Top statistician says P.E.I. closer to basic income ‘than we might otherwise think’

Journal-Pioneer

A top economist with the Department of Finance believes P.E.I.’s current social safety net already has many similarities to a basic income guarantee. 

Nigel Burns, director of economic statistics and federal fiscal relations with the department, spoke before the standing committee on poverty in Charlottetown last week.

Burns addressed the concept of a negative income tax, a form of basic income guarantee that would give a government payment to all individuals who earn below a certain amount, regardless of whether they work or not. Individuals who earn above this amount would pay income taxes.

Burns pointed to social welfare programs, such as social assistance or disability support programs, and federal programs such as the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors or the Canada Child Benefit, as examples of current programs that provide a minimum income. 

"Some might argue that we're closer to a negative income tax type of system than we might otherwise think," Burns said.

Burns suggested the debate over establishing a basic income guarantee pilot in P.E.I. is less about creating an entirely new social welfare program and more about whether existing programs provide enough support for people living in poverty or the working poor.

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