Yuen Pau Woo: The basic income study that wasn’t


When the British Columbia government announced in 2018 that it had appointed an expert panel to “test the feasibility of a basic income in B.C.”, there were high expectations among advocates that the results would be definitive.

As it turned out, the report released in early 2021 did land on a definitive conclusion, just not the one that advocates were hoping for. To the question of whether B.C. should move to a basic income as the central element in its system of transfer payments, the authors are unequivocal: “Our answer is no.”

While the report’s findings are well reasoned, they are not conclusive. Relying heavily on a particular conception of a “just society”, the authors produced a formidable set of calculations to make their case.  However, the normative framework that they chose and the metrics that they prioritized led to a foregone conclusion.

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