Buried under a whack of promises, the Ontario budget contains an unusual pledge. Kathleen Wynne and company are on the hunt for a guinea pig, a city willing to pay each of its residents hundreds of dollars a month, no matter their employment status or salary, in return for absolutely nothing.
The idea’s called “guaranteed basic income,” or “mincome,” and it’s being hailed as a possible answer to income inequality.
The single-city project is “still in its inception stage” and has yet to be designed, according to a Ministry of Finance spokesperson. But in theory, it’s a simple fix for poverty, underemployment, precarious work and the rising cost of living.
Of course, if you’re already raking in cash from a decent job, you’ll end up paying the windfall back and then some at tax time. But if you’re on sick leave, have lost your job or are going back to school, mincome ensures you won’t go hungry.
Mincome proposals have been bouncing around in various forms since the days of Thomas Paine, championed by economists and politicos of all stripes ever since and invariably discarded, like other unorthodox ideas, as a pipe dream – a potentially expensive one at that.
Back in the 1970s, a pilot in Dauphin, Manitoba met with reasonable success. Recent months have seen mincome once again garnering attention from the feds. Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have resolved to develop and deploy a mincome experiment, potentially in Prince Edward Island. Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi endorses the idea, as does Alberta’s finance minister, Joseph Ceci.
A Liberal-dominated parliamentary committee is calling on the federal government to explore the concept of guaranteeing people a minimum income.
The finance committee tabled a pre-budget report Friday that pushes for a study and pilot project on basic income, which is seen as a way to lift people out of poverty.
The idea, which was not in the Liberal election platform, was among 56 recommendations in a document that encouraged the federal government to act on a broad range of subjects — from aboriginal issues to labour mobility to a national transit strategy.
Hat tip to Randy.