Why Canada is now debating a basic income model

New Statesman

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.

Although short on specifics, the speech left open possibilities for Justin Trudeau’s centre-left Liberal government to adopt radical, longer-term measures. It contained promises of expensive extra support for child care and prescription drugs, as well as millions of new jobs and additional emergency support for small businesses. And while the speech made no direct mention of a basic income model, the concept has been gaining momentum on the Canadian left.

Six Liberal MPs have since proposed a policy resolution for a guaranteed minimum income, which party delegates voted to fast-track to the debate floor ahead of their national convention in November. 

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