Ontario slowly considers how to provide a minimum income for its citizens

A man begs for money on Sainte Catherine Street on a cold winter day in Montreal, February 8, 2011.
A man begs for money on Sainte Catherine Street on a cold winter day in Montreal, February 8, 2011. (Photo: REUTERS/Shaun Best)

In June 2016, the Ontario government announced that it was finally going ahead with its Basic Income Pilot, and appointed former Conservative senator Hugh Segal to prepare a report to explain how to implement the project.

Basic income, also called minimum income guarantee, works by making payments to eligible people or families to guarantee them a minimum level of income and standard of living.

Segal has recently announced that he is almost ready to make the findings of his report known to the public sometime in mid-September, in order to move ahead with three months of public consultations.

Though it’s commendable that Ontario is finally studying whether a guarantee for basic income will reduce poverty and raise everyone to a decent minimum standard of living, the question that should be asked is why did it take so long for the province to look at implementing this project?

Finland is already moving ahead with the experimental implementation of a basic income in 2017, which will see everyone paid nearly $1,200 Canadian per month, and other European countries are moving towards approving basic income. In contrast, Segal says that the Ontario pilot project will likely take three years before approval of the plan can be considered.

Canada is by no means unfamiliar with the concept of a basic income, as it flirted with the idea in the 1970’s but politicians put an end to the social experiment.

With some European countries already studying or implementing basic income, Canadian provinces such as Quebec, Alberta and Prince Edward Island, are still in their infancy at contemplating basic income models for their provinces.

Critics of the basic income model claim that a guaranteed basic income will increase laziness as people won’t want to work if they are guaranteed income.

However, in response to such criticism, Segal told CBC News, "For all those good folks on the right … who say that if you pay people to do nothing, they will do nothing, I remind them that 70 per cent of the people who live beneath the poverty line in Ontario … have jobs.”

Some Canadians, working or not, have lived below the poverty line for a long time now, struggling to make ends meet, so it’s about time basic income is seriously considered by all Canadian provinces and territories.

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