Two-thirds of Manitobans support basic income

A majority of Manitobans support the idea of a guaranteed minimum income, and even more believe governments should lean on big business and rich people to pay for the COVID-19 pandemic, a new poll has found.

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This article was published 06/05/2020 (999 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A majority of Manitobans support the idea of a guaranteed minimum income, and even more believe governments should lean on big business and rich people to pay for the COVID-19 pandemic, a new poll has found.


Probe Research surveyed online 803 randomly selected Manitoba adults from April 24 to 28. The sample was taken from both Probe’s online panel and a national surveyor, and slightly weighted for age, gender and region.

Technically, online samples do not have margins of errors like phone samples, but Probe says its results should be interpreted as having an MOE of 3.46 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

“This has really thrown into focus how precarious people’s incomes are. And that’s why I think we’re seeing the high degree of support for a universal basic income (UBI),” said Curtis Brown, a principal at Probe Research.

His firm polled 803 Manitobans online a week ago, asking to what extent they’d support governments taking various steps “after the pandemic is over” to “help people and businesses.”

The polling, released Tuesday to the Free Press and CTV Winnipeg, found the most support for raising taxes on corporations and high-income earners.

But Probe also found 62 per cent support “introducing a universal basic income,” with majority support across income, age and employment sector.

PC voters, however, were the least supportive, at 40 per cent.

The enthusiasm for a “mincome” doesn’t justify rushing into such a program, said Derek Hum, a former University of Manitoba professor who oversaw Canada’s only major basic-income experiment.

“It is not a time to make dramatic social program changes on a permanent basis, with very questionable constitutional backing right now,” said Hum, who oversaw the four-year “mincome” experiment in Winnipeg and Dauphin, which ended in 1978.

While millions have embraced the federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit, Hum said the monthly $2,000 isn’t necessarily how either a universal basic income or a guaranteed annual income would work.

“The term ‘basic income’ has cropped up in the context of this virus, but people have no idea what it is, and they are free to construct in their own mind what they think (it is),” he said.

Hum said the Probe survey is interesting, but doesn’t meet an academic standard for researching the issue.

“There has never been a good, national poll in the pre-virus context of what people think about this, that I think is reliable,” he said.

“Obviously, there is a heightened awareness of it now, and probably an uptick in support that might not be there in normal times.”

Prior to the coronavirus shutdown, the Pallister government had favoured making Manitoba a low-tax destination for businesses.

The premier might have to reconsider that policy, with the poll finding 82 per cent of Manitobans support “increasing tax rates paid by large corporations.” The poll also found 75 per cent support  for increasing income tax rates for higher-income citizens.

Both measures were more popular among women and lower-income respondents, but they even garnered majority support among PC voters, who tend to dislike tax increases.

“If the provincial or federal government were to think about ways to increase revenue, the easiest way for them to do that politically would be to increase taxes on wealthy people or corporations. But there’s a lot of reasons why that might not happen,” said Brown, noting that both tend to find ways to avoid paying taxes or move to other jurisdictions.

Forty-two per cent of Manitobans said they support increasing sales taxes. 

Premier Brian Pallister had planned to drop the PST by a percentage point,  to six per cent, but cancelled the plan when COVID-19 hit the province.

Brown said sales taxes tend to be a tangible expense, and people tend to support lowering them. 

“It’s something that everyone’s affected by in some way, as opposed to saying companies should pay more,” he said.

Brown added that poll respondents tend to be reluctant to raise the PST when a specific percentage is proposed, because the cost is easier to understand.

Among the five options in the poll, Manitobans had the least enthusiasm (16 per cent) for increasing taxes on small business.

Brown said the views align with the popularity of buy-local campaigns and concern that large corporations will outlive local businesses because they can take on more debt and have more flexible supply chains.

Probe poll on universal basic income and tax measures for life after COVID-19

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