Trudeau Says He Sees No Path For Basic Income Right Now

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference at Rideau Cottage during the COVID pandemic in Ottawa on Dec. 1, 2020.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference at Rideau Cottage during the COVID pandemic in Ottawa on Dec. 1, 2020.

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shared his thoughts about a universal basic income during a virtual town hall Wednesday, saying it’s an idea worth discussing but one the government isn’t itching to move ahead on.

The NDP have advocated the idea of basic income in the House of Commons during the pandemic, calling it a tool that could help eliminate poverty by ensuring Canadians have enough money to meet the basic necessities of life in food, clothing, and shelter.

“I think it’s a very important conversation to have. But as Chrystia [Freeland] might point out,” Trudeau said, referring to the country’s finance minister appearing alongside him, “it’s not something that we see a path to moving forward with right now.”

Watch: UN says temporary basic income for the poorest could slow pandemic. Story continues below video.

The terms universal basic income and guaranteed basic income are often used interchangeably, despite having different meanings.

Universal basic income is a concept where everyone, regardless of being high- or low-income earners, would be eligible for payments. The Trump administration gave Americans a taste of a universal basic income with its one-time $1,200 cheque as part of the government’s pandemic stimulus plan.

The criterion for a guaranteed basic/livable/annual income is needs based. Payments are adjusted to allow low-income earners to receive enough money to live above the poverty line.

The prime minister said the government has other priorities and pointed to the fall economic statement and other income support measures.

Those measures include a temporary top-up to the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) of up to $1,200 for every child under the age of six. Trudeau said that program, as he often repeated on the campaign trail last year, has already lifted hundreds of thousands of children from poverty.

“It’s been around now for almost five years and a lot of people take [it] for granted,” he said. Taking a dig at...

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