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Liberals studying national basic income plan to combat job instability

A national basic income plan for all Canadians could well have been a serious NDP campaign promise. One that could play out well in the next elections especially among millennials. But this idea is being floated seriously by the Trudeau Liberals who are warming to the idea that a guaranteed national minimum income could be an option for workers struggling to adapt to an unsteady and shifting labour market.

A guaranteed minimum income is a no-strings-attached-payment government provide instead of an assortment of targeted benefits.

There are currently several federal programs that working toward providing a kind of guaranteed income like the child tax benefit, but the basic plan takes these programs a notch higher and would provide a minimum income of sorts to all Canadians, particularly those without children who aren’t eligible for federal family or seniors benefits or a coming program aimed at the working poor. Again, millennials and baby boomers will be thrilled.

Federal officials have considered the idea as part of a wide range of concepts being floated to help reshape social-safety-net programs for a modern labour market marked by automation, more short-term “gig economy” jobs and a need for people to retrain several times in their working lives.

It is clear that there are millions of Canadians out there who are unemployed and underemployed and do not qualify for many of the programs which were designed in a different era where workers needed help only at certain points, such as graduation from school, losing a full-time job, new parenthood and retirement. Lifetimes of freelancing, contracts and multiple part-time jobs punctuated by returns to school can easily take a financial toll to many and financial recovery could well be all but impossible.

Trudeau, in one of his year-end interviews this week pointed to his government’s various attempts at providing workers some stability that “can add up to something that is helpful like a guaranteed minimum income.”

He spoke about changing employment insurance to make it easier to land benefits and creating the income-tested Canada Child Benefit; and looked ahead to the Canada Workers Benefit that will provide a wage subsidy to boost the incomes of the country’s working poor.

Trudeau insisted that a guaranteed income is one of the tools the government is looking at to help Canadians who are struggling.

The parliamentary budget office estimated in an April report that federal spending would need to increase $43.1 billion annually to provide every low-income household with a minimum income, beefing up the $32.9 billion Ottawa already spends on support for low-income Canadians.

Such a program 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.

To be sure, this plan’s time has come, the only thing making many wary is that it could be misused by slackers who refuse to try hard enough. -CINEWS

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