Canadians think guaranteed income good, but too expensive and it makes people lazy: survey

Posted on August 11, 2016 in Social Security Debates – News/Canada
August 11, 2016.   Tristin Hopper

Canadians may support a guaranteed minimum income in principle, but they don’t want to pay for it and they suspect it may turn people into shiftless louts, according to a new survey by the Angus Reid Institute.

As many as 67 per cent of respondents backed a guaranteed income set at $30,000, provided that the payment would “replace most or all other forms of government assistance.”

However, nearly as many (66 per cent) said they would not be willing to pay more taxes to support such a program, and 59 per cent said it would be too expensive to implement.

A further 63 per cent said it would “discourage people from working.” Among Conservative voters, this sentiment jumped to 74 per cent of respondents. But even in the NDP camp respondents were split 50-50.

“It’s not as though you see people on the left of the spectrum incredibly supportive of this,” said Shachi Kurl with the Angus Reid Institute.

At various times in the last 100 years, the concept of a guaranteed minimum income has been embraced by everyone from hardline conservatives to hardline progressives.

Conservatives, including U.S. president Richard Nixon, have touted it as a way to dismantle the welfare state by merely cutting the poor a cheque each month.

Progressives, meanwhile, counter that it’s a necessary way to support workers idled by outsourcing and automation.

Indeed, the Angus Reid survey even hinted that this issue could rise in prominence as more and more jobs are taken by robots.

Nearly two thirds of respondents (63 per cent) said that they believed new technology will “eliminate more jobs than they create.”

Ironically, the survey itself was a testament to this fact. Only a generation ago, polling Canadian would have required an office filled with live telephone operators. But Angus Reid conducted this poll via an automated online form.

In recent years, guaranteed minimum income has been increasingly batted around by Canadian political parties, most notably by the Liberal Part of Canada, which enshrined it as a policy plank at their most recent convention.

Finland will soon be debuting a plan to pay every citizen $1,100 per month, and scrap all other benefit programs. In Switzerland, meanwhile, referendum voters just overwhelmingly rejected a plan to institute a guaranteed monthly income of $3,315. In a June vote, more than 78 per cent voted down the measure.

Kurl noted that their survey should not be considered the “last word” in guaranteed minimum income, mainly because nobody in Canada has yet proposed an actual costed plan to do it.

Research is also a little thin. Some of the only hard Canadian data on a guaranteed minimum income comes from a pilot project held in Dauphin, Man. in the 1970s.

Over five years of paying Dauphinites a guaranteed wage, among the biggest empirical changes noted by researchers was that hospitalizations and psychiatric diagnoses drop as much as eight per cent.

Said Kurl, “a big part of what we’re not able to put in front of Canadians is how much it would actually cost and how much it would actually save.”

The survey also showed that Canadians are generally not satisfied with the status quo on the country’s current welfare system. Three quarters of respondents said that Canada’s system of employment insurance and income assistance is “ineffective.”

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This entry was posted on Thursday, August 11th, 2016 at 5:05 pm and is filed under Social Security Debates. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

One Response to “Canadians think guaranteed income good, but too expensive and it makes people lazy: survey”

  1. Melissa says:

    That is the challenge, how do we get the message out to Canadians? This is the best option, income security benefits all.


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