Can Ontario prove basic income works?

Healthy Debate

For Ontarians who receive social assistance, basic annual income is a promising solution to alleviate the impact of poverty on their health. A pilot program is being proposed by the Ontario provincial government for April 2017, which would select sites in southern Ontario, northern Ontario, and First Nations communities. Under that program, a cash transfer would be given by the government to people who make less than a certain amount.

The sites for the pilot have yet to be determined, and the Ontario government is seeking input on where and how the pilot is conducted from a community survey until January 31, 2017. Public participation in the survey is vital and will play a key role in the selection of test sites that can help generate meaningful, much-needed evidence regarding basic income.

How basic income would work in Ontario

In November 2016, approximately 437,774 people received financial support from Ontario Works. But that program, which provides $8,472 a year to participants, is not enough to alleviate the burden of poverty on individuals. A basic income would act as a “negative income tax,” automatically topping up individuals who fall below 75 percent of the low-income measure. It would provide $1,320 a month, or $16,989 annually, to single adults, with an additional $500 a month for disability.

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