Over the last 12 months, the debate around basic income has seemingly gained interest by the week. Nations throughout the world — including Finland, Switzerland, France and Holland, among others — are currently exploring this policy as a solution to a plethora of different problems, in some cases even planning full-blown pilot studies. Recently, Canada has joined this list of nations ready to test a basic income. In 2016, since the election of the liberal Justin Trudeau, news has been streaming out of Canada about the adoption of basic income initiatives in various regions of the country — so many that we have decided to helpfully summarise the key news stories for you to consume in one go.
First, in the last few weeks, there has been a mountain of articles about the proposed implementation of a pilot study of basic income in Ontario, Canada. The idea of working towards developing a pilot study was announced in the 2016 budget statement. Few details were released at the time. It was stated that “the government will work with communities, researchers and other stakeholders” to develop a project into basic income. The statement also said that “The pilot project will test a growing view at home and abroad that a basic income could build on the success of minimum wage policies and increases in child benefits by providing more consistent and predictable support in the context of today’s dynamic labour market.”
A strategy to reduce poverty and expand the safety net
This push in Ontario towards a basic income is part of a larger strategy “to reduce poverty and expand the safety net”. Accompanying this initiative is a plan to give free university places to low income students. The Ontario government is also concerned with the precarious nature of the modern job market. They stated that there is a growing need for “consistent and predictable” support for working people. Ben Schiller, in Co.exist, wrote that “In Canada, temporary and part-time employment grew twice as fast as full-time work between 1997 and 2015.” It is within this environment that the Ontario government feel a basic income could be a good solution to help their communities.
In addition to the initiative in Ontario, it has also been noted that François Blais has been appointed as the minister of employment and social solidarity in the province of Quebec. Blais’ long term support for basic income has lead to speculation that Quebec may follow Ontario’s lead and look into adopting it as a policy. Schiller also pointed out that this idea has already received support, “Quebec Prime Minister Philippe Couillard says a basic income could simplify the welfare system and encourage work among benefit claimants.”
With the well known Manitoba trails of Minicome (a variant on basic income) in 1970’s, Canada is already an integral part of the history of basic income. However, when the Minicome program was cancelled, its results were filed away, and little was done over the following decades to try to understand the value of such a policy. But now, with the upsurge in interest in the last few years, we find Canada at the forefront of the basic income movement yet again. It is going to be fascinating to watch what comes out of this country over the coming months and see if this time a basic income is here to stay.
Olivia Goldhill, “Ontario, Canada announced a plan to test Universal Basic Income for all citizens”, Quartz, March 8th, 2016
Jack Smith IV, “Canada Will Experiment With Basic Income — Giving Out Salaries Just for Being Human”, Tech.Mic, March 7th, 2016
Ben Schiller, “Ontario Is The Latest Place To Test A Basic-Income Guarantee”, Co.Exist, March 2nd, 2016
Ashley Cowburn, “Canadian province Ontario plans to trial universal basic income”, The Independent, March 7th, 2016
Chris Weller, “Canada plans to experiment with giving people unconditional free money”, Tech Insider, March 4th, 2016