Nunavut MLA presses government on idea of guaranteed basic income

“This gives me the impression that this is a dead idea”

John Main, MLA for Arviat North–Whale Cove, questioned Family Services Minister Elisapee Sheutiapik Feb. 25 on her department’s plans to look at a basic income program for Nunavummiut. (File photo)

By Emma Tranter

Echoing the recommendations of a 2013 report that suggests Nunavut should implement a basic income program, one Nunavut MLA is pressing the government to follow through on that idea.

In a written question tabled last fall, Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main asked Family Services Minister Elisapee Sheutiapik to explain how the department has considered the concept of guaranteed basic income in Nunavut as part of its reform of the territory’s income assistance program.

Guaranteed basic income is a program that involves regular payments from the government to citizens that ensures a minimum income, regardless of employment status.

In 2013, the Caledon Institute of Social Policy was commissioned to examine Nunavut’s safety net.

“The shift from Income Assistance to a Basic Income was a long-term reform suggested in the Caledon Report,” Sheutiapik’s said in her written response to Main.

But the department isn’t there yet.

“The comprehensive analysis required to explore the feasibility of such a program in Nunavut has not yet taken place, primarily because the department has been focused on implementing reforms stemming from the 2015 community consultations,” her reply states.

On Tuesday, Feb. 25, Main pressed the minister during question period on her department’s plans to implement a basic income program.

The department began a review of Nunavut’s income assistance program in 2015, which included community consultations.

“It’s clear that the department has been implementing reforms to the income assistance program. When will the department take the next step and start developing basic income for Nunavummiut?” Main asked.

“We continue to look at how we can reform based on what we’ve heard from the community consultations,” Sheutiapik said.

Main said while he is aware the department is working on reforming the income assistance program, his question was about its plans for a basic income program.

“What I was asking about was taking the next step in developing a new program as outlined in this report, which would replace income assistance. So I’ll ask the same question again: when will the department take the next step and start working on developing basic income for Nunavummiut?”

Sheutiapik said the department has been focused on reform, but is also open for discussions with stakeholders.

A pilot project called the Ontario Basic Income Pilot was launched in 2017, but was cancelled in April 2019 with no evaluation completed to measure its impact on individuals and communities.

Sheutiapik’s written response also noted there have not been recent consultations within the last three years about guaranteed basic income in Nunavut. The concept was, however, brought up by the Nunavut Roundtable for Poverty in 2013.

“This gives me the impression that this is a dead idea and I’m trying to breathe some new life into it,” Main said.

Main persisted, asking Sheutiapik again when the department will start developing basic income for Nunavummiut.

But Sheutiapik said it was Main who was putting the question on the table.

“I have to say and be honest that the only one that’s inquired about this such thing is yourself. So maybe you and I will start that dialogue within the department because the reforms we’ve been going through is because of community consultation,” Sheutiapik said.

Share This Story

(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    here’s an idea of Guaranteed Basic Income.

    Get a Job.

    Show up to work.

    on time.

    every day.

    get paid. every. two. weeks.

    see, how hard is that?

  2. Posted by Michael Smith on

    If Alaska has had a basic income for all its residents since 1982 from its oil pipeline dividends then we in Canada could start one with the pipeline or without that would include all indigenous members especially. I appreciate Mr John Main’s effort to keep up the basic income idea. Getting a job is part of the answer but we still need basic income and federal backing would be great. Start one north of 60. Start one in PEI and the rest of Canada but the time to start them is now.

    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      The Inuit orgs and NTI collect hundreds of millions of dollars in implementation and IIBA money every year. More than enough to guarantee basic minimum income for every Inuk in Nunavut. Ask them where that money is going.

  3. Posted by Reality on

    Is it not already a majority of people in Nunavut who live on benefits? Since there is already so little incentive to be self-supporting in Nunavut, is it really a good idea to hand out more free money to everyone? Nobody will work if they bring this plan in.

  4. Posted by Consistency on

    Why not make the northern allowance the basic income since we all live in Nunavut. Everyone gets it once they are 18-19 years old. and you always get it. It is not based on any other factor. If your the Premier of Nunavut or a full time hunter with out any registered income you get it. and that basic income is at the level that is not taxed for anyone. if you have a money making job you only pay taxes for that money. and to make the system better it should also allow income splitting. because even if a person has a high paying GN job but they are responsible for 10 people in their house their taxes reflect this.

  5. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Guaranteed basic income works. Pilot projects in Scandinavia showed that it reduced the stigma associated with receiving social assistance (income support here) and helped people find the time and space to get training, education and other supports to improve their lives.

    • Posted by David on

      There is no proof it works and very few pilots have been tried anywhere.
      In Finland they only gave members of the pilot $600/month, so it is nothing like what people of Nunavut/Canada are suggesting we do here.
      Finland not only ended this pilot, but now have brought in strict rules that any unemployed must now attend job training programs to be eligible for benefits.

  6. Posted by Putuguk on

    Income Support, Welfare, EI, Family Allowance, Child Tax, all of these universal programs flow from a dominant southern society meeting its own social and economic needs. This program were born in mature labour markets, within modern diverse capitalist settings, for people with relatively high education levels prone to periodic dips in economic activity (recessions and the like).

    These programs have worked in the south because they were designed to work there. Up here, it has created the hell of dependence that government happily promulgates because it is solid job security. Applying universal programs on a proud self sufficient independent nomadic people has resulted in a co-dependent mess.

    The latest southern concern is that due to automation, we now live in a post full employment age and our more basic role today is as consumers of goods and services. Hence the need for a guaranteed income to make the economy work.

    We rail against colonialism in other areas of public life such as justice. We should not be so quick to jump onto mainstream society programs for the needy. We have people who cannot make ends meet for entirely different reasons than southern Canada, Scandinavia or anywhere else a guaranteed income is being thought out.

    Yes, support the poor more. Yes, give them something they can decently live on. Do it in a way that support our values such as serving the community, or at the very least, not creating more problems for the community.

    Guarantee an income for those that are not in trouble with the law, and are doing things like going to adult upgrading, hunting for others, not creating tenant damages, and sending their kids to school. If they cannot get a job that pays the bills, there are other even more important functions that they could be performing that would be of enormous help.

  7. Posted by Lets try getting skills and feeling satisfaction for a job well done. on

    In our community the hotel restaurant often cannot open due to no staff, the coop coffee shop closes early due to no staff, classrooms are being put together as their is no one to sub, water delivery is uncertain due to staff not showing up, fuel deliveries are uncertain as ofter drivers do not show up, the post office cannot keep workers, construction companies have people come for a day or 2 and then stop working. Many graduates graduate to sleep the day away. People don’t show up to work because they are tired, kids don’t come to school because they are sleeping. We have very very few students taking after school or weekend jobs for extra money, to gain skills and to build up their resumes.
    I am not certain more income to stay home and sleep in is the right incentive to get the healthy bodied people out of their homes to help fill jobs in the community that are desperately needed. Sure some of the jobs are not the greatest in pay, but everyone has to start somewhere, everyone needs a reason to get up in the morning, to have something to look forward to. Certainly there are some cases when the extra income is needed. But for those healthy individuals that have no reason to say no to entry level work I am not sure they should be rewarded with more money to stay home.

Comments are closed.