The Canadian province of Ontario is to start giving some 2,500 people a basic income – money with no strings attached.
The project, which is expected to start later this year, is being designed to test whether a basic income should be given to all Ontarians living in poverty.
‘The government basically believes that if people have the security of knowing their basic necessities are taken care of, they will contribute to society,’ Dr Helena Jaczek, the minister running the scheme, told Apolitical. ‘And this is the point of the pilot, to see: what is the behaviour change? Does that security give you the capacity and willingness to improve education, get retrained, have fewer trips to the emergency room because you’re not subject to that ongoing stress?’
People in the trial are to receive C$1,320 (around US$970) per month, equivalent to three-quarters of what is defined as a low income (although the amount and the number if people it will be given to are still under discussion, albeit that the government has budgeted C$25million for three years). Depending on how the trial is designed, the recipients may continue to get that amount regardless of whether they find work and earn extra money. In any case, the government will guarantee that those people will always have an income of at least that amount, one way or another.
‘One of the problems we have with existing systems is that if someone does find work, there will be a clawback of benefits, not just financial benefits, but things like free medical care and housing support,’ Hugh Segal, a former senator and basic income advocate who wrote the study on which the trial is being based, told Apolitical. ‘You end up with the contradiction that welfare programmes keep people trapped in poverty. So the challenge becomes: can you craft a programme that has a better impact than that?’