This is not the time for austerity,” said Julie Payette, the governor general of Canada, as she read the latest Canadian throne speech on 23 September. “Canadians should not have to take on debt that their government can better shoulder.”
As in the UK, Canada’s Westminster-style parliament opens new sessions with a speech outlining the government’s forthcoming legislative priorities. Attendance this year was strictly limited to a handful of high-ranking officials, with other governing elites watching online as Payette delivered a programme of spending promises designed to help the country withstand the Covid-19 pandemic.Read more
With the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) having ended on October 3, some are calling on the Canadian government to transition the temporary pandemic income support into a permanent basic income program, or guaranteed regular income, for everyone. (Applications for CERB’s replacement, the Canada Recovery Benefit, open October 12.)
The emergency benefit—which gave $2,000 every four weeks to Canadians who don’t qualify for EI and saw their incomes drop under $1,000 a month due to the coronavirus—saw 8.86 million people, or nearly a quarter of the Canadian population, apply. Advocates hope that the benefit will set the stage for a universal basic income (UBI), and show Canadians that a basic income program is possible.Read more
The COVID-19 pandemic is an awkward time to propose exiting food banks as a response to widespread food insecurity. Food bank use, after all, is surging.
However, research has long shown that feeding surplus food to those left behind in wealthy, food-secure Canada is ineffective, inequitable and an affront to human dignity.
In a democratic society that values tolerance, equity and human rights, food banks are symbols of public policy neglect. They enable indifferent governments to ignore the moral crisis of domestic hunger.Read more
The government of Nunavut is looking at what it would take to have a guaranteed basic income in the territory.
A request for proposals for a feasibility study for a guaranteed basic income program has been issued by the Nunavut Department of Family Services.
A guaranteed basic income is a program that provides individuals and families with income sufficient to live on with few or no conditions for eligibility.
In 2017, 40 per cent of Nunavummiut relied on income assistance, according to the government of Nunavut. In 2019, 37 per cent of residents were on income assistance.Read more
By Sheila Regehr
The Speech from the Throne began with the message that ‘this is not the time for austerity’ and talked about ‘fighting for every Canadian’. The content is far more status quo than bold or transformative, however, and doesn’t match the rhetoric. Canadians from all sectors and walks of life are calling for a basic income to give everyone a fighting chance but it was glaringly absent.
People who have already been living austerely, those who were most vulnerable in the first wave of the pandemic are even more anxious now. Our leaders seem out of touch with this ‘unprecedented’ reality and out of time with a resurgent deadly virus hitting us as Canadian winter is approaching.
Austerity is the fate of people who may lose CERB and other benefits, or didn’t qualify in the first place. They are losing housing, health, the ability to buy food, and hope. These people, as always, are predominantly female, Black, Indigenous and other people of colour, people with disabilities and single people with no one to fall back on. Some of them used to be middle-class and our income security systems failed them. Others have known disadvantage throughout their lives. These are people who can’t protect themselves from COVID-19’s impact the way others can. That is a public health, human rights and economic disaster.Read more
The Energy Mix
Sheila Regehr has been chair of the Basic Income Canada Network since 2014. She’s a retired federal public servant with years of experience working on income security, and past executive director of the National Council of Welfare. With the federal Speech from the Throne coming up today, she explains how a basic income builds up communities, reduces anxiety, and makes a whole host of problems easier to solve—including the climate crisis.
The Energy Mix: What’s the basic argument for a basic income?
Regehr: That’s the most difficult question to start with because it’s so all-encompassing. The very basic idea is that everyone is part of society and the economy. Everyone should be able to participate and benefit from it. In our modern world that takes money. It’s a matter of human rights and dignity, and it’s a common good, the idea of sharing resources.Read more
Read morePress ReleaseSenators Lankin, McCallum and Pate hosted a meeting with Indigenous women leaders and MP Leah Gazan to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on Indigenous women in Manitoba and the place of guaranteed livable basic income in redressing systemic racism and inequality.“We heard so many examples of the ways in which the pandemic has amplified food and income insecurity, the tragedy of horrendous mortality rates, child removal, homelessness and massive incarceration in Winnipeg that are so clearly tied to income level.We also heard the hopefulness of Indigenous women who foresee the links between the development and co-management of social services and guaranteed livable income so that they can afford food, clothing, housing, sending children to recreation programs or on field trips.The women were very clear,” identified Senator Frances Lankin. “For healthy communities, we need healthy families, including sufficient resources, especially money and time, to spend time with children, volunteer in their classes and the community.”