Nunavut government to look at feasibility of a guaranteed basic income

“There is a need for a long term, simplified and sustainable solution to providing financial supports to those most in need”

The Government of Nunavut plans to explore the possibility of introducing a guaranteed living wage or basic income as one way to ensure all residents have enough to live on. (File photo)

By Sarah Rogers

The Government of Nunavut plans to explore the possibility of introducing a guaranteed living wage or basic income as one way to ensure all residents have enough to live on.

The Department of Family Services has launched a request for proposals for a feasibility study to look at different models for a guaranteed basic income, and recommendations on how it could be implemented in Nunavut.

Roughly four in 10 residents of Nunavut are on social assistance, the highest proportion in the country.

“There is a need for a long term, simplified and sustainable solution to providing financial supports to those most in need, while not creating a disincentive to participate in the economy,” said the request for proposals, which closes on Oct. 9.

In recent years, the Department of Family Services has done territory-wide consultations on income assistance and, as a result, has made some reforms to its assistance programs. Those include additional support for recipients living with disabilities, incentives to earning income and simplified categories.

The concept of a guaranteed basic income for Nunavut is not new; a report commissioned by the territory’s anti-poverty secretariat in 2013 found there was too great a reliance on welfare across the territory.

The report, prepared by the Caledon Institute of Social Policy, urged the government to gradually wean its residents off social assistance, while beefing up income programs and child tax benefits to eventually replace welfare with a basic income.

The paper suggested that in Nunavut, the program should deliver benefits on a sliding scale to people with low or modest incomes and, unlike welfare, a basic income would not force applicants to lose or divest their assets in order to qualify.

“Poverty in Nunavut is a difficult problem that must be tackled from the perspective of both income support and services, and work and learning capability,” the report concluded.

A new guaranteed basic income program would eventually replace most welfare, the report suggested, while increasing incentives to work and improving living standards for low- and modest-income residents of Nunavut.

Earlier this year, Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main raised the issue with Family Services Minister Elisapee Sheutiapik, inquiring if and when the GN planned to pursue the idea.

At the time, Sheutiapik said the focus was on reforming existing income assistance programs.

The request for proposals closes on Oct. 9. An initial report on the feasibility study would be due by the end of January 2021.

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(1) Comment:

  1. Posted by Blank Cheque for Consultants on

    Ah yes, here we go. One of the most controversial topics around, the basic income. Many people will hate on this idea, as they will say it provides disincentive to work, and that many people will freeload off the backs of hardworking people. And, in part, they have a point.
    However, as a society we already provide a basic income in a way because we’ve decided that we don’t want to see people dying of hunger and homelessness because they can’t find a job or because they’ve fallen through the cracks. Through many inefficient programs such as income assistance, senior fuel subsidy, public housing, old age security, guaranteed income supplement, the Canada Child Benefit (please stop calling it “child tax”), living-away-from-home and other student allowances, CPP and EI to an extent, and others, taxpayers provide for those that cannot provide for themselves.
    I support a basic income, but I can already tell from this article I’m going to have major issues with the outcome of this feasibility study. A basic income should not have a “sliding scale” at all, that’s the point of calling it a basic income. When you add in complexities, you’re already failing at the “simplified” solution you’re aiming for.
    I guarantee that the feasibility study will not look at reducing public sector salaries and the private sector minimum wage, which it should. If you introduce a basic income, to everyone not just on some arbitrary sliding scale, you can and should lower the salaries of those in the workforce (not necessarily $1-to-$1). Additionally, a basic income is the best fix for the “living wage” dilemma, where many want minimum wage to be a living wage, but provides youth with more money than they really need and sets them up to fail when they have to start paying their own bills. The minimum wage now is $16, which is not nearly a living wage in Nunavut, but is still too much for a 15 year old with no expenses who now ends up with over $500/week in discretionary income working a full-time summer job. How many adults working full-time for a much higher wage have that much discretionary income?
    I guarantee that that the feasibility study will not look at touching the OAS, GIS, CPP, or EI federal benefits, as it should, because not integrating these already basic income programs into a basic income is the efficient thing to do.
    I have major concerns that this feasibility study will not take as in-depth a look as it should at what to do with Public Housing when introducing a basic income, as it should, because ideally, with a basic income, we should be able to gradually move away from public housing until it’s totally gone.
    The best way to go about implementing a basic income is to aim to use it to replace and eliminate as many social programs as you possibly can with it, in order to use tax dollars as efficiently as possible. I have serious doubts the tax-teet suckling consultants they end up hiring will be able to put together what’s actually necessary.

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