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A Basic Income For Ontario? Province Plans Pilot Project As Part Of Budget

The idea is gaining steam around the world, particularly in Europe.

The government of Ontario is planning to launch a pilot project to test out a guaranteed basic income.

What that pilot project will look like, and what it will cost, is not yet known. In its budget documents, unveiled Thursday, the Liberal government of Premier Kathleen Wynne said it would “work with communities, researchers and other stakeholders in 2016 to determine how best to design and implement a Basic Income pilot.”

Finance Minister Charles Sousa said the province will decide whether to make a basic income permanent on the basis of that pilot project, the Globe and Mail reported.

The idea of replacing numerous government benefits with a single cheque sent to all households, regardless of income, has been gaining steam in recent years.

Finland plans to outline a basic income plan for its citizens later this year, while the Dutch city of Utrecht launched an experiment in January, involving welfare recipients, to see what effect a basic income would have.

The Swiss will vote in a referendum in June to decide whether to implement a basic income of some C$3,200 per month — much more generous than most basic income proposals and experiments.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Finance Minister Charles Sousa ahead of the tabling of Ontario's 2016 budget, Queen's Park, Toronto, Feb. 25, 2016. (Canadian Press photo)

In Ontario, some municipalities have been calling on the provincial government to consider implementing a basic income. Kingston's city council last December became the first legislative body in Canada to endorse the idea.

Supporters of the basic income idea say it could all but eliminate poverty. They argue it would streamline government bureaucracies, as a basic income would replace many other benefits, potentially including welfare, unemployment insurance, Old Age Security and others.

The town of Dauphin, Manitoba, ran an experiment on what was then called a “minimum income,” or “mincome,” back in the 1970s. The experiment’s results were shelved, likely for political reasons, but a researcher uncovered the data in recent years and found the program largely eliminated poverty.

Critics of the basic income often raise concerns that it would create a disincentive to work. The Dauphin experiment showed that there was a small decline in the workforce, but it was mostly due to people being able to afford to go back to school for further education.

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