Nunavut to look at guaranteed basic income program

The Department of Family Services has a request for proposal out for a feasibility study on a program that would guarantee Nunavummiut a living wage.

Feasibility study on the program scheduled to be finished by 2021

The Nunavut Department of Family Services has issued a request for proposals for a feasibility study for a guaranteed basic income program in the territory. (Sara Frizzell/CBC)

The government of Nunavut is looking at what it would take to have a guaranteed basic income in the territory. 

A request for proposals for a feasibility study for a guaranteed basic income program has been issued by the Nunavut Department of Family Services.

A guaranteed basic income is a program that provides individuals and families with income sufficient to live on with few or no conditions for eligibility. 

In 2017, 40 per cent of Nunavummiut relied on income assistance, according to the government of Nunavut. In 2019, 37 per cent of residents were on income assistance. 

"The significant impact of the ransomware attack on Nunavut government public services and the current COVID-19 pandemic have demonstrated the need for improvement in the Income Assistance Regulations and administrative processes," says the request for proposals.

"There is a need for a long-term, simplified and sustainable solution to providing financial supports to those most in need, while not creating a disincentive to participate in the economy."

CBC News requested an interview with the Department of Family Services, but was denied because the request for proposals is still open.

Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main has voiced his support for a basic income program in Nunavut. (Beth Brown/CBC )

Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main has spoken up in support of Nunavut trying a basic income program

Main said in March that some of his constituents say income assistance makes them dependent on the program because it disincentivizes participation in the labour force. 

Family Services Minister Elisapee Sheutiapik said the department was not ready for an alternative to income assistance at the time, but wouldn't rule the basic income program out. 

According to the request for proposals, a 2016 report on the review and reform of income assistance made 15 recommendations to the Department of Family Services for changing the income assistance program. 

The department has implemented nine of these changes, which have allowed people on income assistance to save more money and make more money while participating in the program.

Income assistance in Nunavut is provided in four programs: the day care subsidy, the senior citizen supplementary benefit, the senior fuel subsidy and income assistance. 

Income assistance is for anyone 18 and older whose basic needs, such as rent, food, and utilities, are greater than their income. 

The feasibility study's goal is to come up with solutions for how the program could be implemented with an initial report due by Jan 31. A final report on the program would be due no later than Dec. 31, 2021. 

The request for proposals closes on Oct. 9. 


Jackie McKay


Jackie McKay is a Métis journalist working for CBC Indigenous covering B.C. She was a reporter for CBC North for more more than five years spending the majority of her time in Nunavut. McKay has also worked in Whitehorse, Thunder Bay, and Yellowknife. Follow her on Twitter @mckayjacqueline.


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