ‘colonial settler’ country.

Once upon a time the ground Winnipeg is built on was the traditional territory of whoever the Anishnaabe chased out or annihilated. A cursory reading of evidence suggests to me it was the old “mound builders” who were likely ancestors of todays Dakotas. London, England was founded as an imperial and settler colonial project of the Roman Empire on the traditional land of the Celto-Germanic tribe of Belgae.

History is not kind to people who are sitting on land more powerful people want. We are not all going to give the land back and go back where we came from. But the Injuns of Canada rarely resisted European civilization and usually tried hard to find accommodation with the ascendant culture. What was done to them was totally unnecessary.

The worst was the aggressive effort at cultural extinction and assimilation. Do not call it genocide, that word should not be cheapened. It was a disastrous social engineering experiment which has left the first people psycho-socially dislocated. They now cling desperately to the shreds of their previous culture, to try to regain a sense of themselves, and should be encouraged to do so.

However, I find the current trendy practice of inviting some Uncle Tom-Tom to come and play his drum at liberal-progressive functions to be condescending. The individual thus engaged for this event had travelled abroad conducting talks on aboriginal culture. He had some things to say about the significance of indian rituals and I wish he had more time to say them.

But we all stood up as he did a Lakota ‘honor song’ of the kind once played to greet delegates of an assembly. It does indeed put you in the mood for serious deliberations, even if you do not know the words. But then he was hustled out, to come back at the end and give us a good-bye theme. I assume some money got put in his jar, like he was a hired performer.

Then the shit hit the fan. Some people had some serious objections to the wording of an instruction sheet for the bus trip to the Neeganin center the next day. We were told that nobody could take their cars and we all had to keep together for “safety concerns” because of “risks in the neighborhood”.

This all sounded to me a lot like the slurs against the old Regent Park, before it got redeveloped. I used to live near Regent park, attend community events in Regent, and walk home from there after midnight. I never had the slightest trouble.

The next day I walked out of the Neeganin center despite orders and took a short walk around the neighborhood. It was drab but very quiet, almost uninhabited. In fact there were few aboriginals even inside the center, other than the ones speaking, dancing, or cooking and serving dinner. Maybe the police swept them all up for our visit, like we were the Olympics.

We heard some speakings about how the pre- white man aboriginals had run their economy on Basic Income principles. The material wealth was drawn into a common pool and distributed according to a “from each according to ability, to each according to need” basis.

Actually, most societies since the dawn of time have operated that way. Western civilization since the advent of capitalism has most seriously deviated from that. But such civilizations are an exception and generally do not last long.

I noted one very good line in this. If the aboriginals had kept control of the resource revenues which were taken from them, they would be today as wealthy as arab sheikhs; except they would not act like Arab sheikhs. They would use the wealth to look after everyone.

We were told that we needed to be part of the decolonization process. That is, to make a society for “needs, not exploitation by people living somewhere else.” No arguments there.

Then we got exposed to some aboriginal high culture. I really enjoyed this, because each performance came with a talk on the significance of the art form, and the skills required. We went from Inuit throat singing to Metis fiddling and the students of an aboriginal cultural dance school.

The plains indians seemed to have a special dance for just about everything. Some of them require great skill and athletic ability developed over years of practice. I hope the school prospers and is able to revive these almost lost art forms.

The existence of a Basic Income would make it possible for more people to pursue them as a vocation.

As for BICN, it has the problem of groups run mostly by volunteers. That is, things get done by amateurs when they really need to be handled by professionals. We get needless mistakes which harm the cause we are trying to promote, such as needlessly offending social elements we want to be aligned with on one hand. Then on the other hand trying to be politically correct with them and coming off as patronizing.

the Kingston group

Kingston has one of the earliest established and most active local BI groups. I understand they were the first group to get their local council to endorse the idea of a BI. This is now being imitated all over the country. Now, however, they are awake to adoption of such BI resolutions as “cheap support” which is often a substitute for supporting the “living wage” campaign.

A second speaker from Kingston spoke about “Essentialism and Feminism”. Essentialism is another of the old ideas from Aristotle that have so messed up western civilization, that everything has its one correct use. This includes women who are supposed to stay home and raise kids while their husbands support them.

But she did not like identity politics either. As an example of the way it leads to abuses, she talked about the radical leftist tactic for disrupting meetings which we do not see so much of anymore. She recalled when a university students union held a conference on feminism and brought in some pricey speakers.

The super lefties crashed it by bringing lunatics in to rant and then giving them cover when the chair tried to bring them to order. “I will not allow you to silence this [ black woman, Lesbian, etc]”. Finally they had to close the meeting. Some of the student organizers were left literally in tears.

I wonder how well BICN would cope with an attack of this kind. I know a couple of occasions where speakers for BI have been “bushwhacked” by leftists ranting that BI is an excuse to abolish all social programs. They do not seem to deal with it well.

