CANADA: Kingston is first municipality to endorse basic income

Kingston City Hall (Source: Wikipedia)

Kingston City Council in Ontario province is the first Canadian municipality to endorse a basic income guarantee (BIG). In a vote held on Tuesday, December 15, the policy idea was unanimously endorsed with a 13-0 outcome in favour. The successful motion calls for a “national discussion of a Basic Income Guarantee for all Canadians”. It also asks for provincial and federal governments to investigate and develop the measure at the national level. The motion will be sent to all municipalities in Ontario with a request to endorse the initiative.

According to the approved text, the rationale for a BIG is the growing income insecurity and inequality, and the inadequacy of the current welfare system to address these issues. The motion states that:

A basic income guarantee would reduce income insufficiency, insecurity, and inequality and ensure everyone an income sufficient to meet basic needs and live in dignity regardless of work status.

One of the biggest supporters of the outcome was former Kingston-area senator Hugh Segal. He has been an advocate for some form of basic income guarantee for decades, and took great pride in this result. Speaking to the local daily Kingston Whig-Standard, he stated that the “Council has shown tremendous courage and real leadership.” He went on to say that “it’s fiscally responsible and it responds to reality in terms of need… Give the money to people because they know where to spend it.”

This result comes at a time of change in the Canadian political landscape with the recent victory Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in the national elections. Toni Pickard, a retired law professor from Kingston University and co-founder of the Kingston Action Group for a Basic Income Guarantee, was interviewed by the same newspaper. She stressed that “the progress exceeds our hopes, to some degrees our imaginations. We expected maybe 20 years before any political take-up”. She remarked that Trudeau, the new Prime Minister, has declared poverty reduction is a top priority. A guaranteed basic income could be a way to help him make great strides in that area.

This is the first elected body in Canada to endorse the introduction of a basic income guarantee. In recent months, several Canadian mayors have spoken in favour of BIG. At the national level, the Canadian Medical Association endorsed BIG, and the National Women’s Liberal Commission, the women’s wing of the ruling party, has called for the federal government to launch a basic income pilot.

Kingston’s move is a significant step. We will have to wait and see whether this will encourage others to show the same support for BIG. With the changing political climate in Canada, it may well be a policy whose time has come.

For more information, see the following sources:

Paul Schliesmann, Kingston council first to endorse guaranteed income,” The Kingston Whig-Standard, December 18, 2015.

Roderick Benns, “Kingston becomes first Canadian municipality to call for basic income guarantee,” Leaders and Legacies, December 16, 2015.

Roderick Benns interviews Toni Pickard, “Basic income guarantee and healthy minimum wage go hand in hand, says retired professor,” Leaders and Legacies, July 3, 2015.

Toru Yamamori, “CANADA: Ruling party’s women’s commission calls resolution for UBI experiment,” Basic Income News, November 6, 2015.

Josh Martin, “Canadian Medical Association officially endorses basic income at general council,” Basic Income News, September 6, 2015.

Will Wachtmeister, “CANADA: Edmonton mayor moots twin basic income pilot with Calgary,” Basic Income News, June 19, 2015.

About Joe Timothy

Joe Timothy has written 12 articles.

Joe is currently preparing to study for his PhD in 2016. He is looking into the feasiblity of introducing a Universal Basic Income in the UK. He is a keen blogger about social issues, politics, inequality, education and learning.


  • Gary

    The increase of minimum wage and rising utilities in Ontario, Kingston has an estimated 30 to 40 retail stores closed in Kingston. Current surviving establishments have raised prices, reduced hours or reduced the number of working staff employed. Now everyone is waiting for the Ontario Governments Pension Plan to start. Government of Canada intends to raise taxes. Pretty hard to guarantee income when there is no jobs and the government’s has driven everyone into poverty!

    • Andre Coelho

      Dear Gary,

      Then it seems that with a basic income that poverty trap is eliminated. The very idea of introducing a basic income is precisely to break the link between jobs and income, so no one is poor, regardless of how many jobs are out there in the market. And in case you’re wondering, basic income can be financed without raising taxes (by redistributing income).

