Could the CERB program lead Canada toward offering a universal basic income?

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Globe and Mail

When Ottawa unveiled emergency payments of $2,000 to individuals who lost work because of the coronavirus, the program looked to be a stepped-up version of the decades-old Employment Insurance program.

But as the government has moved to fill gaps in the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, the nature of the program is quickly evolving into something that resembles a universal basic income.

A universal basic income, or UBI, would set a minimum income that all Canadians would be eligible to receive, whether they are working, unemployed or unemployable. 

There are many variations on the idea (which has never been tried on a large scale in Canada) but they all have in common the precept that the benefit continues even if an individual has additional earnings.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signalled a big step in the evolution of emergency assistance to individuals on Monday, when he said the government is looking to address three significant gaps in the CERB: people who have lost most, but not all, of their paid work; students who, rather than losing a job, won’t be able to secure one; and full-time workers whose gross pay was less than the $500 weekly CERB benefit.

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