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CANADA: Poll shows support for Basic Income Guarantee leads opposition by 4 percentage points

Rob Rainer of the BIG Push Campaign

Rob Rainer of the BIG Push Campaign

A new poll conducted by the Environics Institute for Survey Research found that support in Canada for a “guaranteed annual income” (GAI), a form of Basic Income Guarantee (BIG), leads opposition by a margin of 46 to 42 percent. An additional 6 percent of Canadians answering the poll said that their support for GAI would depend on how the policy was implemented. The remaining 5 percent had no answer or no opinion. Adding the people willing to support BIG under at least some circumstances increases the margin of support to 52-42.

This was the first national poll ever conducted in Canada on basic income guarantee. Of those surveyed, 19 percent answered that they strongly favor the policy; 27 percent somewhat favor; 17 percent somewhat oppose; and 25 percent strongly oppose the policy. Karl Widerquist, co-chair of the Basic Income Earth Network said, “This is extremely important result. It is to my knowledge the first national poll showing more support for than opposition to a full-sized Basic Income Guarantee.”

Support was strongest in Quebec where an outright majority, 55 percent, of respondents favored GAI.

Conservative Senator Hugh Segal is one of the few legislators who has come out in support of a guaranteed annual income. -PETER BREGG / CP, the Toronto Star

Conservative Senator Hugh Segal is one of the few legislators who has come out in support of a guaranteed annual income. -PETER BREGG / CP, the Toronto Star

The poll was somewhat ambiguous about which form of BIG was being queried. The two major variants of BIG are basic income (BI) and negative income tax (NIT). BI gives a grant to everyone regardless of other income; NIT gives a grant only to those with low income and phases it out as income rises. One question in the poll asked whether economic assistance programs should be equally available to all or only to those most in need, and 65 percent of respondents favored universal availability.

However the exact wording of the question on GAI was, “Some people believe the best way to help economically disadvantaged people is to provide them with something called a ‘guaranteed annual income.’ Would you favour or oppose a guaranteed annual income policy for Canadians, to replace the current economic assistance programs?” The survey further explained, “This would involve every Canadian receiving a specific amount of money from the government each year, which would then be ‘clawed back’ with every dollar of income people earn. Such a program is intended to ensure everyone has enough money for the basic necessities, and would replace other forms of economic assistance, like welfare and unemployment insurance.” If the grant is “clawed back” through taxes on income, while people still receive the grant, it is a basic income, but if it is “clawed back” by actually reducing the grant, it is a negative income tax.” Probably different respondents had different ideas about whether the GAI would fallow a BI or an NIT model.

The poll was a telephone survey of 1,501 adult Canadians. It was conducted between September 17 and October 13, 2013. The so-called “margin of error” of the poll was plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, meaning that 19 times out of 20, a poll conducted in this manner would be within 2.5 percentage points of actual national opinion (assuming sampling is unbiased).

Bob Hepburn, the Toronto Star

Bob Hepburn, the Toronto Star

There is a new national movement for BIG in Canada, called the BIG Push Campaign, and led be Rob Rainer. Canada will also be the site of the 2013 Basic Income Earth Network conference: “15th International Congress of the Basic Income Earth Network: Re-democratizing the Economy,” Friday June 27th to Sunday June 29th, 2014. McGill Faculty of Law, Montreal, Quebec. Thursday June 26th, 2014, NABIG Preconference Workshop Day.

The survey report is online:
Environics, “Responsible Citizenship A National Survey of Canadians,”, October 31, 2013.

A report on the poll in the Toronto Star is also online:
Bob Hepburn, “New poll shows surprising support for anti-poverty plan,” the Toronto Star, December 12, 2013.

About Karl Widerquist

Karl Widerquist has written 974 articles.

Karl Widerquist is an Associate Professor of political philosophy at SFS-Qatar, Georgetown University, specializing in distributive justice—the ethics of who has what. Much of his work involves Universal Basic Income (UBI). He is a co-founder of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network (USBIG). He served as co-chair of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) for 7 years, and now serves as vice-chair. He was the Editor of the USBIG NewsFlash for 15 years and of the BIEN NewsFlash for 4 years. He is a cofounder of BIEN’s news website, Basic Income News, the main source of just-the-facts reporting on UBI worldwide. He is a cofounder and editor of the journal Basic Income Studies, the only academic journal devoted to research on UBI. Widerquist has published several books and many articles on UBI both in academic journals and in the popular media. He has appeared on or been quoted by many major media outlets, such as NPR’s On Point, NPR’s Marketplace, PRI’s the World, CNBC, Al-Jazeera, 538, Vice, Dissent, the New York Times, Forbes, the Financial Times, and the Atlantic Monthly, which called him “a leader of the worldwide basic income movement.” Widerquist holds two doctorates—one in Political Theory form Oxford University (2006) and one in Economics from the City University of New York (1996). He has published seven books, including Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy (Edinburgh University Press 2017, coauthored by Grant S. McCall) and Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income: A Theory of Freedom as the Power to Say No (Palgrave Macmillan 2013). He has published more than a twenty scholarly articles and book chapters. Most Karl Widerquist’s writing is available on his “Selected Works” website ( More information about him is available on his BIEN profile and on Wikipedia. He writes the blog "the Indepentarian" for Basic Income News.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.

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