Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Budget Watchdog Says a National Basic Income Would Cost $76 Billion

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Budget Watchdog Says a National Basic Income Would Cost $76 Billion

Article excerpt

Federal basic income would cost $76B: report

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OTTAWA - Federal coffers would have to dole out more than $76 billion a year to provide every low-income household with a guaranteed minimum income if the government ever embarked on such a radical overhaul of the social safety net, Parliament's budget watchdog said Tuesday.

In a new report, the parliamentary budget officer estimated the federal government would have to find about $43.1 billion to cover the full cost of the program to top up the $32.9 billion Ottawa already spends on support to low-income Canadians.

A guaranteed minimum income often means different things to different people, but at its core it can be described as a no-strings-attached benefit that governments provide to citizens instead of various targeted social benefits. It can be delivered as a universal payment, or as a means-tested benefit that declines in value as incomes rise.

Spending $76 billion would affect more than 7.5 million people, who would receive on average $9,421 a year, with the maximum amount reaching $16,989 for individuals and $24,027 for couples, before deductions for any income earned.

A government determined to institute the idea would have to decide what benefit programs to replace, the value of the benefit itself, and how to address some of the non-financial factors that affect poverty, said Mostafa Askari, the deputy parliamentary budget officer.

"If politicians were to implement this, then they would have to really decide about the structure of this program," he said.

The federal Liberals have been lukewarm to the idea at a national level, arguing the Canada Child Benefit, among other measures, amounts to a guaranteed minimum income.

A recurring theme in the government's work on a poverty reduction strategy has been the need to modernize the social safety net and the 61 federal income support programs involving eight departments. …

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