'Pilot Lessons: How to design a basic income pilot project for Ontario' is timely

By Kate McFarland

The Government of Ontario plans to move forward with a pilot study of a basic income guarantee, to begin by April 2017.

On September 20, four researchers — Evelyn L. Forget (Professor of Economics at the University of Manitoba), Dylan Marando (PhD Student at the University of Toronto), Tonya Surman (founding CEO of the Centre for Social Innovation), and Michael Crawford Urban (Policy Associate at the Mowat Centre) — released a report called “Pilot Lessons: How to design a basic income pilot project for Ontario”.

“Pilot Lessons” offers recommendations to the Ontario government on the basis of previous trials of basic income guarantee programs. It also calls for a greater focus on the impact of a guaranteed income on innovation and entrepreneurship. 

The report begins by glossing the meaning of the term ‘basic income’ as it is used by the authors (“basic income is best conceptualized as a policy whereby a government guarantees, to all of its citizens, a regular predictable income sufficient to live a basic but dignified life”), distinguishing between the “demogrant” and “negative income tax” models.

The authors go on to overview past experiments on basic income, especially those conducted in the United States and Canada during the 1970s.

Based on this review of past experience, they identify four lessons:

1. Vary the parameters (e.g. eligibility conditions, amount of income guarantee, tax-back rates), but don’t vary them too much.

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