Basic Income Guarantee

What is the issue?

A Basic Income Guarantee, or Universal Basic Income, ensures that everyone has an income that meets their basic needs and allows them to live with dignity. 

In the arts and culture sector, many workers depend on unstable gig economy pay structures and the irregular income patterns of work that stretches across years rather than months. Author incomes, in particular, rise and fall depending on where they are in the creative process and the vagaries of the cultural marketplace. 

The instability that comes with income fluctuation can and does drive creators out of the business of Canadian culture. 

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic and economic shutdown resulted in an immediate collapse of creative income. Artists of all kinds saw gigs and appearances cancelled, and income opportunities postponed into an uncertain future. At the outset of the lockdown, TWUC quickly surveyed authors and found an average projected loss of just over $10,000 in the near term. Considering the relatively small average income from writing in Canada, such a loss is devastating to an already vulnerable sector.

A Basic Income Guarantee would help to stabilize and minimize the troughs in an author’s earning pattern, and would provide the stability necessary to continue creating. As stated in “A Public Letter from the Arts Community for a Basic Income Guarantee”:

We envision a Basic Income Guarantee that ensures financial stability without eroding the existing federal support for arts and culture programs. Unconditional access to a basic income will support the remarkable creative capacity of individuals, and provide employment opportunities, bold visions, and community inspiration.

What TWUC is doing

TWUC is one of the original signatories to the July 16, 2020, “Public Letter from the Arts Community for a Basic Income Guarantee.” This letter resulted from a coalition of arts groups and individual artists that came together in the spring of 2020 to discuss basic income models and launch that discussion with government. TWUC has discussed a basic income model with federal and provincial lawmakers for a number of years now, and we feel that the spread of this idea throughout the broader arts sector and indeed society itself means there is now a greater opportunity for us to see a working program put in place.

We believe the government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) program has proven that a broadly applied Basic Income Guarantee protects and even stimulates the economy no matter the employment rate, while not in any way discouraging recipients from seeking and performing meaningful work. We will continue to include a Basic Income Guarantee in our advocacy submissions, with particular focus on making sure such a program would not in any way reduce established arts funding for the sector.

In TWUC’s 2020-21 Pre-Budget submission to the federal government, we included this recommendation:

TWUC calls on the government to implement a Basic Income Guarantee as an economic foundation for Canada’s workers. A basic income should complement and not replace or in any way diminish existing arts support programs.

What you can do

Download, share on social media, and/or sign your name to the Public Letter from the Arts Community for a Basic Income Guarantee.

Please consider writing to your Member of Parliament in support of a Basic Income Guarantee. You can download a copy of the Public Letter from the Arts Community for a Basic Income Guarantee and sent it with your note, or simply link to the brief if you are sending an email.

Further reading


TWUC’s advocacy is most effective as the collective voice of Canada’s professional authors. We are stronger together. If you are not already a member of TWUC and are working as a writer, consider joining the Union. If you wish to support TWUC’s advocacy outside of membership, consider donating to the Union