Proposed basic income pilot would provide monthly payments of at least $1,320

Posted on November 3, 2016 in Social Security Debates – News/Canada – Hugh Segal, Ontario’s special adviser on basic income, wants province to test the merits of replacing social assistance program with no-strings attached version.
Nov. 3, 2016.   By LAURIE MONSEBRAATEN, Social justice reporter

Ontario’s special adviser on basic income, says the government should test the merits of replacing the province’s meagre and rule-bound social assistance program with a monthly payment of at least $1,320 for a single person or about 75 per cent of the province’s poverty line.

For participants with disabilities, Hugh Segal suggests a top-up of at least $500 a month.

The no-strings-attached payments would be non-taxable and participants would be allowed to keep a portion of any additional income earned through employment, Segal suggests in “Finding a Better Way: A Basic Income Pilot Project for Ontario.” < >

Participation would be voluntary and no one would be financially worse off as a result of the pilot, which would include adults between the ages of 18 and 65.

“Testing a basic income is a humane and useful way to measure how so many of the costs of poverty (in terms of productivity, health, policing, and other community costs, to name only a few) might be diminished, while poverty itself is reduced and work is encouraged,” Segal says in the discussion paper released at Queen’s Park Thursday.

A single person on Ontario Works (OW) currently receives up to $706 a month, while a person relying on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) can get up to $1,128.

Although Segal does not say where in Ontario the proposed three-year experiment should take place, he says locations should include a neighbourhood in a large urban centre, a “saturation site” in both southern and northern Ontario as well as in a First Nations community.

In communities where all welfare recipients are participating in the pilot, OW and ODSP caseworkers would be redeployed to provide one-on-one support with financial literacy, skills development and job counselling, Segal suggests.

Work on choosing a pilot site should begin before March 1, he suggests.

Ontario currently spends about $9 billion a year on social assistance, Segal notes, excluding costs to the health care, education and legal systems produced by the effects of poverty.

Ontario defines its poverty line as the Low Income Measure, (LIM) after taxes, or about $21,000 for a single person.

Segal says the pilot should help Ontario determine if a basic income can build on other government initiatives, such as increases in the minimum wage, changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP) and the Ontario child benefit to cut the depth and incidence of poverty in the province.

The Wynne government signaled its intention to fund a basic income pilot in this year’s spring budget. In June, Community and Social Services Minister Helena Jaczek appointed Segal, a former senator and long-time advocate of a basic income or guaranteed annual income, to prepare a design and implementation plan.

Other countries such as Finland, the Netherlands and Kenya are developing pilot projects to test the idea. Switzerland rejected a national guaranteed income plan in a referendum last summer.

Canada explored the concept in the late 1970s when the community of Dauphin, Manitoba tested a “mincome” for low-income residents, set at 60 per cent of the poverty line. Results showed a drop in hospital admissions and mental health problems, an increase in high school completion among young men and little impact on attachment to work.

“If a basic income can be designed in such a way that it provides incentives to work by reducing the worst excesses and claw backs associated with the welfare wall, and confirms as a matter of right and dignity the opportunity to make individual choices regardless of income, why would we not try to test the potential benefits and potential costs in a coherent and focused pilot?” Segal asks in his report.

The public will be invited to comment on Segal’s proposed design from mid-November until the end of January.

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2 Responses to “Proposed basic income pilot would provide monthly payments of at least $1,320”

  1. Christine says:

    I am in agreement with the idea of a proposed basic income rate such as which is indicated in the article. This amount is almost twice as much as which is currently being offered to those on Ontario Works. My concern is the parameters which would be involved in offering such an income and to whom it would be applied to. What would be the requirements of citizens to receive this assistance and would it be as strict as it currently is? I wonder if a person who is a home owner would qualify for these benefits without having to liquidate all of their assets before being eligible for this basic income.

    Although in theory, it sounds like a reasonable opportunity for Ontarians it is essential to further understand the details which surround the proposal. Even if not applied to entire communities, the proposal of a basic income provides hope for those living in poverty to be given opportunity to free themselves from the stigma associated with poverty and provide them with the financial support carry out their basic human rights and hope to pursue other goals. Furthermore, it is hopeful that a basic income measure above the low income measure would alleviate secondary factors associated with poverty such as poor health, both physical, mental and emotional.

  2. If basic income were implemented correctly I believe it could help many Ontario citizens. The review of this article makes me want to reconsider how effective our current social welfare programs are. Basic income, like stated in the article, could build on the current programs to make them more efficient and help more Ontario citizens. To me, everyone deserves a chance to get ahead in life, and everyone deserves equal opportunities, but life does not always work out in this case.
    One different scenario I thought basic income could benefit would be a new family. The penalty-free income would relieve stress. It could take the pressure off of one partner feeling ‘forced’ to go back to work right away, basic income could allow the couple to both spend some time at home preparing for, or parenting the newborn.
    A basic income would be able to help the poor reach ahead. It would simplify the government-funded programs that are already in place. A basic income would also cut back on the ‘competition’ associated with government funding as everyone would be able to receive funds, not just those who are ‘poor enough,’ or ‘disabled enough,’ which is a terrible fact of life happening now with the current social welfare programs. Ideally, I see basic income allowing Ontario citizens to pursue something they are passionate about, whether it’s a paid or volunteer position because no matter what, citizens would still receive an income and be able to provide for themselves and their families.


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