A response to BC’s report from its expert panel on basic income

As an advocate for basic income, I am disappointed that the BC Government’s expert panel on basic income did not recommend a livable basic income guarantee (BIG) that would provide income security for all people living in poverty in BC, regardless of their work status. The report unfortunately sets up a basic income as an “either/or” proposition, instead of a “yes/and” one. The panel rejects a BIG and makes 65 recommendations on how to fix existing supports and services.

I am disappointed that the expert panel recommended a targeted basic income for some working-age adults in BC, but not for others. Do I think people with disabilities need a livable basic income guarantee combined with the social supports and services they also need? Yes, I do. And so do youth aging out of care and adults fleeing violence. But so do single parents (mostly women) who live in poverty, and so does any other low-income working-age adult. Each of us deserves to have both income security and the social supports and services we need to meet our unique challenges and vulnerabilities so we can live with dignity, regardless of our work status.

I also recognize, as do most basic income advocates, that income alone is not sufficient. I support many of the expert panel’s recommendations to improve and enhance BC’s social services and supports, including extended health care benefits, housing supports, work supports, labour regulation reforms, education and training, and programs that support social inclusion and promote labour market attachment.

I believe, as most basic income advocates do, that a BIG is best funded and delivered by the federal government. It should be administered like other large Canadian income transfer programs, such as the Canada Child Benefit, Old Age Security, Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors, as well as the Canada Pension Plan and a reformed Employment Insurance program. I want all low-income working-age adults who need it to receive a livable basic income guarantee. This is the only way to prevent individuals from falling through the cracks and into poverty.

A livable basic income guarantee for everyone who needs it is a cornerstone of a just recovery. A just recovery must address not only social justice, but also environmental and economic justice. We are facing a very challenging social and ecological transition ahead: climate change; racism and discrimination; vast income inequality; deep poverty; pandemics; an opioid crisis and food insecurity. Income security provided by a livable basic income guarantee for everyone who needs it will either support individual and community resilience by its presence or make it very difficult for us to adapt by its absence. The Royal Society of Canada’s Task Force on COVID-19 just published their report by 11 top Canadian academics, mostly economists and including a member of BC’s expert panel: Renewing the Social Contract: Economic Recovery in Canada from COVID-19. Their #1 recommendation is a basic income guarantee.

Prince Edward Island’s all-party Special Committee on Poverty just released its report calling for the creation of a full basic income guarantee program that maintains all of PEIs social programs and services that support people with low-income. To create a BIG, the Committee recommended that PEI enter into negotiations with the federal government.

I urge the BC government to do the same and enter into discussions with the federal government to establish a national basic income guarantee. This is how we get to a “yes/and” proposition and to a renewed income and social support system for BC.

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