A just transition: Basic Income and Prince Edward Island

Lighthouse on Prince Edward Island

P.E.I. livable income advocate says private members bill creates ‘new level of importance’ as it takes basic income talks to the federal level

By: Jill M. MacCormack

See original post here.

This past January my family and I took part in an early morning zoom call between Sen. Kim Pate in Ottawa, the P.E.I. Working Group for a Livable Income (PEIWGLI) and the Charlottetown Rotary Club. The very accomplished and Island-connected Senator Pate was invited to present her considerable knowledge on GLI to rotary. She told Charlottetown Rotarians that “the Island, with its mix of rural and urban, its sense of community, is the perfect place to launch a five-year demonstration project…” on livable income.

Persons who are members of groups marginalized by our current economic system are the very persons GLI will benefit. Built into its design is the valuation of such persons so that they can live their lives and meet their needs in a more dignified manner than our current models allow.

The aim of GLI, sometimes called basic income guarantee (BIG) is “to reach those under the poverty line” and enable them to earn a basic living (approximately $22 or $23,000 a year) with few strings attached, explained Pate.

This would be conferred in a dignified, income- tested manner. Its inclusive nature is designed so that no one can fall through the gaps in current social safety nets. She noted such a program is not a foreign concept to the current federal government and that there are similar programs in place for seniors and childcare and they’re working on disability.

PEIWGLI’s Marie Burge has long been an advocate for basic income. She spoke of the level of receptiveness here “by ordinary Islanders of all income levels”.

Pate believes that once P.E.I. runs the demonstration project and experiences the benefits, no one will want to go back to how it was. She likened it to Saskatchewan’s early experience with Medicare.

When discussing the numerous measurable benefits noted in livable income trials such as improved health outcomes, Pate also mentioned the “blockages” which people are afraid of and which she wants to see addressed and moved past.

1) Cost (costs less than CERB and far more inclusive). A wealth tax is critical here as it would be a source of the federal income needed to fund the project.

2) Fears of a labour shortage. What has been seen elsewhere is that when a guaranteed livable income is implemented, of those eligible for the workforce, the only ones at home are: (a) those sick (b) the carers — those in care-giving roles (c) those with disability (d) those training/schooling “… and we do not want these people (to need to be) working.”

Pate told Rotarians that the parliamentary budget officer said it would cost far less than CERB has to run and would have reached far more people during the pandemic.

“It would cut poverty in half in one year and would have alleviated a lot of issues,” said Pate.

She explained that “the strength of the Senate is good now and conversations are easier between provincial and federal minority governments” and that Premier King has demonstrated his desire to engage with the PM on this issue for Islanders.

Climate change, pandemic, war … it is obvious we are living in a time of great upheaval. This turmoil presents an opportunity for reexamining how we live our lives. I believe we can create a more honouring path forward; one which is urgently needed for Islanders and for all citizens of this beautiful world.

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