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Senator Art Eggleton calls on federal government to launch Basic Income pilot project

By Roderick Benns

Long-time anti-poverty crusader, Senator Art Eggleton, has just called on the federal government to launch a basic income pilot project with the cooperation of one or more provinces and territories. Eggleton tabled the motion from the Senate today, calling for a basic income model “for the purpose of helping Canadians to escape poverty.”

According to a 2013 poll done by Environics the basic income is supported by a majority of Canadians and across the political spectrum including many federal, provincial and municipal leaders.

“The time is right to test a basic income” says Eggleton. “How we have dealt with poverty has failed.  Instead of lifting people out of poverty our current programs entrap them. We need to test a different approach.”

A basic income, through a negative income tax, would be administered through the tax system where if someone’s income is less than the poverty line they would simply be topped up over the poverty line.

In a January, 2015 interview with Leaders and Legacies, Eggleton said then that “in order to build political will we need a contemporary pilot project, and I’m hopeful that’s what we can do.”

Eggleton noted then that a pilot project would be the best way to dispel concerns that people will give up working if their basic needs are met. A basic income guarantee, he said, “isn’t the good life, it’s the basics.”

“The vast majority of people want to do more than that. We use up enormous resources of thought examining whether or not people will stop working if we ensure they aren’t in poverty. This just isn’t true. Our worry that people are going to laze around and not get jobs is ludicrous,” Eggleton said at the time.

Recently Jean-Yves Duclos, federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, stated that a guaranteed minimum income is a policy with merit for discussion.

At the same time, Francois Blais, Minister of Employment and Social Solidarity in Quebec, has been asked by Premier Phillipe Couillard to figure out how the province might turn their existing income support tools in the direction of a basic income guarantee.

Yesterday, the Ontario government announced it would fund a basic income guarantee pilot in an undisclosed location.

From the Senate today, Eggleton was hopeful for what could this mean for people living in poverty.

“Poverty costs us all. It expands health-care costs, policing burdens, and depresses the economy” said Senator Eggleton. “If proven effective a basic income would not only end poverty but we would spend smarter, more efficiently and effectively.”


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