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Justin Trudeau Could Be "The Secret Weapon For Universal Basic Income"

The Canadian leader could help nudge a radical new social and economy policy into the U.S. mainstream, former labor leader Andy Stern said at the "Breakfast at BuzzFeed" series Thursday.

Posted on August 11, 2016, at 3:15 p.m. ET

Justin Trudeau / Via

Canada's widely-beloved, oft-shirtless prime minister could help nudge the U.S. toward a radical new social and economic policy, according to one of America's most influential labor leaders.

The idea of a universal basic income — essentially a minimum salary paid to everyone, whether or not they are working — has been around for generations, but has enjoyed a new burst of attention in recent years as technology eats away at full-time jobs. And Justin Trudeau could be just the man to make it go mainstream in the U.S., said former union leader Andy Stern.

"Trudeau and the Liberal party had a basic income plank in their platform, and his father, who was prime minister as well, did a basic income experiment," Stern said in an interview with BuzzFeed News on Thursday. "He now has a Minister of Services who wrote a book on basic income in the 1980's, when no-one even knew what it was, and they’re talking about experimenting in Quebec and Ontario."

Trudeau's youth and "coolness" would also help, as would his country's proximity to the United States, Stern said. So far, only Switzerland has held a national referendum on a basic income, and it was defeated by a sizable margins. An experiment in Canada would bring the issue much closer to home.

"Given that Canada is right across the border, we’re going to pay more attention to it than to Finland or other places experiments are about to go on,” said Stern.

Since stepping down in 2010 as president of the 2.2 million-member Service Employees International Union, Stern has spent much of his time thinking about the future of work in America. He also authored a new book, Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income Can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream.

Watch the full video of his interview with BuzzFeed News here:

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.