But her point was that some degree of essentialism is necessary and women really do need someone to provide the economic security within which to be able to raise children in this time of economy. She now recognizes the irony in the relation between feminism and the need for a husband.

The object of feminism is economic independence. BI best serves that aim. But she still does not like the idea of full time mothers.

Of course, this gets into one of the criticisms of BI, that it breaks up families and eliminates the role of the male provider. I wonder how you would square the social conservative view with a BI; give it only to the husband? The point of her presentation seems to me to be that essentialism means there are no possible compromises about some things.

continuing on

Spending ten hours a day mostly listening to people talk gets wearing. The talks start to blur in together. Only the strongest points stand out.

Someone asked rhetorically; are we and Milton Friedman talking about the same thing? When we talk about jobs do we mean labor or work? Labor is the commodity which capitalists buy. Work is what people do, paid of unpaid, to keep society going.

The left critique of BI has always been that it is not sufficient in itself. In the 1970s, BI was supported by the right and “castigated” by the left.

Now the aim of BI is to create more “equality” between people but now jobs are migrating offshore, creating an unequal power balance between owrkers and employers.

I decided to say something about this. The time honored solution for technological unemployment and job offshoring has been;

1) Reduce the work week without loss of income, by increasing hourly wage.

2) Bring offshore jobs back onshore. And fuck the World Trade Organization.

The response to me; well, people are working less hours at particular jobs now, but they are having to get two jobs in order to live.

I had no opportunity to respond to that. Sigh! What did they do thirty years ago, when overtime was not paid? Charge the employer! Back then wages from one job were sufficient, but some people still wanted more and worked two jobs.

The limitations of “one question each” is that you cant follow up and get into a dialogue.

Another example of this is where someone talked about reducing work weeks to thirty hours. One of these libertarian types jumped up all red faced and barked “would the state decree this?”

This was totally stupid. Why should ‘the state’ not decree something like this? It decrees there will be no child labor. It decreed maternity leave. It decrees a minimum wage.

But people there just ignored him.

More papers

Someone informed us that a reason used in Manitoba for denying a raise in the welfare rate, was that some welfare families would be better off than than some working families. This sounds a lot like the “less eligibility” doctrine of workhouse times. However, the obvious counterargument is that if this is so, then wages are obviously far too low.

John Rook from Calgary gave his talk about Maslow’s hierarchy. Sometimes called Maslow’s ladder, this has become a set piece of sociological discussion. When people’s physical needs are met, they turn to being concerned about safety, when they become safe they become concerned about love and acceptance, then about self actualization.

I think he delivered pretty much the same spiel at the Toronto conference in 2012. The effect of a BI would be to shift the underclass from ‘ survival ‘ mode, and I think he means here, from meeting physical needs, to self actualization mode. I think that is a bit optimistic. My own experience has been that you have to get used to one level, which takes a little while, before you start thinking about the next one.

Rook also notes that the big problem with the present system is the overlap and duplication of services. I thought, he should talk to somebody like John Stapleton in Toronto, who thinks our present welfare system is a brilliant creation brought about by many generations of enlightened progress and innovation, which should not be lightly tinkered with.

now buy some of our papers

At the end of the first day, we all came back to the plenary room and were urged to check out the Basic Income Studies Journal, by one of its coeditors. Yes, it is a nice little journal, but in the internet age you are not going to get too many people to pay $40 for a ten or twenty page article. There is stuff just as worthwhile online for free.

I have an idea for the BI studies journal; get away from the academic publishing racket and just put out a free electronic newsletter. Oh, no, he did that too. He even tried recruiting me into it at the Montreal congress in 2014. The trouble with that has been that it contains little that is of any interest. It is just cheerleading for BI.

There is a need for a better communications medium for BI. More about that.

in the hallways.

One guy I chatted with while nibbling brownies, thought that there were too many old people there. I suggested to him that it was only old people with the money and time to get there. He seemed to buy that.

I talked with Karl Widerquist about my problems getting and keeping in contact with people. He said he had a lot of problem communicating with people on the net as well. He thought the problem was spam filters.

As well, some people will try to ban whatever they do not like. At one point he had to change his e-mail address, which for some reason had been tagged as a spam source. Perhaps because he, like I , often send out messages to a lot of people at once.

He suggested I change my own e-mail. However, I would have to do that regularly and then people would have to find me again. Perhaps I should have a second address just for high volume sendouts.

Friday the 13th

This auspicious day started off with me trudging across the campus against strong winds and some snow. I do not want to disparage Winnipeg weather to greatly. It was quite balmy the evening I arrived, but deteriorated into the weekend.

Then I was treated to a totally disgusting account of of U.S. welfare “reform”.

