The federal minister responsible for reducing poverty says he is interested in the idea of a guaranteed income in Canada.
Veteran economist Jean-Yves Duclos, who is Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, told The Globe and Mail the concept has merit as a policy to consider after the government implements more immediate reforms promised during the election campaign.
“There are many different types of guaranteed minimum income. There are many different versions. I’m personally pleased that people are interested in the idea,” said Mr. Duclos, who has a mandate to come up with a Canadian poverty-reduction strategy.
The federal Liberals have made ambitious promises to tackle poverty and to work with the provinces on improving Canada’s social safety net in areas such as skills training and employment insurance. Any major reforms would require the co-operation of the provinces, given the overlapping responsibilities for dealing with poverty. Mr. Duclos is in Edmonton this week to meet with his provincial counterparts. The agenda is expected to include a wide-open discussion of how Ottawa and the provinces can work together to address issues such as unemployment and housing shortages.
A minimum or basic income involves a government ensuring everyone receives a minimum income regardless of their employment status.
Interest in the idea of a guaranteed income is heating up since the Finnish government announced last year that it will research and test the concept.
That has led to growing calls to explore the idea here. Former senator Hugh Segal and Conference Board of Canada chief economist Glen Hodgson are among those recommending pilot projects.
Dauphin, Man., was the site of a short-lived test of the concept in the 1970s that researchers say was successful at reducing poverty.
The general concept is that a guaranteed income would cover basic needs and reduce demand on existing social programs. However, proposals vary widely on whether it should be paired with a drastic reduction in social programs such as welfare and unemployment insurance or complement them.
This means versions of the idea have appeal across the political spectrum, as it could lead to a larger or smaller role for government depending on the model.
Guaranteed income has merit as a national policy, minister says - The Globe and Mail