Earlier this year Canadian officials in Ontario announced plans to test a basic income project. Now they are moving forward with a 2017 start date. Ontario citizens living under the poverty line will receive a certain amount of money each month with no strings attached. Conservative strategist Hugh Segal thinks the project could help Canada determine whether a basic income will reduce pressures on healthcare spending and encourage people to work.
The government tasked Segal with exploring the idea, and he released a lengthy discussion paper around the end of the summer. He noted the pilot project is meant to provide evidence on how the program might improve lives. For example, as opposed to traditional welfare programs, the money could responsibly help people working low-paying jobs and might strengthen motivation to work. Segal argued in his paper that current eligibility programs are seriously demeaning, and can only go so far in alleviating poverty. “Our present social assistance system imposes limits on economic progress, often keeping welfare recipients from entering the economic mainstream,” he wrote in his paper.
In an interview with The Guardian, Segal said basic income could “give people a floor beneath which they’re not allowed to fall.” Under the pilot project, citizens 18 to 65 under the poverty line will receive $1,320 every month, and disabled people will receive $1,820. People will receive basic income whether they are employed or not. According to Big Think, the basic income idea has bipartisan appeal because it could totally shake up the welfare system and provide people with opportunities.
Segal said for Ontario to get a true sense of whether or not the project is working, the basic income experiment should run for a minimum of three years.