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Video: Why Can’t They Just Send Us All a Cheque? Debating a Crisis Basic Income

This webcast featuring Jennifer Robson and Ken Boessenkool took place on April 3 as part of our Policy Challenges During a Pandemic series.

In this webcast moderated by Max Bell School Director Chris Ragan, watch Jennifer Robson, Associate Professor at Carleton University, and Ken Boessenkool, public-policy economist, discuss the complexity of delivering government benefits during a crisis.

A crisis basic income would cover almost all Canadians who are working, is automatic rather than application-based, and can be taxed, or clawed back when Canadians file their taxes next year. Ken Boessenkool believes this is the best way forward.

On the other hand, Jennifer Robson argues that Canada’s tax collector does not have a super-database that it can use, on demand, to just print cheques to everyone. Moreover, spending time and money to build one, in the middle of a crisis, would be unethical.

Jennifer Robson

Associate Professor, Carleton University

Prior to joining Carleton, Jennifer Robson was director of policy for the non-profit SEDI (now Prosper Canada) and worked in the federal public service. Between 1994 and 2000, she worked in several political (exempt staff) roles. In 2016, Jennifer served as a member of an Advisory Panel on Tax Expenditures to the Minister of Finance. From 2015 to 2018, she was a member of the National Research Committee on Financial Literacy for the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.


Christopher Ragan

Economics professor and Director, Max Bell School of Public Policy; Chair of Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission

Member of Finance Minister’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth; Former Special Advisor to the Governor of the Bank of Canada; former Clifford Clark Visiting Economist at Finance Canada

Core Policy Course: Global Macroeconomic Policy; Core Policy Course: Microeconomics for Public Policy


Ken Boessenkool 

Partner, Kool Topp & Guy Public Affairs

Ken has worked for, or volunteered in a senior capacity for, Ray Speaker, Preston Manning, Jim Dinning, Stephen Harper, Christy Clark and Ric McIver. He has published numerous policy and academic papers on a range of key national issues, and is a frequent contributor to numerous online and print publications.


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