Advocates hopeful CERB will pave way for universal basic income

CBC News

Advocates for a universal basic income say they're hopeful the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) program, introduced to help unemployed and underemployed Canadians through the pandemic, will pave the way toward a more equitable system for all.

Turning the CERB into a universal basic income is the logical progression for the program, according to Elaine Power, a Queen's University researcher and member of the Basic Income Canada Network in Kingston, Ont.

"There's more and more pressure on the government, I would say, to extend the CERB. I think the basic income would be a logical extension of CERB, and it's a more rational plan," Power told Ottawa Morning on Thursday.

The Parliamentary Budget Office has started to study the potential cost of providing a basic income for Canadians for six months, a move Power called "very exciting news."

The idea already has the support of some members of the Senate, including B.C. Sen. Yuen Pau Woo.

With the CERB set to expire in October, Power said now would be the right time to consider making the transition to a universal basic income, which is like CERB but would be universally available, not tied to employment.

On Wednesday, Finance Minister Bill Morneau presented his fiscal snapshot in the House of Commons, and said the government is committed to delivering emergency aid to struggling Canadians. 

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