The pursuit of Canada Universal Basic Income Program has taken a significant step forward.
The national finance committee in the Senate commenced an examination of Senator Kim Pate’s plan on October 17.
This marks a pivotal moment in the long-standing discussions and deliberations surrounding the concept of a Universal Basic Income in Canada, which have been ongoing since the 1970s.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the drive for a Canada Universal Basic Income intensified. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) brought a newfound momentum to a basic income.
Notably, CERB distributed $2,000 monthly to millions, leading to heightened discussions about the potential for a lasting income program.
The federal government in Canada begins a thorough examination of the idea of a universal basic income.
Within the legislative chambers, the Red Chamber is currently in the process of deliberating Bill S-233.
This bill, if approved, would mandate the finance minister to create a “national framework” for the nationwide implementation of the proposed Basic Income program in Canada.
What is Canada Universal Basic Income program?
Canada Universal Basic Income (UBI) program is a government-provided payment granted universally, regardless of income or necessity.
Michael Mendelson, affiliated with the poverty policy think tank Maytree, explained that contemporary UBI concepts deviate from their literal interpretation.
Today, UBI encompasses a broad spectrum of basic income proposals, including universal and needs-based “guaranteed” income plans.
The Senate bill proposes a comprehensive “livable basic income” plan for all Canadian residents aged 17 and older. That Includes temporary workers, permanent residents, and refugee claimants.
This proposed Canada Universal Basic Income model wouldn’t alter or reduce current health and disability benefits.
Cost and Impact of the Universal Basic Income in Canada
Yves Giroux, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, projected in April 2021 that an annual basic income of around $17,000 for low-income households could halve poverty rates.
However, Giroux estimated that implementing this program would incur an $85 billion cost to the federal government.
Although a nationwide basic income initiative hasn’t been formally launched, provincial governments have experimented with unconditional cash transfers.
Mincome experiment in Dauphin: impact and findings
Manitoba’s government initiated a basic income experiment from 1974 to 1979, emphasizing Dauphin.
The “Mincome” project assured each household a base income, decreasing as household earnings increased.
In Dauphin, households received the total government-provided amount if no one worked, with reductions based on household earnings.
Approximately 30% of the town’s residents met the “mincome” benefits criteria.
A 2018 study revealed decreased hospitalizations, especially for mental health, and improved teenage school attendance in Dauphin during the experiment.
Canadian Basic Income trials and challenges
In 2017, then-Premier Kathleen Wynne initiated a basic income trial in Hamilton, Thunder Bay, and Lindsay of Ontario. The project aimed to assist 4,000 low-income residents.
During the pilot project, individuals aged 18 to 64 were provided with annual income ranging from $16,989 to $24,027, with an extra $6,000 annually for those with disabilities.
Notably, for each dollar earned through employment, participants would see a reduction of $0.50 from the basic income program.
However, Premier Doug Ford’s election victory in 2018 led to the abrupt termination of the pilot program.
In early 2023, Quebec introduced its unique basic income scheme, offering $1,211 monthly to residents with significant employment limitations.
Beneficiaries can earn up to $14,532 annually without experiencing a reduction in their benefits.
Mendelson notes that lessons from CERB and other basic income trials show the capability to administer the Universal Basic Income Program Canada 2023.
Mendelson suggests that merely replicating CERB is not the solution. The primary debate concerning basic income programs revolves around effectively and sustainably alleviating poverty for those in need.