Poll shows Ontarians still split over guaranteed annual income proposal

Poll shows Ontarians still split over guaranteed annual income proposal

Plenty of younger Ontarians of lesser means prefer a basic income to welfare cheques – but there are many others who reject the idea outright or just don’t know what to make of it, a poll has found.

Furthermore, the Forum Research Inc. survey found most voters want a guaranteed annual income of somewhere in the neighbourhood of $20,000 to $30,000, and only targeted at the least fortunate, not everybody. A basic income is a payment that keeps a family or person at a minimum level of yearly income, or "mincome."

The poll, conducted Monday, asked 1,097 Ontarians what they think about the provincial government’s experiment with a basic income. The project is still a long way off from launching, but the idea is it could some day replace social assistance payments, such as Ontario Works.

According to the Forum survey, provided to QP Briefing Wednesday, 40 per cent approved of a guaranteed annual income, but 35 per cent disapproved and another 25 per cent had no opinion.

A breakdown of respondents showed the most likely people to support a guaranteed income were between the ages of 18 and 34 and who make less than $20,000. In the 18-to-34 age range, 48 per cent of those surveyed supported the proposal. There was 54 per cent approval from those in the $20,000 and lower income bracket.

“This is an idea with a solid base of support which has yet to reach majority approval,” Forum Research president Dr. Lorne Bozinoff said in a release. “It is well-liked by those with the most recourse to this kind of social support, the young and least wealthy.”

Forum’s March poll on basic income produced similar results – 41 per cent for, 33 per cent against, and 26 per cent with no view.

But just 18 per cent of those asked on Monday said the program should be universal and for everyone, while 48 per cent wanted it only for low-income Ontarians. Of the remaining respondents, 19 per cent were staunchly opposed to the basic income project – and resisted answering who should get it – while 6 per cent didn't know what to say.

Just how high a guaranteed income should be also drew a mixed response. Of those surveyed, 29 per cent suggested the income be set around $20,000 a year and 28 per cent responded it should be approximately $30,000 or more. Only 8 per cent recommended $10,000 or less and another 24 per cent so stubbornly dislike a basic income that they weren’t willing to consider how much it should be.

“It is interesting to note that those who accept the idea, accept that the basic income must be enough to provide dignity in living,” said Bozinoff. “They don’t see this as a universal benefit, though.”

The poll is considered accurate within three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The idea of a guaranteed annual income was tested in Dauphin, Man., during the 1970s.

Ontario’s Liberal government, meanwhile, first revealed its interest in a basic income pilot project in the 2016 budget, declaring it would “test a growing view at home and abroad that a basic income could build on the success of minimum wage policies and increases in child benefits by providing more consistent and predictable support in the context of today’s dynamic labour market.”

“The pilot would also test whether a basic income would provide a more efficient way of delivering income support, strengthen the attachment to the labour force, and achieve savings in other areas, such as health care and housing supports,” added the February budget.

Since then, the Liberal government has tapped former Tory senator Hugh Segal as a special adviser on the basic income plan.

During the “bear pit” session at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario’s annual conference Tuesday, Community and Social Services Minister Helena Jaczek said Segal was due to turn in his report by the end of this month. Jaczek also said there was strong interest from municipalities in being a “mincome” guinea pig.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Twitter: @geoffzochodne

Geoff Zochodne

Geoff Zochodne joined QP Briefing in 2014 after working as a reporter, photographer and editorial writer for The Oshawa Express weekly newspaper. He is a graduate of Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. To contact Geoff: gzochodne@qpbriefing.com 905-926-8026 Twitter: @geoffzochodne

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