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A journey

I live in the Villeray district of Montréal, province of Québec, Canada. My interest in Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) was spurred in Aug 2016 when I stumbled upon the fact that the ruling federal Liberal Party grassroots had twice adopted a resolution that every Canadian should receive a regular unconditional cash transfer sufficient to live on in dignity, regardless of their work status. The policy was now part of the official Party program. A resolution was adopted for a third time in 2018.

This website (and the sister French version) recount my personal journey through the politics, the debates on UBI, and describes my learning process. As for the fundamental principles of Basic Income, I offer you a collection of links and articles by experts. I am more interested in the how and when than the what. I will answer all questions on the Facebook page Basic Income Montréal


I first focused on convincing the Liberals to add Unconditional Basic Income to their platform for the October 21 2019 federal elections, with the ultimate goal still being the implementation of Basic Income in Canada by 2020. I also lobbied the Quebec Liberal Party, with little success, while they were still in power.

What fascinates me the most is how the question of a Basic Income is framed and how this affects people's reaction to it. Prejudice and confirmation bias seem like insurmountable obstacles to swaying the Basic Income skeptics. While looking for ways around this problem, I stumbled on a report and had a Eureka! moment

Rather than advocate for a theoretical concept and beg for more research, let's point to successful implementations in the real world and demand the expansion of these programs everywhere. Instead of trying to explain something new and experimental to skeptics, let's point to familiar examples, known under different names:  Basic Income hiding in plain sight

Understanding a policy based on an abstract definition and a list of criteria is much harder than grasping an idea by looking at an example.  Unlike a definition that must be rigorous, the example doesn't have to be perfect. The human mind is quite adept at making allowances for variations and converging on the essence of a policy proposal.  This argument was not very successful.

Then covid-19 hit! Enough said about that! Actually, a bureaucratic miracle occurred. Within six weeks the government was able to set up a monthly distribution of cash for the millions of Canadians who lost their jobs in the pandemic. $2,000 a month, twice what UBI activists ever dreamed of. Large unconditional cash transfers instantly went from being radical and unfeasible to being an urgent necessity. Cost is never an obstacle to political will, it seems. The Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) brought home the precariousness of employment. The newly jobless were no more responsible for their predicament than welfare recipients were to blame for theirs.


The core issue facing Basic Income is separating work from revenue; daily life from survival; happiness from misery. What do you think is the best argument to persuade people that this is an investment in people and not just giving away free money?

After 5 years of advocacy, trial and error, I have become convinced that the best way to address the implementation of basic income is to treat the question as a marketing challenge. How do you sell social justice? Only a motivated customer will pay attention to your message. They must be directly concerned and they must feel the consonance between the values of UBI and their own deeply felt beliefs.

Creative and practical plans are being developed right now to tackle this challenge. Learn about them in the blog, in the coming months.

You will find my biographical details on my Facebook page. I hope you enjoy following me on my journey. 

Pierre Madden

#basicincomemontreal            Updated  2022-01-29

Recent Blog posts

In a nutshell

May 1st 2017

What does it do?

Basic Income deposits each month in your bank account a sufficient amount of cash to live in dignity. Everyone gets it, poor or less poor, worker or not, without condition.

All live in misery, who can't work, can't find employment, or have a precarious or minimum wage job. Even the middle class sees jobs disappearing because of automation. The vast majority of Canadians does not have the economic security that is their's by right.

 May 1st 2017

Why do we need it?
Do you think it is necessary to be employed to deserve a place in society? Many people work very hard and receive no remuneration. Others have precarious, low-paid jobs, that contribute little to the community. Finally, the famous 1% reaps the fruits of our labour in order to get even richer.

 May 1st 2017

What are the benefits?

  • Improves health, especially in young children;

  • Reduces poverty;

  • Eliminates economic insecurity;

  • An answer to automation;

  • Provides more opportunities for all;

  • Fosters creativity;

  • It's a human right.

May 1st 2017

What are the main objections?

According to Albert Hirschmann, any new social policy is initially attacked as being futile, perverse and dangerous. It won’t work, it will have unintended adverse consequences, and it will endanger other goals.

Here is what is objected to Basic Income:

  • It is utopian: So are all new ideas.

  • It would be unaffordable: False.

  • It would lead to the dismantling of the welfare state: While some proponents on the right might have this in mind, Basic Income can also be seen as a floor of support, not to be set below the current insufficient floor.

  • It distracts from progressive policies such as full employment: This is a statement, not an argument. For alternatives to Basic income, more to come.

  • Advocates naively presume the poor just lack cash: Everyone needs social services. In addition the poor lack cash.

  • It’s stupid to give money to the rich who don’t need it: First, a right is a right, for everyone. Second, most of the money going to the rich would be clawed back in taxes. Finally, targeted programs don’t always reduce poverty and always cost more.

  • It gives people something for nothing: What about inheritance, tax avoidance devices, and “the many other forms of ‘rentier’ income derived solely from possession of assets.”

  • It would lead to more spending on “Bads”: This highly paternalistic argument is contradicted by fact.

  • It would reduce Work: This is also contradicted by fact. 

  • It would lower wages: On the contrary, Basic Income provides workers and potential workers more bargaining power to demand better wages and conditions. Current programs of job creation tax incentives and the Working Income Tax Credit actually do subsidize low wages.

  • It would be inflationary: This argument accounts for the increase in monetary mass without considering the effects of economic stimulation.

Based on Standing, Guy. Basic Income: And How We Can Make It Happen. Chapter 6. Penguin Books Ltd. 2017

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