U of M researcher calls for basic income in the wake of the pandemic
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
WINNIPEG -- A newly released report co-authored by a professor at the University of Manitoba is calling on the federal government to guarantee a basic income for Canadians to help the economy recover from COVID-19.
The report recommends the government create a basic income guarantee of $17,000-$19,000, an amount just above the poverty line.
"We are talking about a targeted program," said Evelyn Forget, a community health sciences professor at U of M and coauthor of the report. "That means that somebody with no income would receive the full amount of the benefit. As their income increases, if they were working and earning some money, their benefit would be reduced by the amount they earned."
The basic income guarantee would replace provincial income assistance, which in Manitoba, is called EIA.
"It also supplements low-income owners," said Forget, "Someone making minimum wage, for example, or someone working part-time would be making less than the poverty line and basic income would allow that person to live above the poverty line."
The report said the benefit should be flexible so it can respond to changing needs.
A MORE EFFICIENT WAY TO DEAL WITH POVERTY
Forget said Canadians are already paying for poverty in indirect ways like healthcare, justice and special education.
"We are already paying a tremendous amount through poverty in this country," she said. "Basic income is saying, okay, is there a more efficient way of dealing with this."
Using healthcare as an example, Forget said social systems are being strained because of poverty.
"A lot of people are in hospital because they've lived really, really hard lives and you know treating poverty through the healthcare system is not a particularity efficient way to address poverty. It's really expensive and not a really effective way."
According to Forget, basic income would not harm employment rates.
"There have been experiments in places like Finland, in the Netherlands, in a lot of low and middle-income countries and every time we try it, it turns out people don't quit their jobs when you offer them a basic income," she noted.
PANDEMIC SHOWS FEDS CAN GET MONEY IN CANADIANS' HANDS
The report said the pandemic has affected many Canadians, specifically low-income earners.
"I think that CERB certainly opened a lot of people's eyes," said Forget, "A lot of people had to rely on CERB who never thought they'd be dependant on government for support."
While CERB is not basic income, it did show the government's ability to run a similar program.
"We also learned that it really was possible for the government to very quickly ramp up a program and get money in people's hands," Forget said.
She believes a basic income guarantee could lead to a much healthier post-pandemic Canada.
"If we make sure families have the resources they need to live reasonable lives, how will our society be different?"
A full version of the report can be found here.