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LETTER: CERB should morph into basic income program

As the world continues to come to grips with COVID-19, some countries are moving towards implementing a basic income policy as they try to deal with massive economic hit the pandemic has brought with it. — Stock image
As the world continues to come to grips with COVID-19, some countries are moving towards implementing a basic income policy as they try to deal with massive economic hit the pandemic has brought with it. — 123RF Stock image

Winnipeg Centre’s NDP MP, Leah Gazan, wants to convert the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) into a permanent basic income that will benefit many groups, such as people who are unemployed, families with low, moderate and fixed incomes, people with disabilities, the working poor and others. She has a motion to put before Parliament.

“COVID-19 has demonstrated that we do have the resources,” she told Global News on Aug. 16. “We must ensure all individuals in Canada can thrive in dignity and that means making investments to ensure basic human rights for all. Motion 46’s goal is to fill the gaps in income and inequalities that have been worsened by the pandemic.”

Since your government implemented CERB within a month or two of the outbreak of COVID-19, it shouldn’t take years or decades to implement the long overdue and much needed basic income and national pharmacare programs.

In response to letters to the editor I have written in the past few months, I have received positive responses from federal and provincial politicians in Canada, including Nova Scotia NDP Leader and MLA Garry Burrill, Newfoundland and Labrador PC Opposition Leader and MHA Ches Crosbie, Newfoundland and NDP Leader and MHA James Dinn, Manitoba Liberal MLA Dougald Lamont and others.

Yes, a guaranteed basic income has been supported by Green Party members, New Democrats, Liberals and Tories and others throughout the land.

But what is the Justin Trudeau government’s response? Ottawa’s policy is no to a national basic income program and yes to federal assistance for any province or territory that wishes to set up a basic income pilot project within their jurisdiction. (I hope Premier Andrew Furey, the finance minister and the minister of skills and labour are taking notes here).

On July 29, Hugues Vaillancourt, senior director for Employment and Social Development Canada, wrote to me on behalf of Families, Children and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen, saying “The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of working with provinces and territories to find solutions to common challenges. However, it is important to acknowledge that it is up to the provincial and territorial governments to make decisions around the design of social assistance systems and policies in their own jurisdictions.

“If a provincial or territorial government decides to establish a basic income pilot, the Government of Canada would be pleased to share federal-level survey, administrative and tax data that could support program design and evaluation.”

To me, any basic income program can be funded by both the federal and provincial governments and be administered jointly or federally or provincially.

Prime minister, we need a national basic income that is just, fair and equitable for all Canadians! Since your government implemented CERB within a month or two of the outbreak of COVID-19, it shouldn’t take years or decades to implement the long overdue and much needed basic income and national pharmacare programs.

It is my hope and prayer that Canadians will see both programs implemented as soon as possible.

Edward Sawdon

St. John’s

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