Canadians Support A Basic Income–But Not If Taxes Have To Go Up

A new poll highlights some of the difficulties on a path toward paying every citizen enough to keep them from being poor.

Canada is one of a small but growing number of countries considering a basic income guarantee. In March, a key parliamentary committee said the government should be studying the idea. Several members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet support basic income (the Liberal Party manifesto endorsed it, though it wasn’t in the election platform).


And, most importantly, Ontario has announced a full pilot, and Quebec has a minister investigating the potential. With the Liberals in power in seven of Canada’s 10 provinces, “potential exists for pan-provincial support for a guaranteed minimum income if Ottawa and provincial governments work together,” says Global Risk Insights, a news site.

Majorities of Canadians seem to support basic income. A new poll, based on 1,516 respondents, finds that two-thirds of people are in favor (even if the amount is up to $30,000). Canadians think implementing a basic income could help “streamline welfare systems,” and help the country cope with the unemployment caused by robots and artificial intelligence (63% think technology will eliminate more jobs than it creates).

Canadians endorse two of the main rationales for basic income. But they’re also highly skeptical that it’s really affordable (59% say it would be too costly), and who ultimately is going to have to pay for it. Only a third (34%) of Canadians support a basic income if it means their taxes would have to go up (which actually sounds like a high number of people who do support a tax increase).

The big question as countries and cities go about implementing basic income programs is how they’re going to pay for it. Will it be an additional sum in the budget, or a replacement for some other benefit or assistance? The survey shows that Canadians, generous as they are, are not willing to pay more than they do now. Other countries are likely to feel the same. Advocates of basic income, particularly on the left, may have to give up some programs to try something new, so that the cost balances out; if they don’t, basic income may never get off the ground.

Have something to say about this article? You can email us and let us know. If it’s interesting and thoughtful, we may publish your response.

[Cover Image: epapijon/iStock]


About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.