Proposal for basic income guarantee is in the works

Alternatives North is working with a national organization to prepare a report on what a basic income guarantee could look like in the Northwest Territories.

On Wednesday, the Yellowknife-based social and environmental justice coalition – working with the Basic Income Canada Network – held an online forum to foster discussion on the topic and raise awareness.

A basic income is generally a government payment that ensures everyone has enough money to meet basic needs, participate in society and live with dignity, regardless of work or other status, said Basic Income Canada Network chair Sheila Regehr in Wednesday’s meeting.


“It’s universal, which means there’s no distinction between deserving and undeserving people in a society,” she said.

A basic income guarantee is slightly different, in that it raises everyone’s income to a minimum level. People with low incomes get the most out of the program, but as a person’s income increases, payments decrease.

During Wednesday’s meeting, participants discussed the benefits of basic income guarantee, how it should mesh with other social programs in the territory, and the many unique circumstances that need to be considered when designing a program in the North.

Two bills currently in Parliament call for a national framework to develop a Guaranteed Livable Basic Income, according to a press release from Alternatives North.

The discussion at the forum and ensuing report aim to make sure that NWT residents’ needs aren’t overlooked at the national level, Andrew McCann, from Basic Income Canada Network, said during the forum.


Basic Income Canada Network now expects to complete a report in March that will be distributed to Alternatives North and the NWT government, and made available in print and online.

Over the past three years, NWT ministers have rejected on multiple occasions the suggestion of a basic income guarantee.

“We are making investments in this area, making investments to reduce the cost of living. But a guaranteed basic income is not one of those,” employment minister RJ Simpson said in November last year.

Asked in March last year to see if the federal government would consider a basic income pilot project in the NWT, Premier Caroline Cochrane said she had had no discussions with Ottawa on the subject and her government already had 22 mandate priorities to address.