Pandemic making the case for basic income

CBC News

As every schoolchild knows, it was the First World War that brought Canadian women into the workplace (though of course, they had always been working). Even after the men returned from the front, women continued to work — and what was a temporary change turned into a new societal norm.

The Great War left us with another supposedly temporary measure: income tax. "I have placed no time limit upon this measure," said then finance minister Thomas White in 1917. "A year or two after the war is over, the measure should be reviewed."

We all know how that turned out.

Like governments around the world, the Trudeau government has used the rhetoric of wartime to describe the fight against the novel coronavirus. Wars and pandemics sometimes bring with them economic measures that would be unthinkable in normal times.

For proponents of a universal basic income (or UBI), governments' responses to the pandemic offer a moment of opportunity — and of vindication.

A way to buy time

"I think the coronavirus has exposed some of the problems with the economy that have led to this movement from the beginning, and it's going to accelerate them," said Floyd Marinescu, CEO of software learning company C4Media and a founder of the basic income lobby group UBI Works.

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