This year, the Ontario government will test out a guaranteed basic income program to reduce poverty in the province.
The guaranteed basic income would replace social assistance programs like Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program with a single, automatic payment system. The plan was first announced last February in the 2016 Ontario budget. Now, the Ontario government is looking for communities to test-run the project.
“Other jurisdictions are using it, and I want to see if it makes sense for us,” says finance minister Charles Sousa. “It’s important for us to pilot, to test it out, and see what happens.”
Ontario spends $9 billion on Ontario Works and ODSP each year. The rigid eligibility requirements and complicated application process brings high administrative costs. While these programs provide essential support to working age adults, they don’t empower individuals to escape poverty. The current system does little to help marginalized adults who are unemployed and not enrolled in school full-time.
The guaranteed basic income would provide adults in need with a single, automatic monthly payment. Eligible individuals would receive more money each month, the system would be less intrusive and stigmatizing than the existing social assistance programs. Supporters claim that this would reduced pressure in other areas of government spending, like healthcare.
The idea of a guaranteed basic income has been in the works for decades. Canada experimented with the system in the early 1970s in Dauphin, Manitoba. The Mincome project, as it was called, gave eligible families a monthly payment with no strings attached. The experiment yielded promising results. It reduced hospital visits by 8.5%, allowed new mothers to spend more time with their children, and encouraged teenage boys to finish high school. However, hasn’t been much research on the guaranteed minimum income overall.
Today, 16% of adults in Ontario live in poverty. The pilot project will study whether a guaranteed basic income can reduce that number and improve health, housing and employment in the province. It’s not yet clear what exactly the project entails, but the government plans to give details in April.
What are your thoughts on the guaranteed basic income? The government of Ontario is seeking feedback on the project. You can sound off in this survey until January 31, 2017.