The age of artificial intelligence will usher in change that might to best navigated with the help of universal basic income, according to a former governor of the Bank of Canada. 
 
Stephen Poloz, former head of Canada’s central bank, told BNN Bloomberg in an interview set to air Thursday afternoon that permanent fiscal support for Canadians would help stabilize the economy as it undergoes major technical disruptions.
 
“Basic income is one of the best automatic stabilizers, or at least something along those lines,” Poloz said in a television interview. 
 
TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGES
 
This week, Poloz was announced as the winner of this year’s National Business Book Award for “The Next Age of Uncertainty: How the World Can Adapt to a Riskier Future.” The book gives Poloz’s assessment of economic forces he sees as poised to shape the coming decades, including the advancement of technologies such as artificial intelligence.
 
Speaking with BNN Bloomberg, Poloz argued that the fourth industrial revolution, driven by digitization and robotic technology, is just beginning, and he said society must prepare for it accordingly. 
 
“It’s going to, of course, create a lot of wealth, it’s going to make things easier, it’s going to do what computers did, maybe even more, so we need to find a way to get through that, because it’s going to disrupt maybe 20 to 25 per cent of all jobs in the world,” he said. 
 
Despite the anticipated change, Poloz is adamant that in the long run, more jobs will be created than destroyed from this technology. He said companies must do what they can to retrain employees as well as plan for a changing labour market. 
 
“In a world where we’ll be in a shortage of workers because of the aging demographics, I think there will be a lot of incentive for companies to help their employees work to that next position so they will continue to make a meaningful contributions to the firm,” he explained. 
 
WHAT IS BASIC INCOME
 
Basic income is a poverty reduction model that sees governments provide families and individuals with monthly cheques to help meet their essential needs. 
 
According to Poloz, basic income would help offset the pain of job losses that could come from advances in AI. But in his view, a main hurdle to implementing a basic income model will be political.
 
"I think (basic income) may be the direction that we may need to go, but I would still question the ability of politics to get there. It’s just that you can’t really get people to agree on enough, you can’t really get that consensus,” Poloz said.
 
A high-profile basic income pilot in Ontario was cancelled before it could be completed, which would have been Canada’s biggest test of the model. But another province has recently announced plans for a targeted basic income policy.  
 
This week, the government of Newfoundland Labrador announced plans to introduce a basic income program for residents between the ages of 60 and 64 who are receiving social assistance. That program will be phased in over the three years, the government said.

Ontario launched a three-year basic income pilot project in 2017, but it was cancelled before it could be completed after a change in government.  

Watch the interview with Poloz on BNN Bloomberg at 1:15 p.m. ET on Thursday, Nov. 9.

With files from The Canadian Press