CERB controversy should spur basic income development

Posted on January 12, 2021 in Social Security Debates

Source: — Authors:

TheStar.com – Opinion/Contributors

The Canadian Emergency Response Benefit CERB put cash in people’s hands, quickly, when COVID-19 hit. It was a smart and remarkable achievement. It looked like the beginnings of a basic income — but it wasn’t quite. It left out people who needed it. It got complicated with conditions, changes, interactions with other emergency benefits, and with provincial and territorial regimes. It confused applicants and recipients as their circumstances changed.

Now, CERB repayment demands are causing hardship, and while amnesty is needed that’s only a temporary reprieve, for some. The pandemic’s viral and economic toll is still rising. Long-standing inequalities and poverty are deepening and there’s no vaccine for that. If Canada hopes to withstand this crisis and “build back better” we need concrete government action on the path to a basic income. The human consequences of inaction are almost unthinkable.

A basic income guarantee is bold, simple, common-sense. A national program that ensures we all live with dignity, meet basic needs, and retain stability and security as our income rises. No matter who we are or where in Canada we live, it matters when our other income is too low. We trust seniors and parents of children under 18 with unconditional payments like this. They’ve made lives better and stimulated the economy.

Seniors’ and children’s income guarantees have already put Canada successfully on the path to a basic income; we now need to take down the roadblocks to trust and invest in people at all stages of our lives.

The evidence from many basic income programs, pilots and other studies is overwhelmingly positive for individuals, communities, society and the economy. Support is widespread and growing, including in the Senate and House of Commons.

Rigorous modelling shows that Canada has affordable design and funding options. Simplicity, fairness and transparency are part of the deal. It’s a matter of priorities. Basic income should not be a partisan issue but it is a political and ethical one.

Tragically, current public policy reality is at odds with political leaders’ claims to help everyone who is struggling. We’re told, in words and actions, “not yet.” But people in need can’t wait. Charities can’t cope with demand and know they can’t deliver social justice.

Those of us who are managing all right can’t allow our physically distanced bubbles to morally distance us from the daily crises that too many are expected to endure. We must be visible, noisy and creative in calling for a basic income for the common good.

Political leaders have the opportunity of a lifetime in 2021, and Canada has the brains, capacity, and experience it takes, to create a legacy of income security for all that is comparable to universal health care. Basic income will get us a faster, more inclusive recovery and lasting progress toward a healthier, happier society for everyone.

Sheila Regehr is chair of Basic Income Canada Network, a retired federal public servant, and co-author with Chandra Pasma of “Basic Income: Some Policy Options for Canada.”

Tags: , , , , , , ,

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 12th, 2021 at 11:42 am and is filed under Social Security Debates. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply