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OPINION: Concerned about long-term cost guaranteed basic income

Prince Geoerge-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP Bob Zimmer Credit: Bernard Thibodeau, House of Commons Photo Services
Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP Bob Zimmer


Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP

Not since the Great Depression has our national economy been challenged in the way that it has over the last six months due to COVID-19.

As we continue to navigate our way through the pandemic and look to rebuild our economy, it is important to remember that while we must continue to support those who have been affected, our economic recovery must be driven by Canadians’ hard work, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit.

As you may have heard, there are reports that the Liberals are considering a guaranteed basic income, with several Liberal MPs pushing to have the idea voted on as a priority resolution at the Liberal convention in November.

As a father of four, I am deeply concerned about the long-term impact implementing such a policy would have on our economy and future generations of Canadians.

The Fraser Institute recently released a study that estimated if the Old Age Security benefit was extended to all Canadians between the ages of 18 and 64 the cost to taxpayers would be $131.9 billion a year and if a guaranteed annual income was modelled after the monthly $2,000 Canada Emergency Response Benefit it would cost $464.5 billion a year.  

These are extraordinary numbers, especially considering the fact that, for the first time in our nation’s history, the federal debt is already going to reach over $1 trillion.

I also believe we need to further examine who would receive these taxpayer dollars. When the former Ontario Liberal government announced its plans for a basic income pilot project in 2017, economist Kevin Milligan did an analysis of Statistics Canada income data and found that “if you implemented the proposed Basic Income scheme across Ontario, most of the money would likely go to young childless adults living with their parents”. This project was eventually cancelled.

My concern is that if a similar program was introduced nationally it could create a disincentive for our nation’s youth to work during the years where having a job can provide the necessary skills and experiences to better prepare them for the ‘real world’.

For example, as businesses began to safely reopen over the summer, many employers faced significant staffing challenges despite record unemployment numbers. According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, a preference for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit was the top reason given by those who refused to return to work.

As we navigate this pandemic, Canada needs to be firing on all cylinders. That means cutting taxes and red tape, stimulating and attracting business investment, creating the conditions for job growth, and unleashing the power of the private sector.

 I choose to believe that Canadians’ hard work, innovation and perseverance will drive our economic recovery.

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