Factors Influencing Canadian Public Opinion Toward Basic Income: A Critical Review of Literature


  • Yasmeen Mohiuddin


Basic income, welfare, public policy, public opinion, literature review


The disruption to employment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and introduction of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit has reignited debate about Canada's social safety net and the welfare state in general. The idea of a basic income is not new but has never been implemented at a federal or provincial level. This paper critically examines some of the literature on basic income in Canada as it relates to public opinion on such a policy in theory. There are many academic arguments both in favour of and opposed to basic income, but significantly less research is available on levels and variance of voter support for such a benefit. Most of the literature synthesized is broadly focused on a basic income framework, basic income support in Europe and attitudes toward social assistance in Canada. Drawing almost entirely from peer-reviewed journal articles, this review considers some of the key economic and moral themes surrounding a hypothetical basic income. It also explores how variables, such as region and income, as well as the use of specific terminology in political communication, influence public perception of various social assistance schemes. From a policymaking lens, it is evident that further research - and further education on the part of the public - is required for a clearer understanding of a post-COVID Canadian perspective on basic income.


Angus Reid Institute. (2016). Basic income? Basically unaffordable, say most Canadians. https://angusreid.org/guaranteed-income/. Accessed Oct. 25, 2021

Baranowski, M., & Jabkowski, P. (2021). Basic income support in Europe: A cross-national analysis based on the European Social Survey Round 8. Economics and Sociology, 14(2), 167-183. https://www.proquest.com/docview/2548433425/fulltextPDF/38057FAEA92D4BA0PQ

Calnitsky, D. (2018). "If the work requirement is strong": The business response to basic income proposals in Canada and the US. Canadian Journal of Sociology, 43(3), 291-315. https://www.jstor.org/stable/90025563

Calnitsky, D. (2016). “More normal than welfare”: The MINCOME experiment, stigma, and community experience. Canadian Review of Sociology, 53(1), 26-71. https://doi-org.ezproxy.library.dal.ca/10.1111/cars.12091

Clavet, N.J., Duclos, J.Y., & Lacroix, G. (2013). Fighting poverty: Assessing the effect of guaranteed minimum income proposals in Quebec. Canadian Public Policy, 39(4), 491-516. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23594729

Forget, E. (2011). The town with no poverty: The health effects of a Canadian guaranteed annual income field experiment. Canadian Public Policy, 37(3), 283-305. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23050182

Gazso, A., & Krahn, H. (2008). Out of step or leading the parade? Public opinion about income support policy in Alberta, 1995 and 2004. Journal of Canadian Studies, 42(1), 154-178. https://doi.org/10.1080/01419870.2013.851396

Harell, A., Soroka, S., & Ladner, K. (2014). Public opinion, prejudice and the racialization of welfare in Canada. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 37(14), 2580-2597. https://doi.org/10.1080/01419870.2013.851396

Kesselman, J. R. (2018). Can “self-financing” redeem the basic income guarantee? Disincentives, efficiency cost, tax burdens, and attitudes. Canadian Public Policy, 44(4), 423-437. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26585563

Legein, T., Vandeleene, A., Randour, F., Heyvaert, P., Perrez, J., & Reuchamps, M. (2018). Framing the basic income: An experimental study of how arguments and metaphors influence individuals‘ opinion formation. Basic Income Studies, 13(2), 1-16. https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/bis-2018-0010/html

Matthews, J.S., & Erickson, L. (2008). Welfare state structures and the structure of welfare state support: Attitudes towards social spending in Canada, 1993–2000. European Journal of Political Research, 47(4), 411-435. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-6765.2007.00771.x

Roosma, F. & van Oorschot, W. (2020). Public opinion on basic income: Mapping European support for a radical alternative for welfare provision. Journal of European Social Policy, 30(2), 190-205. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0958928719882827

Segal, H., Banting, K., & Forget, E. (2021). The need for a federal Basic Income feature within any coherent post-COVID-19 economic recovery plan. FACETS, 6(January 2021), 394-402. https://doi.org/10.1139/facets-2021-0015

Stà¥hl, C., & MacEachen, E. (2021). Universal basic income as a policy response to COVID-19 and precarious employment: Potential impacts on rehabilitation and return”‘to”‘work. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 31(1), 3-6. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10926-020-09923-w

Stevens, H. & Simpson, W. (2018). Is Canada ready for real poverty reduction through a universal guaranteed basic income? A rejoinder to Kesselman‘s “Can ‘self-financing‘ redeem the basic income guarantee? Disincentives, efficiency costs, tax burdens, and attitudes.” Canadian Public Policy, 44(4), 438-446. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26585564

Widerquist, K. (2001). Perspectives on the guaranteed income, part I. Journal of Economic Issues, 35(3), 749-757. https://doi-org.ezproxy.library.dal.ca/10.1080/00213624.2001.11506401