      Best regards

    • Gary, while I agree that stores often close after raising their prices (whether to cover higher wages or otherwise) larger companies like Walmart could easily absorb the cost of higher wages and still make a profit *without* raising prices. There are two reasons they take the approach they do: 1) the general public believes as you do, which continues to allow greedy corporations to rake in *enormous* profit (rather than just profit) while making everyone else look bad for trying to do the right thing; and 2) the more workers have to rely on social programs, the more the average taxpayer is paying and the less Big Business has to consider the cost of employment.

    • Jack

      Andre…. redistribution of income ?
      Like I’m going to keep working my ass to the bone for this ? Not gonna happen.

    • Andre Coelho

      When basic income gets implemented, you can refuse it. If you don’t want it, others will.

    • Tom S

      Hey Gary,
      Please explain how basic income can be financed without raising taxes? You mentioned redistributing income… does that work?

    • Tom S

      Last comment was for Andre.

  • Andre Laurin

    This is a tough one to figure out, when I try to research basic income what I find is a philosophy that sounds great but is very short on details on how it will be implemented, how current problems with the current system will be dealt with and where is all of this money going to come from.
    Here is what I know, every time we have raised the minimum wage the cost of living has increased as well and not proportionally last raise to $11 here in Ontario and the cost of living increased so far beyond that we were better off before the minimum wage increase.
    Also someone who has gone to college/university some who still have the debt to prove it should not be making minimum wage so their wages will have to be increased as well.
    I’ve read a lot of replacing the entire welfare system with this idea, great but what about all the abuses. I live in an apartment building and I can go off on a rant of at least 3 tenants here all on welfare who each on a car, sleep all day, party all night and so forth so how is that going to be dealt with as this hurts tax payers and legitimate folks who actually need welfare.

    And the list goes on.

    And how are we going to pay for this, increase our taxes I live in Ontario and I am currently considering moving just because I’m taxed so hard here it’s not funny and the idea that I can move to another province get the same job for about the same pay but increase my disposable income in some place by as much as 45% because of lower taxes. It’s hard to ignore that fact. Not to mention the offers I’m receiving to leave Canada and work else for more money, it’s becoming harder and harder to say no.

    You cannot take from the rich, as it is now they are moving a lot of their business to other countries, manufacturing is a good example simply because it’s cheaper. And that doesn’t even including what they are moving for tax benefits and so forth. If you try to take more money from them they will just move more of the jobs, money etc. elsewhere, and that cannot be good for Canada.

    And again the list goes on.

    So right now I really do like the idea as a philosophy but how will it be executed, where will the money come from and how will abuse of the system be detected and dealt with?
    Beats me but I am will be watching the various pilot programs to see how they answer my current questions and I’m sure some I have yet to consider because if this works it’s a game changer.

    • Andre Laurin

      And please ignore the poor grammar and spelling, it’s been a long day 🙂

    • Andre Coelho


      There is something without which basic income cannot function, and it’s seldom referred: trust.

      It’s trust that drives basic income defenders in politics, it’s trust that keeps the basic income going despite all the uncertainties, it’s trust that reasons that once the political will has been summoned, money will appear.

      You seem particularly worried about financing, and that’s not unusual. There are several approaches to it, some of them them already gained concrete form. Financing based on income redistribution (effectively transferring part of the higher incomes to the lower incomes), through VAT (consumption tax), environmental/resources taxes, taxes on financial transactions and even printing money. In any one region the actual financing solution can be one of these, or a mix of them, depending on local circumstances.

      Basic income is not a panacea, it cannot replace economic polity as a whole. But it can be a central part of a wider redistributive society, where money, hence resources, get better distributed among everyone.

      Best regards,


  • heather

    Finally we may see a better way for us all to live better and become happier and less anger means less depression and illness and mental issue will reduce and crime may decrease..yayyyy Canada finally came to.its senses.

  • Daniel Ellis

    Well sounds like a great thing this basic income, i can lay off my workers and close my business and still survive. My body is real beat up and sore from years and years of hard work and if this basic income prevails then i can finally rest and live ok and let others support me. Yay great idea.

