Pressure mounts on Ottawa to fund basic-income pilot in P.E.I.


Support for a basic income may be shifting from one end of the country to the other.

Four senators are the latest leaders to say they’re in favour of a guaranteed, livable basic income on Prince Edward Island, with Ottawa’s help.

A special all-party committee of the P.E.I. legislature urged the provincial government late last year to begin negotiating with Ottawa for money to test-drive a guaranteed basic income.

Three senators from P.E.I. — Sens. Diane Griffin, Brian Francis, and Mike Duffy, as well as Ontario Sen. Kim Pate — sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and P.E.I. Premier Dennis King last week calling not just for a pilot program, but a nationwide guaranteed basic income, starting on the island.

The letter says P.E.I. would be an appropriate place to begin because of its small and aging population, and because it’s been used before as a “test bed” for innovations in everything from agriculture to wind energy.

The committee’s report suggests how it might work. A single adult would be guaranteed an annual income of $18,260, while a family of two would get $25,747, at a cost to taxpayers of $270 million a year. Earnings in addition to the basic income would be clawed back by 50 cents for every dollar earned.

“There are a number of people there who certainly could use the support and assistance,” said Pate, one of the loudest advocates in the Senate for a basic income. “Given the political will, it seems like a great spot to start implementation.”

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