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As COVID-19 rewrites playbook on social safety net, majorities support idea of basic income of up to 30K

As the federal government extends the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, a program that has sustained more than seven million Canadians amid the COVID-19 pandemic, for eight more weeks, some have wondered aloud if this is the time to test a universal basic income (UBI) in Canada.

While the Liberals rejected a call from New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh to turn the CERB into a universal benefit in April, a new study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds the concept of universal basic income popular among Canadians.

Indeed, at proposed levels of $10,000, $20,000 or $30,000 annual income, the idea garners support from three-in-five.

And as estimates of the cost of such a program range from 15 to 90 billion dollars, Canadians have someone in mind to pay for it; the “wealthy”: more than 60 per cent say that they would support the funds coming from higher income Canadians. These higher income individuals are less enthused, however.

Two other items divide Canadians close to evenly on this issue. Close to half feel a UBI would make Canadians less inclined to work (55%) while a similar number disagree (45%). Further, Canadians are divided over whether a UBI is too expensive (54%) or if Canada can afford it (46%).

More Key Findings:

  • Political preference drives opinion: three-quarters of those who supported the Liberal Party in the last federal election support a UBI. More than four-in-five New Democrat voters do as well. Past CPC voters are not in favour
  • Women are more likely than men, and younger people more likely than those who are older, to support a UBI. That said, across age and gender groups, at least half in every category express support.
  • Despite support levels, at least 48 per cent of residents in every region of the country feel that a UBI would be too expensive for Canada. This rises to 66 per cent in Alberta and 58 per cent in Quebec

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