CERB controversy should spur basic income development

The Star - Sheila Regehr

The Canadian Emergency Response Benefit CERB put cash in people’s hands, quickly, when COVID-19 hit. It was a smart and remarkable achievement. It looked like the beginnings of a basic income — but it wasn’t quite. It left out people who needed it. It got complicated with conditions, changes, interactions with other emergency benefits, and with provincial and territorial regimes. It confused applicants and recipients as their circumstances changed.

Now, CERB repayment demands are causing hardship, and while amnesty is needed that’s only a temporary reprieve, for some. The pandemic’s viral and economic toll is still rising.

Long-standing inequalities and poverty are deepening and there’s no vaccine for that. If Canada hopes to withstand this crisis and “build back better” we need concrete government action on the path to a basic income. The human consequences of inaction are almost unthinkable.

A basic income guarantee is bold, simple, common-sense. A national program that ensures we all live with dignity, meet basic needs, and retain stability and security as our income rises. No matter who we are or where in Canada we live, it matters when our other income is too low. We trust seniors and parents of children under 18 with unconditional payments like this. They’ve made lives better and stimulated the economy.

Seniors’ and children’s income guarantees have already put Canada successfully on the path to a basic income; we now need to take down the roadblocks to trust and invest in people at all stages of our lives.

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