What Is A Universal Basic Income—And How Might It Work In Canada?


With the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) having ended on October 3, some are calling on the Canadian government to transition the temporary pandemic income support into a permanent basic income program, or guaranteed regular income, for everyone. (Applications for CERB’s replacement, the Canada Recovery Benefit, open October 12.)

The emergency benefit—which gave $2,000 every four weeks to Canadians who don’t qualify for EI and saw their incomes drop under $1,000 a month due to the coronavirus—saw 8.86 million people, or nearly a quarter of the Canadian population, apply. Advocates hope that the benefit will set the stage for a universal basic income (UBI), and show Canadians that a basic income program is possible.

The idea of transitioning CERB into a universal basic income has already gained some support—B.C. senator Yuen Pau Woo, for example, thinks that “this is an opportunity for [Canada] to, at the very least, conduct an experiment.” And, on August 10, Winnipeg NDP MP Leah Gazan tabled a motion in the House of Commons to convert CERB into a permanent guaranteed livable basic income (though parliament was prorogued before the issue was brought forward in the House for debate). And the platform of the new leader for the Green Party, Annamie Paul, includes a call for a universal livable income.

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