How to build a better Canada after COVID-19: Transform CERB into a basic annual income program

The Conversation

COVID-19 has prompted the federal government to support individuals through the Canada Economic Emergency Benefit (CERB).

Simultaneously, advocacy for a basic annual income has exploded, with some suggesting the CERB could evolve into a basic income.

Basic income has become the Swiss Army knife of social policy.

Beyond offering sufficient income to manage the daily expenses of living, advocates believe it will improve health and psychological outcomes, enhance distributive justice, mitigate the employment effects of automation, spur gender equality, create true freedom, improve the esthetics of existence and transform the relationship between people and work.

I suggest a basic income program is necessary, but not sufficient, for a complete economic safety net.

My observations are based in part on the lessons from Canada’s two basic income experiments: the Manitoba Basic Annual Income Experiment (Mincome), which was conducted from 1974 to 1979, and the Ontario Basic Income Pilot (OBIP), a short-lived experiment by the former Ontario government of Kathleen Wynne that ended in 2018. I have been working with Mincome data since 1981 and also served as a technical adviser to OBIP.

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