Canada about to launch ‘Universal Basic Income’ Pilot



Finland, the Netherlands and Kenya are also currently developing similar initiatives. 
 
The Canadian province of Ontario is on the verge of launching its proposed ‘universal basic income’ pilot scheme to test whether it is more effective in lifting people out of poverty than traditional approaches.
 
The C$25 million ($19 million) project, which is currently the subject of a public consultation, is due to launch in Spring 2017, following the expected release of a government plan in April. The plan will lay out who is eligible to join, where the pilot will take place, what the basic income level will be and how the scheme will be evaluated. It is expected to last for at least three years.
 
Chris Ballard, Ontario’s Minister of Housing who is also responsible for the province’s poverty reduction strategy, said: “We know that many Ontarians are still living in poverty and that we must continue to look for ways to address this challenge. A basic income pilot is an innovative, evidence-generating tool that will help us identify what’s working, measure our progress and expand our toolbox as we explore better ways to build a foundation for Ontarians to reach their full potential.”
 
The experiment in Ontario comes as universal basic income, once championed by human rights campaigner Martin Luther King Jr and US economist Milton Friedman, is undergoing a popular renaissance. As politicians around the world struggle to balance austerity programmes with anti-poverty initiatives and the steady erosion of stable jobs with pensions and benefits, many are looking to find alternative approaches. 
 
As a result, Finland, the Netherlands and Kenya are also currently developing similar pilot initiatives. The aim is to explore the benefits of offering citizens a guaranteed annual income in order to provide income security and improve public health, housing and employment opportunities.
 
In Canada, where almost one in five children live in poverty, a recent poll of 1,500 citizens found that two thirds were open to the idea of a basic income to replace other forms of government assistance – although most said they would not be willing to pay more tax to support it. Swiss citizens voted overwhelmingly against the idea in a referendum in June 2016, however.