There appears to be mounting public support in Ontario for a guaranteed minimum income to combat poverty, according to a new poll.
Premier Kathleen Wynne is touting a pilot project expected as early as next year over what she calls “a real concern around the way social assistance works in Ontario.”
The scheme would guarantee a basic living income regardless of a recipient’s employment status.
Forum Research Inc. found that Ontarians are open to the idea — if it replaces the myriad of existing “social assistance, welfare and other provincial support payments.”
Of those polled, 41 per cent back the concept while 33 per cent oppose and 26 per cent don’t know.
“Attitudes are changing quickly in North America on certain social issues,” Forum president Lorne Bozinoff said Tuesday.
Bozinoff noted he last polled on the idea of a guaranteed minimum income in 2012 and only 27 per cent of respondents across Canada were supportive.
“Times have changed,” he said.
“The whole country — and Ontario, too — has kind of moved to the left and the Liberals have moved with it.”
In last month’s provincial budget, Finance Minister Charles Sousa said the “pilot project will 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.”
“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,” Sousa said Feb. 25.
Two weeks ago, Wynne pointed out that a 1974 federal government basic-income test in Dauphin, Man., led to fewer hospital visits, reduced mental health problems, and higher school grades and graduation rates.
“That was in the ’70s — I want to see what, in 2016, it would look like to actually set up a project and see if we could get some better outcomes,” she said in a CBC Radio interview broadcast on March 17.
“We’re already paying billions of dollars in terms of social assistance. So are we using that money in the best way possible? That’s the question that I have for a project like this.”
Where appropriate, the data has been statistically weighted by age, region, and other variables to ensure that the sample reflects the actual population according to the latest Census data. Forum houses its poll results in the Data Library of the University of Toronto political science department.
AARON VINCENT ELKAIM / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO