The Honourable Hugh Segal’s recent proposal of drafting a basic income program for Ontario should be taken not as a panacea but as a vital ingredient to a suite of solutions that would help the province’s population cope with the prevailing climate of ever-increasing prices, according to a renowned economist.
In a contribution piece for the Toronto Star
, Armine Yalnizyan of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives stated that this proposal represents a golden opportunity for the province to establish a system that would guarantee equity for its citizens.
“I am excited about the possibilities, and hopeful the discussion will put basic income in a more realistic context: not as an all-encompassing fix, but as one half of an approach that could help us adapt to the emerging realities of the early 21st century,” the CCPA senior economist wrote.
Yalnizyan said that while Segal’s move will not likely address the issue of job availability in the age of increasing automation across all sectors, “a basic income would have to be set at a level that reduces the number of people willing to work at low wages.”
“Could a provincial basic income approach federal levels of income support, knowing even $15,000 a year is far below the poverty line for a single person?” she mused. “Basic math shows this is unlikely. Anyone working under 25 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, at the minimum wage ($11.40) is better off not working — not a strong government objective.”
Yalnizyan added that improving public services would benefit a greater segment of the population.
“At the federal level, the cost of raising everyone’s income above the poverty line is an estimated $30 billion a year. The Alternative Federal Budget shows we could permanently expand the stock of affordable housing, child care, and public transit; and almost eliminate user costs for pharmacare, dental care and post-secondary schooling for half the annual cost ($15 billion),” the economist explained.
“After a decade, we would have expanded access to more high-quality, affordable necessities of life, not just for the poor but for everyone,” Yalnizyan concluded. “Both a basic income and a basic service model put more money in people’s pockets, one with a cash transfer, one by offsetting the costs of necessities.”
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