Let's talk about Canadian values (values like a universal basic income)

By Madeline Ashby

OPINION -- Ottawa Citizen

Ontario is now poised to pilot a universal basic income project, putting it at the forefront of social innovation in the Western world. Canada is the first government in North America to try out the universal basic income idea. Switzerland resoundingly rejected a proposal to bring it onboard during a vote this summer.

What is universal basic income? It’s exactly what it sounds like: It’s granting people a minimum baseline of money on top of whatever they are able to earn. In Ontario’s case, this would amount to about $22,000 a year, which would put individuals making no other income at just above the poverty line. The poverty line for individual persons is at $18,421 a year. In 2009, half of Canadians were living on less than $25,400.

The virtues of a universal basic income are, well, universal. It grants people a financial cushion to deal with things such as sudden job loss, catastrophic illness like cancer, a dangerous pregnancy requiring long-term bedrest, the illness or death of a parent, spouse, or child, or anything else that can interfere with full-time work or the establishment of savings. As work becomes more automated, and more people have a more difficult time finding full-time employment, instead turning to low-paying “gig” jobs via services like Uber, the need for a universal basic income becomes more apparent.

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