A federal spending watchdog says it could cost federal coffers more than $76 billion a year to provide a national, guaranteed minimum income similar to the one being tested in Ontario.
The parliamentary budget officer says the federal government would have to find about $43.1 billion to cover the full cost of the program because Ottawa already spends about $32.9 billion a year on support to low-income Canadians.
A guaranteed minimum income often means different things to different people, but at its core it can be described as a no-strings-attached benefit that governments provide to citizens instead of various targeted social benefits.
The budget office report released today estimates that annual payments under a federal program to eligible individuals would amount to $16,989, while couples would receive $24,027, before deductions for any income earned.
More than 7.5 million people would benefit from the measure, the report says.
The federal Liberals have been lukewarm to the idea at a national level, arguing that the Canada Child Benefit, among other measures, amounts to a guaranteed minimum income.