Lawyers hope CERB will pave the way for universal basic income

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Advocates of a universal basic income say they hope the Canadian Emergency Response Assistance Program (CERB), set up to help unemployed and underemployed Canadians during the pandemic, will lead the way to a fairer system for all.Transforming the CERB into a universal basic income is the logical progression of the program, according to Elaine Power, researcher at Queen’s University and member of the Canada Basic Income Network in Kingston, Ontario.

“There is more and more pressure on the government, I would say, to expand the CERB. I think basic income would be a logical extension of CERB, and it’s a more rational plan, “said Power. Ottawa Morning Thursday.

The Parliamentary Budget Office has begun to study the potential cost of providing basic income to Canadians for six months, a decision Power has described as “very exciting”.

Some similarities

The idea already has the support of some members of the Senate, including British Columbia senator Yuen Pau Woo.

With the CERB due to expire in October, Power said the time has come to consider making the transition to a universal basic income, which is like CERB but would be universally available, unrelated to employment.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau presented his financial portrait to the House of Commons on Wednesday and said the government is committed to providing emergency assistance to Canadians in difficulty.

“Our collective decisions as Canadians to put each other above everything else has meant that we have flattened the curve faster than many other countries. But the Canadians also made great sacrifices to get here. Millions of Canadians have lost their jobs, lost hours, or lost wages. Businesses of all sizes continue to face uncertainty, “said Mr. Morneau.

Workers living below the poverty line

Power said that while there was nothing in Morneau’s speech to indicate that the government was ready to adopt a basic income, she hoped the government would nonetheless take into account the economic benefits of such a program. She said it would save money over time in the health, education and justice systems.

“There are other benefits that I think we cannot calculate – the benefit for people living in poverty, who feel trapped there. The kind of freedom it would give them to make better choices about their life, their future. ”

Power said there are still “stereotypes” around basic income, such as the fear that it will leave beneficiaries dependent on government grants instead of contributing to the workforce, and that it would worsen already the deficit under the weight of Canada’s COVID-19. reply.

“We know that in fact most people living in poverty in Canada are employed. They already have a job, but they don’t earn enough to bring them to the poverty line, ”said Power.

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