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Is it time for a Universal Basic Income in Canada?


The COVID-19 pandemic has presented Canada with evidence that a Universal Basic Income is necessary. Speaking from person experience, I lost my seasonal construction job due to COVID-19. I was deemed nonessential and therefore they could not afford to hire me back for the summer. This was my only means of income to not only pay rent but tuition for the upcoming school year. Luckily, I was able to get out of my lease and move back in with my family, but many Canadians aren’t so privileged. I also utilized CERB to supplement my wages for two months until I was able to find another job.


The Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was in itself a temporary form of basic income, so the idea is in no way foreign to Canadian legislators. In fact, the Liberal Party of Canada endorsed the addition of a Universal Basic Income to its federal platform at a policy convention earlier this year. This is important because although CERB was there for me when I was out of work, what happens to those who lose their job when there is not a global pandemic taking place. According to the Brookfield Institute, 42 percent of Canadian jobs are at high risk of automation over the next 20 years. Since 2000, Canada has lost 500 000 manufacturing jobs alone. It is often thought that this is due to globalization, but a study done at Ball State University states automation as the prime cause. Self-check-out machines at grocery stores, malls and fast-food restaurants threaten millions of Canadian jobs as well. The impending economic shift will also influence white collar jobs as well, a 2019 internal report by Wells Fargo predicts that 10 percent of accounting and banking jobs will be automated over the next decade.


A Universal Basic Income would be the first step in countering the greatest economic shift since the Industrial Revolution, a shift that is already taking place. Even without the transformations in Canada’s job market, a UBI would still be a good idea. Stats Canada’s survey in February 2021 found that 3.7 million Canadians earn an income below the poverty line. A Universal Basic Income would take the metaphorical boot off the necks of these Canadians and allow them to live more comfortably. Now, one might counter that Canada already has provincial income support programs designed to aid these citizens. Not only are these programs vastly more administratively expensive but they are also means tested. A means tested program is contingent on the applicant meeting a set of guidelines in order to receive benefits. What this does is create a, ‘Welfare Mindset’ within those receiving it. If the recipient improves their financial situation, they risk losing their benefits. This creates a cycle in which they are unwilling to take risks, such as going back to school or starting their own businesses. It is much easier for a person to take these risks knowing their UBI is coming the next month regardless of the outcome. A UBI therefore improves the financial and mental health of a person. Just being a Canadian citizen, you know your basic needs will be financially covered.


As Canadians it is our responsibility to look out for each other. A Universal Basic Income would be a benefit to everyone because everyone receives it. Let’s eliminate the stigma attached to those caught in the welfare cycle. Let’s combat the economic shifts of automation. Let’s achieve progress by thinking outside the box and implementing laws that are truly progressive. As Albert Einstein once said,


“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them.”


Image Credit: Stevanovicigor


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