There is the EITC program; Earned Income Tax Credit. All it does is subsidize bad jobs and keep people tied to bad employers. This is what American conservatives came up with as an alternative to a Basic Income when it was seriously proposed in he 1970s.

Canada has its own version of EITC, the Working Income Supplement WIS, though it is not as obnoxious as the American version.

Even more disgusting is the “Personal Responsibility Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act” created by the Clintons in 1996. This is the idea that people would be able to get only a few years of welfare assistance in their lives. There was little control over how states actually spent the money. Some used it to fund programs to promote marriage.

The policy never did really come into effect. It has been fiercely resisted by the poor and their advocates in the U.S. It also runs up against the reality that cutting the poor off welfare does not make them disappear.

the caring economy

This was the next talk I attended; not quite so grim as the first. There is a need for a new “caring economy” in which both children and the natural environment are cared for.

It is hard to get people to take this idea seriously. Some economists say the idea is too simplistic. Others say it is too complex.

There is still the problem of people trying to over intellectualize the concept of caring economy. Yet other people think at a bumper sticker level.

Getting specifically to poverty elimination, the American presenter from Minnesota said that most welfare reform in the U.S. was about forcing women to get married and have kids.

Specific to the Manitoba mincome experiment, she noted that the problem with its design was that it did not consider social interactions. It was all about labor reductions, as if these do not interact with business decisions.

In other words, if the hours worked declined as a result of a guaranteed income, is it because some people said “fuck you, boss, I’m gonna stay home and watch TV ” or because some employers said, “fuck it, this mincome is making people too uppity, so I am moving out of this town.”

She concluded by recommending the book; “moral Economy” by David Calnitsky. She described it as excellent about why people “join” welfare of mincome. You will have to read the book to discover just what she meant by that.

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

About the BICN congress in Winnipeg; setting the scene

red river

It is now a week since I got back from Windypeg from the NABIG conference. It is about time I got busy writing about it and preparing some followup. I have already scheduled a meeting at Ralph Thornton on June 5 to deliver a talk on the event.

bitch, bitch, bitch

There is an awful lot to write about. I filled up a notebook with it and there were so many sessions I missed. I would like to have gone to them all but we had split sessions. There were so many people with presentations of one kind or another that we would have to have either excluded many of them or had an unmanageably long conference.

Four days is getting to be too much. Even the 2014 congress, with people from all over the world, was only three days. Jurgen, who organized that one, had some criticisms of this one. He suggested not starting at 8 am in the morning, in respect of us who “do not have roosters in our ancestry”.

The venue was much criticized. They always hold these events on university campuses, McGill in Montreal and U of T in Toronto in 2012. These two were sidewalk universities downtown. There are plenty of cheap food and accommodations options. They are accessible to transportation hubs.

The University of Manitoba is way out in the south of the city in a bend of the good old Red River. It took an hour and a half to get there by Winnipeg transit from the airport. There was a total lack of food options after hours and on the weekends. Even during business hours, all we had was the food court at the student center.

They had to pull some money from a reserve fund and bring us in some donuts on Saturday and Sunday morning. At least we got some chow at lunch, unlike the Montreal event where I had to resort to the Subways© next door.

The weather was not great. I hear it was not so good in Toronto while I was gone, either. But we had some snow and we learned why they call it Windypeg. Yet they told us that it had been quite toasty in the Peg until we showed up.

Unlike U of Toronto, which goes all year round, U of Manitoba seems to partly shut down in the summer. The campus was a somber place and we had to hike all the way across it from the dorms they put us it. The geese seemed to rule there and we had to watch out for the goose shit.

The interior climate was not great, either. This was held in the Law faculty building, which seems to have the kind of heating/air conditioning system which does not adjust well to changes in weather. It got hot and humid in the lecture halls. We had conflicts between those who wanted to prop the doors open to get some air, and who did not want the noise from the hallways. “Air! Air!”

what I did there

I did my own presentation, on what needs to be done to get a serious movement going for a BI in Canada. I said several things that I knew would be controversial to many people, but my shtick was well received.

A bit later I suggested that it was not a good idea to try to sell Basic Income as a way to get people to accept “climate change” measures. I suggested that the premise of climate change was not as universally accepted as many “left” oriented people seem to think, even among left/progressive people, and there is no reason to offend these people while promoting the BI. For that reason, I said, I wanted people to get my point and not make me have to get into a refutation of “climate change”.

So I did not get lynched by any climate fanatics. Later a few people came up and agreed with me not just about not getting into needless arguments, but about climate change being a hooey!

Another suggestion for holding the next one of these was more time for people to talk and circulate. A lot of information exchange, not to mention real organizing, got done out in the hallway.

This is how I finally managed to run into a few people from the Toronto area who have been working on BI as well. Maybe now we can all get together and get something to happen at home. There are active groups in Waterloo, Hamilton, and Kingston. But big T.O. is a big dead zone for BI activities. So is Ottawa, it seems.

