A new report from the Basic Income Canada Network (BICN) details how Canada could improve income security for everyone, with three options for a basic income for adults, while maintaining current child benefits for those under 18.
“We’ve seen interest in basic income grow far beyond theoretical debates. BICN is now frequently asked what it would look like in Canada,” said Chandra Pasma, a member of the BICN Advisory Council and co-author of the report. “Our report clearly shows there are multiple options Canadian governments could use to implement a successful basic income program.”
A basic income is an unconditional cash transfer from government to individuals to enable everyone to meet their basic needs, participate in society, and live with dignity, regardless of work status. The call for a basic income is growing, including from public health and environmental sectors, Nobel laureate economists, marginalized communities and people concerned about precarious work and technological disruption. The urgent need to reduce inequality and its costly consequences has led some researchers, advocates, and politicians to the conclusion that basic income is inevitable.
Statistics Canada’s Social Policy Simulation Database and Model (SPSD/M) was used to model the funding of the options, combining existing resources with changes to the tax/transfer system, including tax fairness measures. All options are based on BICN’s principles and goals–to reduce inequality, including inequality between women and men; prevent poverty; provide everyone with greater income security, including middle-income earners; and ensure the wealthiest individuals and corporations contribute their fair share. Each option in the report, Basic Income: Some Policy Options for Canada, meets these overall goals.
Option 1 is for 18-64 year olds based on household income, operating much like child benefits, with the $22,000/year ($31,113 for a couple) benefit amount gradually reducing as other income increases; seniors benefits remain in place.
Option 2 is similarly income-tested and is for all adults, including seniors.
Option 3 is a universal model, sometimes called a demogrant, that provides the same benefit amount to every individual adult.
“The options vary administratively so don’t get sidetracked by the size of the different up-front costs,” notes Sheila Regehr, Chair of BICN. “It doesn’t mean one is much more expensive than another. The options have similar results for people and they are all funded from similar sources.” The report also notes that other funding sources for a basic income are possible, as well as downstream savings that can help make it even more affordable.
“Basic income in Canada is not a question of possibilities, but of priorities,” said Regehr. “It is clear from child and seniors benefits that it works for many Canadians already. The federal government’s priority now must be to take leadership to make it work for everybody; we are all part of the future of this country.”