Canada's Ontario to pay guaranteed incomes to the poor

Agence France-Presse
Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne - Bloomberg

Ontario has launched a pilot program to provide a guaranteed basic income to a few thousand people to test its effects on recipients and public finances, the Canadian province announced on Monday.

Provincial premier Kathleen Wynne said the program would provide a "basic income" for three years to 4,000 people living under the poverty line.

"We want to find out whether a basic income makes a positive impact in people's lives," Ms Wynne said, adding that "everyone should benefit from Ontario's economic growth."

Income support payments will be as high as Can$16,989 (£9,800) a year for an individual, or Can$24,027 for a couple, plus an additional Can$6,000 for the disabled.

The figures will be reduced for those holding part-time jobs - they will receive 50 cents less for each dollar earned.

As a concrete example, a single person with a yearly salary of Can$10,000 will receive an additional payment of Can$11,989.

The 4,000 participants, aged 18 to 65, have been chosen at random in three cities: Hamilton and Lindsay in the Toronto suburbs and Thunder Bay in the province's west.

The province estimates the cost of the program at Can$50 million a year.

Ontario is the most heavily populated Canadian province, with 38 percent of the country's 36.5 million inhabitants.

Thirteen percent of Ontario residents live below the poverty line, according to Statistics Canada.

A first assessment of the pilot project is due just over a year from now, shortly before local, provincial and federal elections in Canada, according to Ms Wynne's Liberal government.

Similar experiments with guaranteed basic income are being tried in Finland, the Netherlands and Kenya.

In Canada, the cities of Winnipeg and Dauphin in Manitoba province experimented with guaranteed income in the 1970s, but then dropped the idea.

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