Ann Wheatley (from the PEI Working Group for a Livable Income). Picture credit to: CBC
Despite the dismantling of Ontario’s Basic Income pilot after the election of the Conservative Party in the 2018 provincial election, basic income continues to play a critical role in Canadian politics, both at the provincial and national level. Leading up to the 2019 federal election, the Prince Edward Island (PEI) Working Group for a Liveable Income decorated doors across the province with doorhangers that read, “Eliminating poverty matters to voters who live here.” The doorhangers would help spread the message to candidates when they came to do their usual canvasing before the election on October 21st.
The Liberal Party, led by Justin Trudeau, emerged as the winner in the election, forming a minority government after only securing a narrow victory. The Liberal Party, who officially supports a basic income guarantee, won in all ridings across PEI. Regardless of the setback in Ontario, basic income continues to be an important issue to Canadian voters.
More information at:
Yarr K.,“‘Sorry to have missed you’: Poverty activists turn tables on door-knocking politicians”, CBC, September 30th 2019
“Canadian federal election 2019: Live results map and riding-by-riding vote counts”, Maclean’s, October 21st 2019
In December 2016, the Legislative Assembly of the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) unanimously agreed to “pursue a partnership with the federal government for the establishment of a universal basic income pilot project” in the province.
The federal government responded on April 6, 2017, offering “data to support P.E.I. in developing a pilot” but not mentioning financial assistance — without which P.E.I. is unlikely to initiate a pilot study. The letter came from Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jean Yves Duclos, who has himself expressed interest in the idea of a guaranteed minimum income (what is commonly called, in Canada, a “basic income”).
According to Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, who proposed the initial motion to seek federal support, the update from Duclos is “very disappointing” and entails that “it’s unlikely we’re going to see any material change here.”
However, Bevan-Baker also said that P.E.I. would continue its efforts to seek support from the federal government and that, if no federal funding is offered, the province might look into a smaller scale pilot study in one community or region: “Of course I’d love to see it tip to tip, but you know, if we have to settle for something smaller that could be funded solely through the provincial treasury, then at least that would be something.”
Sarah MacMillan, “Update on basic-income effort ‘very disappointing’,” CBCNews, April 7, 2017.
Reviewed by Dawn Howard
Photo: Prince Edward Island Provincial Flag CC BY-NC 2.0 Jamie McCaffrey
In a unanimous decision on Tuesday, December 7, the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada, agreed to “pursue a partnership with the federal government for the establishment of a universal basic income pilot project” on PEI.
CC BY-SA 3.0
The motion was originally proposed by Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, and received the support of all four political parties in the province, which have been united for well over a year in their support for investigating a basic income guarantee (BIG).
Bevan-Baker drew inspiration from past experiments in Manitoba (the Mincome trial of the late 1970s) as well as the pilot scheduled to begin next year in Ontario. He believes that PEI’s small size — the island has only about 150,000 residents — would make it an ideal setting for an additional pilot study. Hugh Segal, adviser for the Ontario pilot, has also encouraged other provinces, such as PEI, to run their own trials of basic income.
According to Bevan-Baker, a pilot project is necessary “so we can evaluate whether the benefits outweigh the costs” — as quoted in a CBC News report about the successful motion — where the costs, in his view, might include a work disincentive effect as well as financial costs to the government. The main benefit specified in the motion is the reduction or elimination of poverty. However, the motion also mentions many other possible positive effects, including “local economic growth, supporting entrepreneurship, reducing administrative complexity and costs, improving working conditions, reducing crime, improving health, and helping to build vibrant rural communities.” CBC News quotes Bevan-Baker as saying, “A universal basic income could enable the greatest unleashing of human potential ever seen.”
The full text of the motion is as follows:
WHEREAS implementing a universal basic income in Prince Edward Island would significantly reduce or potentially eliminate poverty in the province;
AND WHEREAS a universal basic income would likely have many other positive effects,
including local economic growth, supporting entrepreneurship, reducing administrative
complexity and costs, improving working conditions, reducing crime, improving health, and helping to build vibrant rural communities;
AND WHEREAS all four Prince Edward Island political parties have indicated their support for exploring a universal basic income;
AND WHEREAS the federal government has indicated an interest in exploring a universal basic income;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Legislative Assembly urge government to pursue a partnership with the federal government for the establishment of a universal basic income pilot project in Prince Edward Island;
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Government shall provide an update on the progress of this initiative in every session of this assembly.
The motion is still only an early step toward a basic income pilot in PEI. If the province is to actually implement a pilot, it will require cooperation and support from the federal government. The PEI Department of Family and Human Services has previously issued the following statement:
The Province supports the concept of the Basic Income Guarantee. We have been consistent in our response that any pilot project in this area would require active and committed federal participation. We are always open to partnerships with the federal government to improve the financial well being of the residents in our province.
No specific model for the basic income has been proposed for the (possible) pilot. The Working Group for a Liveable Income — an advocacy group that has been instrumental in promoting BIG in PEI for over a decade — explicitly supports a negative income tax (NIT), in which “if the person receiving BIG gets other personal income, the maximum level benefit will be affected by a reduction rate”. Segal has also recommended an NIT for the Ontario pilot. While ‘universal basic income’ is often used to refer to a universal cash grant with no reduction based on other earnings, in contrast to a NIT (cf. “What is the Basic Income Guarantee?”), it is not certain whether the PEI motion intends the phrase in this sense (which would entail that PEI is pursuing a form of BIG less commonly discussed in Canada).
Motion No. 83, Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island.
“P.E.I. MLAs effusive in their support for basic-income pilot project,” CBC News, December 7, 2016.
Kevin Yarr, “’A rare opportunity’ for basic income pilot project on P.E.I,” CBC News, November 23, 2016.
Reviewed by Dawn Howard
Photo CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Government of Prince Edward Island
The PEI Working Group for a Livable Income believes that Prince Edward Island would be an excellent home for a Basic Income Guarantee pilot project. The three community workshops that they are planning will give people a chance to learn more about BIG, and offer their ideas about how it might work, and why they think it’s important.
Each workshop will start at 6:30 p.m. and run until 8:30 p.m. There is no cost involved, and refreshments will be offered. Here are the dates:
Tuesday, April 22 – École Saint-Augustin, 2244 Church Rd (Route 243), South Rustico
Wednesday, April 23 – Silver Threads Club, 78 Main Street, Souris
Thursday, April 24 – O’Leary Community Centre, 18 Community Street, O’Leary
For more information, go to the workshop website: https://www.cooperinstitute.ca/content/page/front_news/id/172
Call Cooper Institute, 894-4573
PEI Working Group for a Livable Income
Prince Edward Island
Canadian government changes to Employment Insurance (EI) program make a guaranteed income more attractive to some on Prince Edward Island.
Journal Pioneer staff, “EI manipulation further cements need for basic income guarantee – Redmond”, The Journal Pioneer, February 25, 2014.