加拿大安大略省貧窮線定義為 1 人年收入 20,676 美元，或 4 人家庭年收入低於 41,351 美元，目前安大略省有 170 萬人收入低於這個標準，安大略省政府計劃對這些人提供基本收入，且每人給 16,989 美元，是現在該省福利支出最大給付的 2 倍。
汽車與製造業在 2000 年到 2007 年期間大量外移加拿大，其中受衝擊最大的地方是位於多倫多以東約 1 小時車程的城市 Oshawa，這個城市曾經是通用汽車北美最大製造基地，但在過去 15 年中已經失去 4 千個工作，現在 Oshawa 當地數以千計的前汽車工人靠打零工過活。
安大略省佔加拿大總經濟產量的 40% 左右，由自由黨主政的政府將經濟政策核心放在醫學研究和金融技術等領域，計劃要以新的知識型工作取代傳統製造業。許多經濟學家認為普遍基本收入可以幫助推動這種轉變。負責基本收入計畫的部長克里斯‧巴拉德表示，「自動化帶來的工作性質不斷變化，現在是時候開始考慮實施基本收入政策。」
加拿大安大略省智庫 Durham Workforce Authority 社會規畫師 Ben Earle 樂觀表示，「如果基本收入政策可以做到正確和普遍可及，人民就不必擔心基本需求，可以探索創業或是回學校，有人可以選擇退出工作，回到學校提高工作技能。」
政府除了提出的 101 頁政策文件，另外還徵求 40 位專家的意見，並就普遍基本收入的可行性進行 14 次公聽會。有批評家說，基本收入會取代更有意義的脫貧行動，例如解決社會福利金不足或提高最低限度工資等問題，且有專家擔心提供基本收入會迫使政府削減其他社會計畫來補償。目前安大略省政府已經將先導計畫放在預算書裡，但是成本和財源則未說明。
有些人不相信政府實施基本收入政策會成功，因為依照過去歷史紀錄，安大略省曾經實施兩個減貧策略，都提出影響深遠的結構性改革，但最後都沒有改變什麼。反對者認為，與其實施 3 年試點作業，還不如提高安大略省現有的社會救助率。
安大略政府還針對這項政策進行電子郵件調查，收到 3.4 萬封問卷回覆，堪稱達史上線上諮詢最高的回覆率，意見還在整理當中，但普遍支持基本收入政策。
印度先前做過 3 次測試計畫，發現對健康和勞動產生積極影響，主要受益者是女孩、婦女和殘疾人，現在正考慮全國實施。芬蘭也在 1 月 9 日開始進行測試，未來 2 年約 2 千名隨機選擇的芬蘭失業者每月將獲得 560 歐元，如果找到工作錢還會繼續給。
加拿大最小的省愛德華王子島去年 12 月也宣布為 14.9 萬公民提供每月基本收入測試計畫。不過研究基本收入計劃已 30 年的倫敦大學教授 Guy Standing 認為，即使試點案例愈來愈多，但要成為真正的政策選項，可能還有很長的路要走。
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Canada is betting on a universal basic income to help cities gutted by manufacturing job loss
Of all the ideas to pull people out of poverty, one of the more contentious is also the simplest: governments should just hand out monthly checks to the poor, no strings attached.
That’s exactly what the Canadian province of Ontario plans to do, and it’s already causing a ruckus. The Liberal Party currently in control of the provincial government aims to roll out a pilot for a “universal basic income” program in what could be three cities in the spring of 2017. While it has yet to identify the guinea pigs, hints of what the system will look like can be found in a discussion paper authored last August by Hugh Segal, a former member of the Canadian Senate and now head of the University of Toronto’s Massey College.
Segal recommended piloting in at least three cities, one urban, one rural and one in close collaboration with a First Nations community, and setting the handout at a minimum of three-quarters of Canada’s official poverty line. At that level, a single adult would receive an annual basic income of $16,989, almost double the $8,472 max payment under the province’s current welfare program.
Over 1.7 million people in Ontario live on incomes below the poverty line—$20,676 for a single person, or $41,351 for a household of four, according to 2011 data compiled by Statistics Canada. Many of the province’s poor were laid off between 2000 and 2007 as jobs evaporated in the auto industry and other manufacturing sectors.
