Poverty has long weighed on Hugh Segal’s mind. For decades, the former senator has been a vocal champion for a guaranteed basic income to lift the country’s poorest out of the cycle of poverty. He credits his formative years, growing up in an immigrant family in Montreal’s working-class Plateau neighbourhood, for sowing the seeds of his advocacy.
“What bothers me the most about [poverty] is the amount of people whose lives are being wasted because they’re caught in a scramble of too many jobs, too little pay, insufficient resources to cover rent, food, transport, clothes,” he said, in an interview. “Their kids pay a huge price, and it produces all kinds of difficulties.”
I wrote about Universal Basic Income last May when I attended the Basic Income Conference hosted by Basic Income Nova Scotia. I saw a number of comments and posts about basic income in the last few days as a way to help the workers who are now out of work because of COVID-19.
As I learned, a basic income can help not only low and minimum wage workers, but also gig workers like musicians and artists, as well as entrepreneurs just starting out. Many of these workers are out of an income right now and don’t qualify for EI (although yesterday, Premier Stephen McNeil did say EI should be extended to the self-employed). In yesterday’s Morning File, Tim mentioned the need for a basic income as a bottom-up way to support the economy and workers.
Yesterday, Basic Income Nova Scotia released a statement and a petition calling on the federal government to start a basic-income program now for those workers who may sink into poverty over the next weeks and months. Here’s the full statement:
Winnipeg Free Press
These days no one should need convincing that our economic well-being can be affected by unexpected shocks.
Sometimes these shocks are due to big events, such as the coronavirus pandemic or the great recession in 2008. Sometimes they are due to changes in personal circumstances, such as illness, job loss or the death of a provider.
Individuals can try to plan, but many Canadians are financially strapped at the best of times and do not have the financial margin necessary to support strategies for weathering economic shocks.
After all, as of 2017, the latest year for which data are available, 5,869,110 Canadians lived in poverty (census family low-income measure, after tax).
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has just announced a basic income for Canadians this past week. Well, he didn’t call it that, and yet that’s exactly what happened – at least temporarily.
A basic income ensures everyone an income sufficient to meet basic needs and live with dignity, regardless of one’s work status.
Basic income, in Canada, would look similar to the Canada Child Benefit.
That is, as wages increase the benefit declines, but it declines progressively – not dollar for dollar.