Redesign strategies

Integrated income security architecture

The current patchwork of initiatives and the way certain elements work against each other  indicates the need for a fully integrated architecture.  Ironically, one of the early social security proposals was a comprehensive plan based on assuring everyone sufficient support to obtain a nourishing diet (Marsh, 1943), but the government of the day cherry picked Marsh's recommendations and we've been dealing with the consequences ever since.  At this stage, a comprehensive architecture is required that fully integrates social insurance programs that offer temporary stabilization of income with poverty reduction initiatives.  Equally important is quality remunerative work (discussed particularly under Goals 8 and 9), and improvement to universal services, such  as pharmacare, dental care, mental healthcare, childcare and housing  (MacEwen et al., 2020).  Curiously, the BC Expert Panel on Basic Income used these requirements as a reason to reject GAI as an element of the architecture, as if the only option was GAI versus a range of  programming (Green et al., 2020), but the approach taken here is that GAI serves a role as part of an integrated approach.

Several updated comprehensive plans have been proposed since Marsh, but the one most consistent with the approach was developed by Stapleton (2008a) and is presented here with some adaptation based on legislated changes and recent proposals regarding GAI.  Stapleton proposed an account-based approach that builds on existing elements and would provide Canadians with credits over a lifetime.  Not all programs are currently structured this way and some would require modification to be consistent with this approach.  Provincial and federal poverty reduction strategies would need to reflect this approach and enhancements.

Table: An account based model of income security (adapted from Stapleton, 2008a)

Program type Demographic
Children Seniors Working age adults
Base benefit Federal and provincial Child  Benefits OAS, CPP, enhanced rates Modified EI as per Efficiency
Income-tested National Child Benefit Supplement

Improved child care support programs (beyond existing child tax benefits)

GIS, enhanced atesB GAI (could progressively expand to a model proposed by Pasma and Regehr (2019)

Disability support program (top ups to GAI or eliminated depending on model)*

Other supports associated with previous welfare programs, enhanced housing benefits

GST credit, Canada Workers Benefit, Other refundable credits as per Efficiency (or eliminated depending on GAI model)

Registered tax-saving RESP RPP


TFSA, low income participation enhanced

RDSP, enhanced

Matching contributions Canada Learning Bond /


Enhanced tax credits and exemptions Enhanced EI training (credits for contributions),  RDSP matching credits

*Note that the 2020 federal budget announced a Disability Benefit, but it is not clear  how it might support the approach set out here. Again, depending on the model, it may also be important for disability support programs that assist with devices and equipment would continue (Forget and Regehr, 2020).