One of the hardest-hit cities is Oshawa, which has battled to overcome a series of cutbacks at what was once one of General Motors’ biggest plants in North America. Ben Earle, a social planner with Durham Workforce Authority, a local think tank, estimates that the city, located about an hour’s drive east of Toronto, has lost 4,000 jobs over the past 15 years. He expects many of those jobs will never return. Thousands of former auto workers are now in precarious jobs “that are lower pay, contract-based, [and have] lower benefits—if they have benefits at all, ” Earle says.
Ontario as a whole makes up about 40% of Canada’s total economic output. A centerpiece of the Liberals’ economic policy is to replace traditional manufacturing with new “knowledge-based” jobs in areas such as medical research and financial technology.
Many economists think a universal basic income could help drive that shift. “It’s time [we] start considering some kind of basic income because of the changing nature of work due to automation,” says Chris Ballard, the minister responsible for the basic income initiative.
“If it is done right and universally accessible, it could provide opportunities for people to either explore entrepreneurship because they wouldn’t have to worry about their basic needs being covered, at least for a short period of time while they develop a business concept,” says Earle. “Similarly, it could be used to back up [people] who want to go back to school. Someone could make the choice to take time out of work to return to education in order to advance their skill set.”
In addition to Segal’s 101-page discussion paper, Ontario sought feedback from 40 experts, and conducted 14 public consultations on the feasibility of a universal basic income. Not everyone was enthusiastic.
Critics say testing basic income puts off meaningful action to address poverty. Karl Widerquist, associate professor in political philosophy and an economist at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, says the danger is in giving the Ontario government an excuse to put off more expensive policy changes, like addressing the inadequacy of social welfare rates or raising the minimum wage. Similarly, David Macdonald, senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, is concerned that if it truly becomes universal, the resulting price tag would force the government to cut other social programs to compensate. (The Ontario government has committed to the pilot in their budget but exact costs and where the money will come from have yet to be sorted out. )
Others don’t trust the government to succeed in implementing a basic income, given its track record: two earlier poverty-reduction strategies, which both proposed far-reaching structural reforms, have changed nothing, says Mike Balkwill who represents anti-poverty groups in Ontario, including a campaign called Put Food in the Budget. “This government really hasn’t done anything for people in deep poverty,” says Balkwill. The moves towards a basic income are just another “consultation merry-go-round.”
Instead of waiting around another three years to see the results of a pilot, he and other anti-poverty advocates are calling for an immediate raise to existing social assistance rates in the province to provide some relief for poor people.
The government received over 34,000 responses to their recent web surveys, the most ever for an online consultation in the province. Although staff are still reviewing the data collected, the government said in an email that feedback received has generally been supportive of a basic income pilot. A report on what they heard will be available later this winter.
Widerquist says the Ontario pilot will be good for the basic income discussion generally if it’s designed and measured well—we need more test cases and better data to decide whether it has the potential to work in a broader application.
Success, he adds, should not be measured simply by whether the poor are encouraged to go out and find work, since recipients may stay unemployed for longer compared to people receiving current welfare benefits because in theory they’d be more inclined to further their education or to take more time to find the right job. In addition, basic income, Widerquist argues, could improve an individual’s overall well-being, thereby offsetting healthcare costs, and act as an incentive for employers to provide better wages and job security. Once people have options, he says, companies are more inclined to offer more competitive job packages.
Various other jurisdictions have experimented with a universal basic income system. A basic income pilot—called Mincome—was tried in Manitoba, Canada in the 1970s. Due to lack of funding the project was cut short and not fully analyzed. Similar trials have been done in the US, showing mixed results.
India is right now seriously considering implementing a basic income nationwide after three pilots showed positive impacts on health and labor, benefiting mostly girls, women, and the disabled. Half a world away, Finland started a pilot program on Jan. 9 in which, for the next two years, about 2,000 randomly chosen unemployed Finns will receive €560 per month instead of welfare. They are not required to look for a job, but if they do work they will continue to receive the benefit.
Guy Standing, a professor at the University of London in England who has studied the basic income idea for 30 years, predicts that recent and ongoing experiments will go a long way to legitimize it as a serious policy option. In North America, a US technology company, Y Combinator, is funding a pilot. “The design is still yet to be finalized,” says Standing, who is helping plan the pilot. “I can say it is going to be [for] two communities.” And Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island, announced plans last December to test basic income for its 149,000 residents.
Correction: This article has been updated to clarify that the government of Ontario has not confirmed the number of cities in which it will be testing basic income program.
Unconditional Basic Income
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