Skip to main content
Welcome to
super saver spring
offer ends april 20
save over $140
save over 85%
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks
Welcome to
super saver spring
$0.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux is seen on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, on March 10, 2020.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The parliamentary budget office says it could cost more than $98-billion to provide almost all Canadians with a basic income for six months beginning this fall.

That figure is the upper range of the scenarios the budget watchdog was asked to research as part of a report released Tuesday morning.

The idea of providing a basic income to Canadians has gained steam as millions have watched their jobs or earnings evaporate in the COVID-19 pandemic, and the federal government has planned to spend about $174-billion to provide a financial floor for individuals and businesses.

Story continues below advertisement

Finance Minister Bill Morneau and other senior cabinet ministers have repeatedly been asked by senators and MPs about the concept. Advocates argue that it would be an expansion of the $80-billion Canada Emergency Response Benefit for workers who saw their incomes crash.

The CERB and a $45-billion wage-subsidy program are set to expire in October.

Providing six months of a basic income starting that month could cost between $47.5-billion and $98.1-billion, depending on how much of the benefit is clawed back from people whose other incomes increase.

Budget officer Yves Giroux’s report says the average benefit to Canadians aged 18 to 64 would range between $4,500 and $4,800, with the number of recipients depending on the phase-out rate.

Sen. Yuen Pau Woo, who asked for the costing, said a basic-income program could fill in the gaps in Canada’s patchwork of social safety nets, which are largely run by provinces, that have been exposed by the pandemic.

“It’s a huge undertaking to launch a basic income for the whole country on a permanent basis. The costs are extremely high and the political resistance is likely to be fierce, but we are in a period where it is likely we will have to spend large sums of money on income support going into the balance of 2020 and into 2021,” Woo said in a telephone interview.

“The question to my mind is how we spend it, and in what form.”

Story continues below advertisement

A basic income means different things to different people, but it is usually viewed as a no-strings-attached benefit that governments provide to citizens instead of various targeted social benefits.

Also known as a guaranteed minimum income, it can be delivered as a universal payment, or as a means-tested benefit that declines as a recipient’s other income rises.

Giroux’s report says the government could repeal $15-billion in tax measures to offset the overall cost of a basic-income program, which Woo added would likely have to wrap in existing measures to avoid duplication.

The overall cost of the program might be higher than the budget office estimates. The PBO’s estimates rely on some Statistics Canada income data that doesn’t include people living in the territories or in First Nations, or some military members.

Nor can the figures simply be doubled to determine a full year’s cost because that might overstate the financial impact. The economy appears to be bouncing back slowly from a bottoming-out in April, and the cost of the program would depend on how many employees are rehired or find new jobs.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which represents small businesses nationwide, said Tuesday that about one-third of members responding to a survey reported being back at full staffing levels, but suggested many believe it will take six months to get back to normal profitability.

Story continues below advertisement

Statistics Canada is to release June’s jobs report on Friday.

Projections released Tuesday by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimate Canada’s unemployment rate at 11 per cent for the second quarter of the year.

The 37-member international body predicted the national unemployment rate would decline to 7.7 per cent by the end of the year, or to 8.4 per cent should a second wave of the novel coronavirus force renewed lockdowns.

Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies