A PUBLIC LETTER FROM THE ARTS COMMUNITY FOR A BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE
16 July 2020
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau, Deputy Minister Freeland, Minister Morneau and Minister Guilbeault:
We represent tens of thousands of artists, writers, technicians, and performers from many backgrounds and regions across Canada. Our voices are united; we call upon the Government of Canada to ensure the financial well-being of all residents by implementing a permanent Basic Income Guarantee.
The pandemic’s wrath on lives has been swift. Millions are still out of work. Those whose financial situation was not previously precarious find themselves sinking into financial quicksand, their lives instantly upended through no fault of their own. The arts, culture, heritage, tourism, and creative industries have been deeply affected: productions have been canceled, venues shuttered, and livelihoods lost. In these unprecedented times, millions of Canadians, including those in the arts and culture sector, exist in a precarious reality. In this new reality, we are all vulnerable to unexpected changes in circumstances and unexpected hardships. Poverty can become a reality for all of us, abruptly, without warning.
Financial insecurity and the cracks in our health- and social-support systems have been highlighted by the pandemic, but they were always present. Structural inequalities disproportionately affect vulnerable and marginalized communities, making it more likely for people with disabilities, LGBTQ2+, Black, Indigenous, people of colour, refugees and immigrants, women, single mothers and others to slip into systemic cycles of poverty and poor health.
Many support programs have been eroded during the last few decades, with federal, provincial and territorial income assistance and disability support systems consistently failing to provide economic dignity or meet basic human needs. Furthermore, employment-insurance programs have not adapted to the realities of the gig economy or the self-employed, and a large proportion of workers do not meet their required criteria, which is often based on full-time work. If workers do qualify, they often face barriers to re-entering the labour force in the form of reduced support when short-term employment opportunities arise.
The gig economy is undermining decades of worker protections. As participants, many arts-and-culture-sector workers are subject to precarious short-term contracts, without access to benefits, paid sick leave, or even employment insurance. Today, the world of general labour is looking a lot like the way art labour has looked for decades. We write to express our collective concern regarding the precarious state of labour that is in urgent need of reform and redress.
Canada is at a crossroads. The government can continue to look the other way, allowing our most vulnerable to fall through the cracks of a systematically broken social safety net and perpetuate a history of economic insecurity, anxiety and fear. Or, we can take this opportunity to bring about much-needed change and make a meaningful difference that will lead to a brighter future. Establishing a Basic Income Guarantee will help to create a healthier, more equitable social safety system that provides financial support, elevating people and ensuring that no one is left behind.
We commend your leadership and the work of the Government of Canada in implementing and extending the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and other measures, including support for the arts, sports, and cultural sectors. However, too many are still being left behind, held back by barriers beyond their control. A Basic Income Guarantee would build on your existing programs, including CERB, and provide financial security to meet people’s basic needs and allow them to participate in society, living with dignity regardless of their work status.
As stakeholders of the arts and culture sector, we ask you to give Canadians the chance not only to survive, but to live.
We, the undersigned, are calling upon the Government of Canada to honour its commitment to poverty reduction and instate a Basic Income Guarantee to make a historic investment in a better tomorrow;
We call upon the Government of Canada to hereby reduce the inequities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic: to remove the financial obstacles faced by our most vulnerable, to alleviate gender-based poverty, and to address the economic inequality based in persistent racism and colonialism;
We call upon the Government of Canada to implement a universally accessible and unconditional basic income program that guarantees an income floor to anyone in need.
In the pandemic’s wake, the arts communities, versatile and adaptable, are evolving in new and exciting ways. Artists, writers, technicians, and performers will continue to create and to inspire the world around them. Their creation of novel forms of digital culture, music and performance art, online entertainment, movies, literary works, arts and crafts will allow people to weather times of solitude, hardship, and ruptures in social behaviour and contribute to their overall well-being.
We envision a Basic Income Guarantee that ensures financial stability without eroding the existing federal support for arts and culture programs. Unconditional access to a basic income will support the remarkable creative capacity of individuals and provide employment opportunities, bold visions and community inspiration.
Great challenges are often the catalyst to transform societies and our ways of being – the challenges we face today are no exception. We require a Basic Income Guarantee. The opportunity for change is here and now.
Craig Berggold – Media artist / Team leader, Case for Basic Income and the Arts, Ontario Basic Income Network
Zainub Verjee – Laureate, 2020 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts, Outstanding Contribution
Clayton Windatt – Independent artist / curator