April 10, 2016 7:54 am
Updated: April 10, 2016 8:18 am

‘Time to take a serious look at basic annual guaranteed income’: Halifax mayor

WATCH: Basic income was the topic of heated discussion in Halifax Saturday. It's a form of income distribution in which people earn an allowance to pay for basic expenses. Ontario is set to test the idea, but there is growing talk about implementing the concept on a national level, and as Global's Steve Silva reports, there is support for piloting the program provincially.

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The adoption of a guaranteed basic income continues to grow support and get calls for consideration in Halifax, among other communities in Canada.

“Now is the time to take a serious look at basic annual guaranteed income. Today’s talks are needed to end poverty,” tweeted Halifax Mayor Mike Savage Saturday morning.

He spoke at a conference, titled “Basic Income Guarantee: The Time is Right”, at Halifax Central Library.

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There are already programs in place to help Canadians with paying for home rent, food, etc., but the argument is a basic income, also called “minimum income”, would merge all of those into more efficient payments.

“This is actually a very, very good return on investment. For every dollar we invest in basic income, we’re going to yield multiple dollars in benefits downstream,” said Rob Rainer, a spokesperson for Basic Income Canada Network.

He used the example of healthcare spending.

People with lower incomes are generally found to be less healthy than those with higher incomes; some government funding used on healthcare (and programs to fix the imbalance) could instead be used to boost incomes.

“That, alone, I think is a compelling reason,” said Rainer.

The aim is to prevent poverty.

The exact model is still being determined, but one option could be, for example, to give someone a maximum of $20,000 a year if they don’t earn any other income; the more they earn from other sources, the less basic income they get.

Earlier this year, the government of Ontario announced a pilot project for a basic income in its latest budget.

READ MORE: Support for guaranteed minimum income rises in Ontario, poll finds 

Senator Art Eggleton has asked for the federal government to consider trying one, too.

“We are the level of government that is closest to the people who are affected,” said Waye Mason, councillor of Halifax South Downtown, who attended the conference.

He said a basic income would streamline several programs, such as employment insurance, and that he would like to see the concept tested or fully adopted in the province.

“I think it would address a lot of the issues that we see in terms of poverty and justice, and having a fairer distribution of wealth in society,” said Mason.

Michael Oddy, a high school teacher from Hubbards, N.S.,  said he’s seen how being from a low-income family can leave students disadvantaged.

Should the government legislate the concept, he said there would be benefits for students and businesses.

“These people are not going to be taking this money and going out to Turks and Caicos or tax havens, they’re going to come and spend it right back in our local economy,” said Oddy.

As for how much people who qualified for such a system would earn, Rainer said, “It’s going to be a political decision, in the end.”

The conference, which ran from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., attracted more than 200 people.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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