• Post published:February 18, 2021
  • Reading time:5 mins read
  • Post category:In Ottawa

Guaranteed Livable Income

Mr. Speaker, I am raising an issue today in our Adjournment Proceedings that I originally raised on December 10 during question period.

We have been blaming the pandemic for the financial anxiety and poor living conditions people are facing, but the truth is that these conditions were already there. The pandemic certainly exacerbated inequalities, but they were already there. The poverty, the financial anxiety and the homelessness exist in every riding across this country, and I am sure my colleagues can relate to this with the calls they receive in their offices on a weekly basis. The ones that break my heart and that I lose sleep over are the ones for which there is no solution except to implement a guaranteed livable income.

Why do we need a GLI now? At the beginning of this pandemic the government made it clear that Canadians who found themselves suddenly without work required $2,000 per month to live. Does the government realize that in my home province of New Brunswick I have constituents living on $564 per month?

The pandemic has inflamed income insecurity, particularly for low- and minimum-wage workers. It has resulted in a run on rents, as my colleague, the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith, has been saying. Those who qualify for government relief benefits are doing okay, but what about those who never qualify or those whose benefits are about to expire?

The Prime Minister often says that no one will be left behind, but in truth this patchwork approach to financial support is leaving countless Canadians behind, and at a high cost to taxpayers. I am more than confident in saying that a GLI is the solution to so many of the problems we face. In one swoop, the government could end poverty.

I think of the person living on a fixed pension or on disability benefits for whom the cost of living goes up every year, outpacing what little inflation those benefits receive. I think of the people trying to sleep in Wilmot Park in Fredericton, who are being moved along by police. They could be able to afford rent. I think of the senior who spent years of her life providing unpaid care for everyone around her, now scraping by on pennies in her elder years. I think of the woman fleeing intimate partner violence for whom escape no longer needs to mean poverty or the risk of losing her children.

A GLI is also the solution to some systemic inequality. Our current patchwork programs have problems with systemic racism, ableism and misogyny. If the government is truly serious about addressing these insidious issues, a GLI is the most effective way to start that work.

Let us not ignore the economic benefits. A GLI would reduce Canada’s growing poverty crisis, thereby reducing the demand for social services, law enforcement and health care. A report by the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis shows that a GLI could be a sustainable investment that grows our economy by $80 billion per year, creates hundreds of thousands of jobs and supports Canada’s businesses, all while lifting 3.2 million Canadian families out of poverty. We have seen this work with the child tax benefit. It is time to take it a step further.

Finally, I also believe a GLI is the best opportunity to fight for our planet. There is an innate privilege in the environmental movement because people cannot get involved in fighting the climate crisis if they have to focus on their basic needs and day-to-day survival. Individuals and communities cannot make changes to how they live and work, to transition from fossil fuels and to build a sustainable and low-emission economy while building back from COVID-19 and living in crushing poverty. A GLI would provide a financial safety net for all persons in Canada, especially through major economic shifts, natural disasters, major industry automation, job loss and global pandemics.
We are told to brace for more, but without adequate universal supports, what do we expect people to hold on to?
Mr. Speaker, I am very grateful for the words the parliamentary secretary just shared, and I feel that momentum. Really, though, the question for me is this: What kind of society do we want to live in and raise our children in? That is what we are grappling with right now, especially as we face the COVID-19 recovery.

For me, we should be making government decisions based on quality of life measurements. Every Canadian has the right to live in dignity, with access to a livable income; accessible and affordable housing; food security; expanded health services, including mental health services; and the resources they need to meet their basic human needs, no matter their status in life. A GLI is a pillar to ensure well-being.

Without the creation of the CERB and other emergency benefit programs, millions of people in Canada would have been in dire straits. It is not a leap to suggest that the CERB kept people alive. Even with these emergency benefits, too many people are still falling through the cracks without support as the pandemic continues, as the member mentioned. The question is this: What will replace these benefits when they are gone?

The parliamentary secretary mentioned reform, and I feel a GLI is here for us. There have been many pilot projects and we have lots to draw from.

A common criticism of a GLI is that it may make it difficult to recruit workers. We know, based on study results, that this is not true. We could actually see a 17% increase in part-time workers, according to an Alaskan study.
Once again, the momentum for building a GLI across party lines and within civil society is there. However, we cannot rebuild a house on a foundation—