A bold Conservative platform would include universal basic income

Policy Options

Out of a party leadership race that seemed perpetually overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic and protests for racial justice, Canada’s Conservatives elected as their leader a mild-mannered, former air force officer and lawyer.

Erin O’Toole, a cabinet minister in the Harper government, now has the tough job of convincing Canadians that he is markedly different than the two previous Conservative leaders. In his maiden speech as leader, O’Toole assured Canadians that he would lead a Conservative Party where anyone — regardless of race, sexual orientation or length of time in Canada — could feel welcome.

While that rhetoric is helpful when running for the leadership of a political party, over 95 percent of Canadians don’t join political parties and Conservatives would be better served to focus on delivering on Canadians’ priorities.

And with the potential of a fall election on the horizon, there has never been a better time for bold and courageous policies that would provide support to Canadians who are still struggling. These policies should be funded by raising taxes on those who have been unfairly avoiding it for decades.

The vast majority (80 percent) of people in Ontario, a province the Conservatives desperately need to win if they are to form government, believe that the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) should continue. Of the 8.66 million applicants for CERB across the country, the greatest proportion (1 in 4 applicants) have been those aged 25-34 years. The pandemic is clearly hitting younger Canadians the hardest — another group Conservatives have struggled to attract.

Promoting a guaranteed income for Canadians of all ages would help to both ease Canadians’ fears about their own and the country’s financial uncertainty, and give the Canadian economy an essential boost. Canadian economists have noted that because CERB effectively replaced people’s lost wages, it helped increase consumer spending. This demonstrates that when low-income people — who were most impacted by job losses — receive government transfers, they spend it. The potential fallout of removing meaningful government aid could be enormous. Canada’s biggest banks have earmarked billions in loan loss provisions for their personal and business customers, who they fear may not be able to make regular payments on their credit cards, mortgages, and lines of credit.

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