Basic Income supporters from across Canada support PEI for first province-wide program

Marie Burge

The PEI Working Group for a Livable Income, established in 2003, is receiving support from across Canada for its work toward establishing Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) in PEI. The Working Group had developed its campaign in 2013 and called it C-BIG PEI (https://cbigpei.wixsite.com/c-big-pei)

In late November a national initiative group on BIG was formed, made up of promoters representing nine provinces and one territory. The Kingston and Area Group for BIG were the original motivators, having previously identified PEI as an ideal place to start a Basic Income program. The understanding is that it would be a permanent, fully-funded, federal-provincial program. The promoters from across the country see the advantage of having BIG established in a complete provincial jurisdiction.The size of the PEI provides minimal complications.

It is rare for Prince Edward Island to be the center of interest for other parts of the country. In this the involved provincial groups are not only interested, but ask C-BIG PEI to provide guidance. The promoters from the provinces and territory indicate that this is not just about PEI. The goal is to establish BIG in this province as a stepping stone for full Basic Income Guarantee as a permanent national program.

The first action of the national initiative group for BIG was to write individual letters to the leaders of all four political parties in PEI and to the chair of the Special Committee of the Legislature on Poverty in Prince Edward Island. Eleven letters from 6 provinces and 1 territory have already arrived on the desks of those politicians.

One of the groups which wrote to PEI politicians was the Basic Income Peterborough Network (BIPN) which has been advocating for BIG for all Canadians since 2015.  This is an excerpt from their letter to Premier Dennis King: “BIPN wants you to know that we support your progressive stand on basic income. We believe that Prince Edward Island is an ideal location for BIG (Basic Income Guarantee) to be implemented.  We see a Prince Edward Island BIG program as an important step towards establishing BIG across Canada. Implementation in PEI would lead the way in learning how BIG could be rolled out across the country… We envision a BIG that ensures that everyone has an income sufficient to meet basic needs and to live with dignity, regardless of work status. This income security will make it possible for citizens to pursue educational, occupational, social, and health opportunities relevant to them.”

The cross-country BIG promoters are impressed by the level of interest and commitment that Island politicians continue to express. This involves the number of times Basic Income Guarantee appears in election debates, media interviews and in the legislature. It is common knowledge that the PEI Legislative Assembly on two occasions (2016 and 2019) have unanimously passed a motion to move forward with the work on basic income for PEI. At the same time, C-BIG PEI is noted for having led an ongoing, widespread and in-depth community engagement around Basic Income Guarantee. As well, the people involved in C-BIG PEI indicate that the local media provides many opportunities to get messages out to the general public.

The next step for the national initiative group will be to make their positions known at the federal level to Members of Parliament and the Senate. This is essential because for BIG in Canada to succees it must be a federal-provincial program. The national promoters already know a number of MPs and senators who are firm supporters. Two PEI MPs, Sean Casey and the Honourable Wayne Easter, took impressive steps in the last government to promote Basic Income for PEI. Both have been re-elected. Local advocates are encouraging them to continue that work. As, well, C-BIG PEI is encouraging MP Robert  Morrissey and the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay to support establishing Basic Income Guarantee in Prince Edward Island.

--Marie Burge, is with Cooper Institute, one of the organizations belonging to the PEI Working Group for a Livable Income, founded in 2003. It established in 2013 a campaign for Basic Income Guarantee in PEI (C-BIG PEI)