Q&A: Conservative elder Hugh Segal on the radical new plan to erase poverty

Toronto Life

Last year, you wrote a proposal for a pilot project that would provide select Ontarians with a monthly income of $1,395. Over the summer, the Liberals have been implementing it. Why is basic income a good idea?

Because about 15 per cent of Ontarians currently live below the poverty line. And 70 per cent of them have jobs, so it’s not as if they’re sitting on the couch watching soaps and eating bonbons. And we know that poverty is the best predictor of bad health: poor people get sick more often, go to hospital for longer and have more issues with substance abuse, and their kids drop out of school sooner, all of which costs the rest of us huge amounts of money.

Who gets to participate?

I wrote the report, but I’m not running the program. To qualify, you must have an income below the poverty line. The Liberals hope to include 4,000 people and will spend about $25 million annually for three years.

We already have a welfare system. How is your proposal better? 

However well-intentioned the welfare system is, it’s based on the 19th-century belief that if you are poor, there is some moral failing at play. Also, what the welfare system currently provides isn’t enough.

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