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Millennials likely benefit most from Ontario basic minimum income: Expert

Ontario is exploring a pilot program for guaranteed annual income

The idea of a guaranteed minimum income was  also tested in Dauphin, Manitoba in the 1970s.

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The idea of a guaranteed minimum income was also tested in Dauphin, Manitoba in the 1970s.

Ontario is moving forward with exploring the idea of a basic minimum income, something that could be a big win for millennials, according to one University of Toronto expert.

The province announced last week it was appointing former senator Hugh Segal to report back by fall on what a pilot basic minimum income project could look like.

There aren’t many details on what exactly the province is planning, but the idea is to provide eligible people with a minimum level of income.

“For young people, a guaranteed level with no questions asked might actually be a good thing, instead of social assistance,” said Rodney Haddow, associate chair and director of undergraduate studies in the department of political science at the University of Toronto.

“Because they’re dealt with rather more sceptically, very often, by social assistance regimes than anybody else is.”

Young people who are between school and work typically don’t qualify for employment insurance benefits, and the welfare system doesn’t want to disincentive them to work, he added.

Haddow said the idea of a basic minimum income has been around since the 1960s, but there are wildly different models out there at both ends of the political spectrum.

A more conservative version suggests using it to replace other social services, while a more liberal one sees the income being large enough for people to live relatively comfortably without working.

Twenty-three-year-old Zack Medow is writing a book on how to make democracy stronger and is devoting a chapter to guaranteed minimum income, which he thinks would help millennials become more independent.

“It’s no coincidence that the most debt laden generation in our history is the one that everyone jokes about as being unable to leave their parents’ homes,” he said.

Rachel Lissner, a member of the Young Urbanists League, which meets to discus civic-minded issues, said she was excited about the idea at first, and even held a “basic minimum income and chill” night to discuss it.

But now the 27-year-old is unsure, and worries it might end in some social services being streamlined or cut.

“I have so many questions,” she said.

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