    Daniel Ellis

    • Andre Coelho


      If you’re only being ironic, then it doesn’t help. If not, and if you can handle that company anymore, you can finally quit (why be stuck with things that don’t make us happy). And those workers can do the same. You can work, if you want. Everyone can. And the truth is: most want to, when it has meaning for them. A meaningful work. Understanding this and there is nobody “supporting” others; it’s everyone supporting everyone, because that’s what we are: an interdependent People.


  • Dean Lewis

    So minimum wage?

  • mustard

    um… there is still means testing ie a check to see who is eligible for it for those who fall below a certain level. stigmatisation will still exist. this is welfare in disguise.

    • Andre Coelho

      Nope. Basic Income is unconditional. In certain financing options, the more whealthy contribute more, so naturally finance everyone’s basic income (even though they might be net contributors).

  • N

    Kingston University?

  • Francois R Bosse

    Sad to see that this article is not covering the current proposals in Finland and the social experiment of Dauphin Manitoba (1974-1979). Kingston is not the first Canadian city proposing this type of solution.

    • Andre Coelho

      It is the first one in Canada (Finland not included). Not sure if Dauphin Manitoba was a municipal implementation.

  • Stephen

    What does Don Cherry have to say about this?

  • Confused

    I don’t understand how it works …I read in an article somewhere everyone would be making a base income of 20,000.00?? And this program would remove the need for child tax? Well I work full time and I just make 20k I have 4 children and I would never be able to afford anything with out child tax I only get paid minimum wage …

  • Jock Doubleday

    Yay!! Free money!!! . . . Oops, taken from whom? And who will pay the bureaucrats to take it, shuffle it, and give it? Hmm. Oh, well. Yay!!! Free money!!! Let’s all live there!!!!

    • Andre Coelho

      Introduction of basic income will reduce costs in social security programs, in two ways: 1. by eliminating the need for some of these (conditional) programs because their amount falls below the basic income line and 2. by simplifying procedures, due to the inconditionality. So actually a basic income will make it simpler and less bureaucratic to redistribute the money. And as for the question “from whom”, as a general approach to basic income, most propositions imply a redistribution of income from the more wealthy to the less wealthy. If society cannot do this, then we are just accepting ramping inequality and taking it as “normal”.

  • Richard Haysom

    “Basic Income” is an euphemism for communism. Wonderful in theory, disastrous in practice. Tried “to perfection” in countries like Cuba and the Soviet Union. It deprives people of any initiative, risk taking or reward for hard work. If you think it is such a great idea, delve into the living standards of the citizens of those countries for reference.
    If Canada really wants to help it’s poorer citizens give them free post secondary education so they can become what ever their dreams aspire to.

    • Andre Coelho

      Pilot implementation in India (several villages in Madhya Pradesh), overall results (only a small part): more work performed (not less), less indebtness, more health care, better nutrition (particularly in girls), higher school attendance, higher investment in own businesses, higher incidence of own produced food (agriculture).

      In the present society, only some get to “become what ever their dreams aspire to”, not because they’re dum, not because they’re uncapable, not because they’re lazy. Just because resources are not equally distributed, which means very honest, kind and capable people do not get access to enough resources which may allow them to focus on becoming what they have dreamt. Basic income just makes sure everyone gets enough access to resources which allow them to achieve what they really want to. That is called freedom, and that is one of the main reasons basic income is so hard to swallow and even harder to implement.

  • and then many more will be able to do what they want, what is inside them!

  • Sara Field

    The more I look into this, the more it makes sense. The current system is extremely costly and inefficient. How many of us would volunteer our time in areas we have a genuine interest if money was not such a huge issue? I know I would.
    It allows people to work at what they enjoy without the stress leading to illness, etc.

  • For as long as the COMMONWEALTH OF CANADA CROWN CORPORATION has had minimum wage legal codes and has been converting human beings into ARTIFICIAL PERSONS (legal presences, corporations, trusts, insurance franchises, and PUBLIC OFFICES), there is a requirement to be PAID for performing in the PRESIDENT/CEO function of our UPPER CASE NAMES.

    Universal Basic Income is REQUIRED by law. Back pay is also REQUIRED.

    The funds may come from the BIRTH CERTIFICATE bank note. The Birth Certificate is traded internationally! Even in the COMMON WEALTH OF CANADA CORPORATION.

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