Guaranteed basic income payments considered in Canada

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Published October 31, 2023 at 8:11 am

basic income payment canada

Canada’s senate is currently considering a plan for a guaranteed basic income.

Rising inflation has many Canadians struggling. Food bank use has reached all-time highs and encampments have popped up across the country.

A guaranteed basic income would provide people with low income unconditional monthly payments — unlike social assistance, the cheques would come with no strings attached. And the payments would be higher than welfare.

The idea has been studied in the past. Most recently, the Ontario Liberals held a basic income pilot project between 2017 and 2019. Overall, the study found people reported better health and living conditions. Some used the financial stability to train for better employment.

The pilot was scrapped after the Progressive Conservatives were elected.

But this month the Canadian Senate announced its Standing Senate Committee on National Finance is studying Bill S-233, which proposes the development of a national framework for guaranteed livable basic income (GLBI).

The committee agreed that, “as Canada faces increasing economic, social, health and environmental uncertainty, now is the time to move forward with GLBI.”

While some people fear the payments would increase taxes, the committee found this wouldn’t be the case.

“In our study, homelessness and reliance on social services was reduced and the cash transfers saved the government $8,277 per person, per year,” said expert Dr. Jiaying Zhao.

“Hundreds of studies in the last 50 years have shown the same pattern: improved well-being, health conditions, cognitive function, food security, and reduced crime rate, as well as lower alcohol or substance use.”

The committee suggested that all Canadians would benefit from healthier and more inclusive communities where people are less reliant on emergency rooms for preventable health issues, and where people are fed and housed, not languishing in shelters, tent cities, prisons, or the streets.

It is unclear when the basic income may become a reality.

The legislation would require the Minister of Finance to consult with Indigenous, provincial, territorial and municipal governments, as well as community experts, to develop a framework for implementing GLBI and report on progress, the committee stated.

For more information, see the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance news release here.

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