Why did a Liberal MP vote to defeat a motion to study the idea of a guaranteed minimum income only two minutes after arguing it's a really good idea?
Here’s a head scratcher for you.
Why did a Liberal MP vote to defeat a motion to study the idea of a guaranteed minimum income only two minutes after he wrapped up a 48 minute speech arguing that it’s a really, really good idea?
Peer pressure, apparently.
“I was being a good team member,” Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette told the Winnipeg Free Press, explaining that his Liberal colleagues “convinced him to vote against it.”
Between 11:27 am and 12:15 pm Thursday, Ouellette told a parliamentary committee that “the guaranteed annual income is something which I believe is so important,” and “very important to the people of my riding” too, repeatedly suggesting the idea could bring about an “end to poverty.”
And at 12:17 pm, he voted against it:
“For 48 minutes, he cited the history of the idea, referenced the Dauphin pilot project on mincome in the 1970s and talked about poverty in his riding, which is one of the poorest in the country. He quoted Martin Luther King Jr., praised the memory of Nelson Mandela and read passages from economist Henry George’s book Progress and Poverty, which was published in 1879.
Then, after listing all the reasons mincome could be a good thing for Canada and why it should be studied further, Ouellette finished his speech, sat in his chair and voted against the NDP motion that would have seen the standing committee on finance study the benefits and possible effects mincome could have in Canada today.”
Adding to the confusion, it was Ouellette who recently spearheaded a petition calling on the Liberal government to “launch experimental pilot [guaranteed minimum income] projects, as soon as possible.”
Please sign and share our petition encouraging the government to fund Guaranteed Minimum Income projects in Canada. https://t.co/SYtss1eQCG
— RobertFalconOuellett (@DrRobbieO) February 29, 2016
He’s also been pretty outspoken promoting the issue in the media too:
— RobertFalconOuellett (@DrRobbieO) February 26, 2016
What triggered Ouellette’s sudden change of heart?
One clue could have something to do with this observation noted by the Free Press:
“On Tuesday, when the study motion was first introduced, Liberal whip Andrew Leslie made a hurried appearance at the committee for some fast talking to Ouellette in the corner of the committee room.”
It’s also strange since Ouellette – who interrupted himself several times Thursday to ask if his speech was being televised (it wasn’t) – previously applauded Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for giving Liberal backbenchers like himself “quite a bit of freedom” to do as they please.
“No one has come up and said, ‘Robert, you can’t do this or you can’t do that’,” Ouellette told the Ottawa Citizen last month.
The gist of the idea behind guaranteed income proposals is for governments to just give people enough money to live on.
That could reduce inequality, but if it’s done the wrong way, it could have exactly the opposite result: right-wingers also support guaranteed incomes, not as an anti-poverty policy but as a backdoor way of stripping away social programs and benefits while giving employers a reason to suppress wages.
Canada’s Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos recently stated he’s open to the idea, but cryptically adds that “there are many different types of guaranteed minimum income.”
Before entering politics, Duclos himself advocated a a similar idea that included a scheme to claw back benefits.