Announced as part of Ontario’s 2016 budget, the province plans to develop a pilot basic income project this financial year. While details are currently scant, the government has committed to working “with communities, researchers and other stakeholders in 2016 to determine how best to design and implement a Basic Income pilot”.
The project would test if a basic income, a monthly payment designed to cover living expenses, could strengthen labour force attachment and achieve savings in areas such as health care and housing support costs.
The move was welcomed by Basic Income Canada Network chair Sheila Regehr. “Kudos to Ontario for its vision and the opportunity to roll up our sleeves to design the basic income we want and need. We need it rolled out across Canada, and Quebec too is in the game, so there’s no reason why people and governments in other parts of this country need sit on the sidelines – it’s time for us all to get to work.”
While universal basic income schemes vary greatly in specifics, they are designed to give an allowance to all citizens regardless of need. The theory behind it is that it simplifies complicated social security systems and can increase employment rates, since people might be more willing to take a lower paying job given the unconditional support of a financial safety net.
The concept of a basic income has gained traction in recent years, with several countries experimenting with various versions. The Dutch city of Utrecht is currently trialing a basic income for welfare recipients and Finland will outline its own plan later this year. In June this year Switzerland will vote on a proposal that would see a basic income of 2500 Swiss francs per month given to every citizen.