Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux waits to appear before the Commons Finance committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday March 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux waits to appear before the Commons Finance committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday March 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Parliamentary budget officer says basic income program could halve poverty rate

The study, which federal officials monitored closely, was ended early with a change of government in Ontario

The federal government could cut poverty rates by almost half in one year if it launched a basic income similar to one previously studied in Ontario, the parliamentary budget officer says.

Although nationally the drop in poverty rates under such a measure would be about 49 per cent, the reductions would vary across provinces.

Budget officer Yves Giroux estimated that poverty rates could fall as much as 61.9 per cent in Manitoba or as little as 13.5 per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador if the federal government instituted the program.

At its core a basic or guaranteed income provides a no-strings-attached government benefit to citizens to provide each with a minimum amount of earnings.

Four years ago, Ontario began studying the effects of providing people with enough money to be about three-quarters of the way to the poverty line, and rolling back payments for every dollar of earnings.

The study, which federal officials monitored closely, was ended early with a change of government in Ontario.

Giroux said a federal program modelled on what was set up in the Ontario experiment would cost an estimated $85 billion if implemented this fiscal year, rising to over $93 billion by 2026.

The budget officer’s report released Wednesday updates his projections from last summer about the cost of a basic income program, and details the financial ripple effect across households and workers.

Driving the work were questions from parliamentarians about the effects of a basic income program, which has picked up political traction over the last year as the COVID-19 pandemic put the economy into a tailspin. At its worst, the pandemic cost the country about three million jobs and reduced hours and incomes for 2.5 million more.

The grassroots of the Liberal and New Democratic parties have put forward resolutions at their respective policy conventions to make a basic income a core policy. Although it may win approval when New Democrats gather, the Liberals are split on the proposal, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said to still be less-than-enthused with the idea.

Had there been in place a basic income program like the one Giroux modelled, the government would have paid about $17,000 to a single person, or $24,000 for a couple, and then taken off 50 cents for every dollar earned as incomes rose from there.

For the most part, Giroux estimated, disposable income would rise for those at the bottom of the income scale by 17.5 per cent, or just over $4,500, while those higher up the earnings scale would see their incomes drop slightly.

The reason for the drop would be another caveat in the modelling, that the federal government would remove refundable and non-refundable tax credits aimed at fighting poverty.

Overall, Giroux’s report said more than 6.4 million people would see their disposable income rise as a result of a basic income program, on average by 49.6 per cent, while 16.8 million more would have their net income fall by 5.4 per cent.

Giroux’s report also said that the interaction between tax rates, elimination of credits and earnings as part of basic income would make some workers rethink taking on additional employment hours if it meant losing income through a combination of paying more taxes and receiving fewer benefit dollars.

He estimated that overall, employees would reduce their hours worked by 1.3 per cent nationally, which would cost federal coffers between $3 billion and $3.3 billion annually over a five-year stretch due to lost revenues.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Highway 97A in Armstrong was closed in both directions Monday afternoon, just after 4 p.m., due to a serious accident at Rosedale Avenue. (Bob Dunbar photo)
No merge lanes needed on Armstrong’s Highway 97 access points: ministry

Transportation Ministry reviews accident reports, slope stability with city staff

Donna Kaufmann was named the 2021 Rotary RCMP Volunteer of the Year. (RCMP)
Vernon RCMP volunteer of the year named

Donna Kaufmann dubbed winner for positive impact on community

Lauren Marchand and her daughter at the head of Okanagan Lake in Syilx territory, where they often go to gather, play and be in ceremony. Photo by Kelsie Kilawna
‘I don’t feel safe’: RCMP, social worker searched Syilx mother’s home without her knowledge

RCMP searched the home looking for a meth lab, that was never found inside the residence

Tom Smithwick has written a new book, Knocking On Freedom’s Door, about his experiences advocating for a drug addiction treatment program in Kelowna. (File photo)
‘Knocking On Freedom’s Door’: A retired Kelowna lawyer’s insights to mental illness, addiction

Freedom’s Doors advocate Tom Smithwick shares what he has learned from experiences of treatment program clients in new book

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.[CDC]
More COVID-19 exposures reported at schools in Kelowna

Interior Health added additional schools and dates to their list of exposures

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Most Read