Another example of snack table organizing is when I cornered Senator Art Eggleton. I originally wanted to chide him about his refusal to come to an event I wanted to get going. He had written back snarking that we should stop talking to the believers and start organizing.

I suggested that before organizing anything we had to actually get some people together, and an event with a ‘big name’ in Basic Income circles, like Eggie, could do that. Or Evelyn Forget, by the way, but she has now moved back to Winnipeg. She said she did not like the house prices in Toronto.

But Jurgen walked by. I got another idea. “Hello Jurg. Come here and meet Art Eggleton. He’s a senator. Isn’t that cool?”

“Well, Senator sir, this is Jurgen De Wispaleare. He is originally from Belgium. He is on the board of BICN. He’s got a job designing the Finnish BI pilot project.”

Sure enough, they got talking and I faded out, mightily pleased with myself. I knew what Jurgen would tell him about setting up pilot projects.

the fun parts

One worthwhile feature of the congress was that we all got a bus trip to the Winnipeg Aboriginal Community Center for a lecture on the problems of discrimination against aboriginals, poverty on reserves, and BI as a possible solution to some of this. The Crees, Ojibways, Ojicrees, Lakotas, Ashinabes and etc., so they claim, all had a form of Basic Income before white people came along and messed their world up so thoroughly.

We got some demonstrations of aboriginal arts and culture. I was impressed by the dance school. As with most folk forms of dance, there is more to it that just hopping around. The hoop dances especially require some impressive coordination. As for those who think aboriginal drumming and singing all sounds the same, they do not listen closely.

On the last day, we got invited to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, which happens to be in Winnipeg. Oh, yes, everybody is talking about BI now as primarily a human rights issue. I decided I was getting short of money anyway and I did not want to risk missing my flight.

I might rather have gone because Sheila Regehr was effusive about her visit to the human rights center when I chatted her a bit at the airport departures salon. I ended up spending a lot of time there because I booked a late flight, worried about the precedent from Montreal, when the final meeting went way over time.

the inadequacy of BICN

And once again, the thing which impressed me the least about the event was the business meeting, the Annual General Meeting, at the end. A few of the attendees I ended up sitting with at the departures lounge agreed with me. The meeting was “technically inadequate”.

I know what the real problem is. Within the BICN movement, nationally and internationally, there is a strong substrate of people with a “left Libertarian” mentality. In addition, you have a kind of founder effect similar to what I saw with Fair Vote Canada.

The executive committee is dominated by people who do not want any kind of formal structure. They also tend to be academics. They want only a metaphysical debate on whether various modes of BI violate Rawlesian equality theories. They are focussed totally on these congresses every two years, so they can read their papers at each other.

Many activist types of BI people are getting fed up with this and are demanding some structure and transparency. They did not get it. About all that happened was the new board for the next two years was announced. It was not even explained how they were elected. This is even worse than the early Fair Vote Canada of even the TCHC representative council.

In the limited chances I got to talk with Shiela Regehr and Jenna Van Drannen, they seem frustrated by this. These two do most of the real work of the organization as chair and secretary and get a small stipend. I joked with Sheila about being in the army of Oz; twenty generals and one private. She chuckled and admitted to being much overworked.

Sheila and Jenna are trying to develop this advisory council of people involved with local organizing to act as some kind of alternative or auxiliary to the executive council. I indicated I want to be part of this council. I sent in the form. Jenna says she never got it and was dismayed.

possible solutions

At least they have more or less the right idea about reforming BICN from within. That is, to use the old FVC model, which finally moved the ivory tower faction out of the way, at least a bit. They hated the idea of local organizations but these developed anyway and eventually forced FVC to open up. The message was, “come on, if we are going to promote democratic reform we have to be open and democratic ourselves.”

I think there is plenty of time to build up a nation wide network of BI/GLI groups and develop a clear idea of what we are really after. Right now there is excitement about BI but people are not really understanding it. Local governments are adopting it so as not to have to talk about minimum wages. Ontario is talking about a pilot in order to freeze anti poverty discussion.

I notice that there are cycles of about 15 years in guaranteed income interest. This interest always fades away because there is no effective organization from below to create real push for it. As a famous sociologist said, there has never been a social advance without a social movement to bring it about.

We need a strong organization, and what we have now are left libertarian types who are opposed to any kind of structure. This is what anarchism and libertarianism are really about; keeping it secret about who is really in control and what they think is best for everybody.

So, this is what the job is; building a powerful movement. In fact, building a new political party. This is going to take a long struggle because the biggest talkers about an income guarantee do not want this; they are the big enemies of achieving an income guarantee.

In my subsequent bloggings about all the wind from Windypeg I will have much to say about the internal debates and conflicts around this.