Liberal-dominated committee calls on Ottawa to study guaranteed income

A Liberal-dominated parliamentary committee is calling on the federal government to explore the concept of guaranteeing people a minimum income.

OTTAWA — A Liberal-dominated parliamentary committee is calling on the federal government to explore the concept of guaranteeing people a minimum income.

The finance committee has tabled a pre-budget report that recommends a study and pilot project on basic income — which is seen as a way to lift people out of poverty.

The committee also urges the Liberals to examine the feasibility of a universal, national, prescription drug program and provide targeted support for regional economies hit particularly hard by the weak dollar and low commodity prices.

They are among 56 recommendations in a document that calls on the federal government to act on a broad range of subjects — from aboriginal issues to labour mobility to a national transit strategy.

The House of Commons finance committee says it heard pre-budget suggestions from 92 witnesses last month and received another 175 written submissions from individuals and groups.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau will present the Liberals’ maiden budget on March 22.

Independent Liberal Sen. Art Eggleton recently tabled a motion asking the federal government to sponsor a pilot project to evaluate the cost and impact of introducing a national basic income program, along with at least one province or territory.

Eggleton says efforts to address poverty have failed and argues that existing programs have only entrapped people.

Guaranteed income is on the radar of Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, an economist who studied the issue as an academic.

“Mr. Duclos follows the evolution of the basic-income issue, but at the moment the minister’s priorities are found in his mandate letter,” said Duclos’s spokesman Mathieu Filion.

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