Basic income, guaranteed income, economic inequality, public policy, Canada


Canada has had recurring debates about guaranteed or basic income over several decades. This article outlines reasons for implementing basic income in the Canadian context—reducing poverty and inequality, addressing precarious employment, and building an ecologically sustainable economy. Recently there has been a strong renewal of interest in basic income in Canada. Expressions of interest have come from the Liberal federal government elected in 2015, from provincial governments, from political parties not in power, and from municipal governments. Support for basic income also is found in a growing range of prominent individuals and organizations. While basic income advocates are encouraged by recent developments, several large and complex questions remain on how this approach can be implemented in Canada. These questions encompass the specifics of design, delivery, funding, and political support. How can basic income build on existing income security programs and leave Canadians better off in the end? How can we ensure that basic income is not used as an excuse to cut vital services such health care, social housing, early childhood care and development, and social services for those with disabilities and other challenges? How can basic income be set in place in Canada, given its complicated federal-provincial nexus of responsibility for, delivery of, and funding for social programs? The article concludes with principles that might help guide the implementation of authentically universal, adequate, and feasible basic income architecture in Canada.

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