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With millions of Canadians facing the challenges presented due to the COVID19 pandemic and economic crash, the idea of a Universal Basic Income is gaining popularity.
More than a million Canadians have lost their jobs since March, prompting the Government to roll out benefits to support people in the meantime. Prof. Evelyn Forget, an economist at the University of Manitoba says that a we’ve needed a targeted Basic Income for a long time and that we are well on our way to seeing one implemented thanks to the roll out of the new support benefits in recent weeks. Dionne Pohler from the Center for Industrial Relations and Human Resources at the University of Toronto says that a targeted basic income would be an effective way to ensure that Canadians who may not qualify for other supports but who are low income don’t fall through the cracks.
This isn’t the first, or even second, time that Canada has flirted with the idea of a UBI. The Dauphin Mincome project is often referenced by advocates of UBI due to the overwhelmingly positive results including a reduced rate of medical and psychiatric emergencies, and in 2018 Ontario was set to move ahead with a UBI pilot that was, unfortunately, cancelled by Doug Ford’s conservative government.
A transition from a means tested approach to transfers and credits may take some time, but this situation has opened a door for advocates of UBI to make their case. The Alberta Liberal Party has done just that, calling on the Federal Government to abandon means testing and immediately begin issuing a temporary UBI to Canadians in the amount of $1,500 for every adult and $500 for every child, a measure that would provide stability for Canadians and act as economic stimulus. The ALP has stated clearly that they do not believe that the UBI should be means tested, making the measure truly universal.
A UBI that would not be scaled back in proportion to income like other benefits are, would offer people more incentive to work and allow more flexibility for employees and employers alike, something that is desperately needed in our current jobs market and could actually encourage more people to take on part time or seasonal positions that employers sometimes struggle to fill. In 2018, 120 CEOs, Presidents and Owners of Canadian businesses wrote a letter in support of UBI to Doug Ford, explaining their position and requesting that he reconsider cancelling the Ontario Pilot, you can read their letter here https://ceosforbasicincome.ca/ceos-letter-oct-18-2018 and they aren’t the only supporters of UBI. A 2017 Ipsos poll found that 44% of Canadians agreed with the idea of a UBI with 24% saying they were neutral on the topic, only 30% were opposed to the idea and a 2019 poll by Gallup and Northeastern University showed that 3 of 4 Canadians asked supported a UBI.
Considering everything that’s happened over the last few months I can’t imagine a better time for advocates to push for change.