MP Cannings: It’s time to take a serious look at basic income in Canada

The Castlegar Source

COVID-19 has obviously changed our lives in the short term, and now there is a growing consensus that the pandemic will also bring more long-lasting changes to our society—how we value workers, how we treat our seniors, how we house the homeless, how we protect the environment, and more.

One topic that is surfacing more and more often is the idea of a basic income.  One of the first things we learned when the pandemic began was that Employment Insurance was completely inadequate to protect workers from lost income.  Sixty percent of workers do not even qualify for EI.

So the government brought in the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which provides $2000 per month to workers who have lost their income because of the pandemic.  CERB is an essential lifeline for millions of Canadians, but there are still hundreds of thousands who fall through the cracks of the program’s qualifications and therefore can’t access it.

CERB has raised some interesting questions about how we take care of vulnerable Canadians.  Some people have commented to me that $2000 per month is simply not enough to survive on with dignity in Canada.  But we only provide about half that to people who are on social assistance and disability pensions, and only about 75% of that for the combination of Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

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