P.E.I. Senators: Basic income is an idea whose time has come

From left, Diane Griffin, Brian Francis and Mike Duffy are Senators for Prince Edward Island.

By Diane Griffin, Brian Francis, and Mike Duffy

Last spring more than 50 members of the Senate of Canada urged the federal government to implement a guaranteed basic livable income program. At the same time, a special committee of the Prince Edward Island legislature called on Ottawa to join the province in creating a guaranteed livable basic income (GLBI).

Doubters suggested a GLBI would be too costly, and too complicated. They’d prefer tinkering with the status quo. The GLBI idea seemed stalled.

Faced with this hurdle, a group of Island Senators has written Premier Dennis King and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to suggest a way to end the stalemate. Why not start with a small pilot project in Prince Edward Island?

In our letter we reminded Mr. Trudeau that Prince Edward Island’s modern economy is a result of an innovative 1969 federal-provincial program called the “P.E.I. Comprehensive Development Plan.” Ever since, successive governments have used P.E.I. (population ~150,000) as a “test bed” for important innovations in agriculture, fisheries, energy from waste, wind energy and so on.

Now out of the economic disruption caused by COVID-19, P.E.I. and the federal government have another historic opportunity for social innovation. The arguments for a GLBI are well-known and are persuasive, especially in an economy like PEI’s with an ageing demographic.

Last week the British Columbia government stepped away from the GLBI idea because of the plan’s perceived potential shortcomings. A pilot project in P.E.I. would test those concerns and allow the program to be adjusted as needed.

Critics may argue against an incremental approach, but we should not forget that medicare, our most successful social program, began incrementally, one province at a time starting with Saskatchewan.

In 1984, the Macdonald Royal Commission recommended a GLBI as a counterbalance to the negative effects of free trade with the United States. The Mulroney government passed free trade, but ignored the rest of Macdonald’s report.

Mr. Trudeau now has an opportunity to finish that work and, in so doing, turn the page on the economic devastation caused by COVID-19 and build a brighter future for P.E.I., and one hopes, eventually for millions of Canadians.

The government response to the economic disruption caused by the pandemic was a scramble, with some covered and others not. Had a Guaranteed Livable Basic Income been in place, Canadians would have been automatically protected.

We closed our letter by urging Mr. Trudeau to begin Canada’s post-pandemic recovery with a pilot GLBI program in Prince Edward Island, the birthplace of Confederation.

A guaranteed livable basic income truly is – an idea whose time has come!


Diane Griffin, Brian Francis and Mike Duffy are Senators for Prince Edward Island.

To see original article please visit: https://www.thetelegram.com/opinion/regional-perspectives/pei-senators-basic-income-is-an-idea-whose-time-has-come-550641/

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