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Budget officer pegs cost of basic income as calls for it grow due to COVID-19

Last Updated Jul 7, 2020 at 8:33 am PDT

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Summary

Government watchdog says idea of giving people a basic income could cost more than $98 billion

The $98 billion figure is the upper range of the scenarios the budget watchdog was asked to research

Cost could range between $47.5 billion and $98.1 billion for six months of granted basic income beginning in October

OTTAWA — The parliamentary budget office says it could cost more than $98 billion to provide almost all Canadians with a basic income for six months beginning this fall.

That figure is the upper range of the scenarios the budget watchdog was asked to research as part of a report out Tuesday morning.

The idea of providing a basic income to Canadians has taken on more steam as millions have watched their jobs or earnings evaporate in the COVID-19 pandemic, and the federal spending of about $174 billion to provide a financial floor for individuals and businesses.

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The cost for the federal government could range between $47.5 billion and $98.1 billion for six months of a granted basic income beginning in October, depending on how much is clawed back as incomes rise.

Budget officer Yves Giroux’s report says the average benefit to Canadians aged 18 to 64 would range between $4,500 and $4,800, with the number of recipients rising depending on the phase-out rate.

Giroux’s report says the government could repeal $15 billion in tax measures to offset the overall cost of a basic income program.