DAUPHIN - Thirty-five years ago, this pretty town surrounded by farm land and far from big cities was the site of a revolutionary social experiment.
For five years, Mincome ensured there would be no poverty in Dauphin. Wages were topped up and the working poor given a boost.
The experiment, a collaboration between Ed Schreyer's provincial NDP and the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau, would cost millions before the plug was pulled.
The program saw one-third of Dauphin's poorest families get monthly cheques.
In 1971, at a federal-provincial conference held in Victoria, Manitoba expressed interest in being the testing ground for a guaranteed income project. The Schreyer government applied for funding. In June, 1974, Mincome was approved.
The program quickly grew from modest origins. The NDP thought it would cost slightly more than $500,000 and involve somewhere between 300 and 500 families.
The project ultimately cost more than $17 million and helped 1,000 families.
As Forget studies the results of the program, she expects to find the benefits of a guaranteed minimum income were far-reaching.
Teenagers stayed in school longer because they didn't have to get jobs to support their families. People could afford medical and dental care. Stress was down because people didn't have to worry about providing for their families.
As Zaplitny says, these people weren't deadbeats.
They were no different that the thousands of people in this province who work and still live at or below the poverty line. They use food banks to supplement what they buy or go hungry so their children can eat.
Mincome did more than top up the income of the poor. It gave them dignity.
Surely that's an idea worth investing in.