The government of Prince Edward Island (PEI) has taken a major step forward toward the implementation of a universal basic income (UBI) for citizens of the small Canadian province as state legislature has approved the proposed initiative.
The four political party leaders in PEI unanimously supported the decision to work with the country’s government to establish a hopefully successful pilot program that could lower poverty, improve health, reduce crime, and raise education levels. Successfully passing the legislation is just the beginning, however. They now have to bring the system to reality and successfully implement it.
Despite this challenge, PEI legislators are optimistic about the initiative’s potential for success. “People that are taken out of poverty or given a means by which they can survive and really thrive in life tend to move on to do great things in life and really focus on the things they want to do,” Liberal Charlottetown-Brighton MLA Jordan Brown told CBC News.
Universal basic income is a form of social security by which all the citizens of a given state or country are guaranteed to regularly receive a sum of money in addition to income generated from other means. The concept is a controversial one that has been the source of much recent debate given advancements in technology that are rendering many jobs obsolete.
Those in support of the system say it can help save on welfare administration costs, reduce poverty traps, and provide people with more autonomy through genuine social security. They believe UBI is an investment in citizens that gives them the opportunity to be more productive members of society. Detractors, on the other hand, believe that the program can make a state vulnerable to inflation, may erode private property, and have a negative impact on labor.
The legislators believe a balanced system would avoid these pitfalls. “The key to making universal basic income programs successful is the level at which the basic income is set,” Brad Trivers, PC MLA for Rustico-Emerald, said to CBC News. “Because it has to be enough so that people are not living in poverty, but it can’t take away the incentive to go out and work.”
As the smallest province in Canada, PEI is an ideal location for a pilot UBI program. Once implemented, the government will have a chance to evaluate the system’s impact and assess whether its benefits are worth the cost. No doubt many of the world’s other countries will be watching as well.