October 29, 2016

Canadian province working on guaranteed income plan

Guardian - The Canadian province of Ontario is pushing forward with plans for a trial run of universal basic income, making it the first government in North America in decades to test out a policy touted as a panacea to poverty, bloated bureaucracy and the rise of precarious work.

In the coming weeks, the provincial government is expected to announce consultations to hammer out the details of a C$25m pilot project, with the aim of formally launching it in spring 2017.

The government’s foray into basic income began earlier this year when it tasked Hugh Segal, a Conservative political strategist and longtime advocate of the idea, with exploring potential directions for a pilot project.

“This is not something which is in any way, in my view, the precinct of the left,” Segal said in an interview. “It is in fact the precinct of rational people when looking to encourage work and community engagement and give people a floor beneath which they’re not allowed to fall.”

... The experiment in Ontario comes as basic income, once championed by Martin Luther King Jr and Milton Friedman, is undergoing a popular renaissance. As leaders around the world struggle to strike a balance between fighting poverty, the push for austerity and the steady erosion of stable jobs with pension and benefits, basic income projects are in the pipeline in Finland, the Netherlands and Kenya.

....Canadians’ embrace of the idea can perhaps be traced to Dauphin, a small farming town of 10,000 people in Manitoba that was once home to one of North America’s largest and most ambitious experiments in basic income.

In 1974, about 1,000 residents began receiving monthly payments with no strings attached. The pilot, a joint effort by the federal and provincial government, set the stipend at around 60% of Statistics Canada’s poverty threshold, translating to roughly C$16,000 a year in today’s dollars for a single person. For every dollar earned from other income sources, 50 cents were scaled back from the monthly payment.

The payments flowed for four years, turning Dauphin into a potent test site for the policy. But the project’s budget of $17m – the equivalent of about $85m today – ran short halfway through the project, hindering data collection. A growing federal push for austerity along with a change in Manitoba’s government in 1977 sounded the final death knell for the project.

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