If you were to ask people just a few years ago what they thought about universal basic income (UBI), you likely would have heard a lot of confusion and pessimism about the idea, myself included. The first time I heard about UBI was in 2017 and I was initially very dismissive of the concept.
Jump to today and thanks to growing exposure to the idea, on top of the economic impact of the pandemic, the idea of a UBI has become a lot less foreign and a lot less scary to people.
In fact, it’s become so much more accepted that UBI is even set to take centre stage as one of the major policy proposals to be debated at the Liberal Party’s convention in early April, according to CBC News. In just a few short years, UBI has gone from relative obscurity to a potential national policy proposal, a remarkable feat to be sure.
In the United States, one of the leading proponents of a UBI has been Andrew Yang, an American entrepreneur who gained widespread notoriety after running for president in 2020 on a platform largely centered around a UBI proposal. Yang, who came into the race with no name recognition, went on to garner a pretty impressive following. He has parlayed his presidential campaign into a run for mayor of New York City, which he seems well positioned to win based on recent polling.
One thing that has certainly bolstered the idea in recent times has been the COVID-19 pandemic. With the economy shut down, direct payments to individuals who were out of work was one of, if not the only, major way our service-based economy could keep chugging along. As we all know, in Canada this took the form of the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), wherein the government provided $2,000 a month for four months to those who qualified.
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