Basic Income – ‘let’s get on with it’

On July 29 we hosted a webinar discussing a case for a basic income for the arts. One of the key takeaways was that encouraging a basic income model for Canada wasn’t just good for artists, it’s good for everyone. So, in the words of  Zainub Verjee, Laureate of the 2020 Governor General’s Visual and Media Arts award, “let’s get on with it.”

As supports like the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) start coming to an end, what are the options? Employment insurance might be the answer for some, or perhaps we’ll see the need for Income Support balloon. 

Some critics have commented that supports like the CERB disincentivise work, but those comments fail to account for a number of factors. While it’s important to look at the impacts of CERB on labour, people not returning to work has more to do with safe working conditions and the access and affordability of childcare and less to do with the CERB itself.

There are arguments that people should just get a job, but the counter-argument is ‘what jobs?’ According to Statistics Canada data, Alberta has the highest per capita number of CERB applicants. Nearly 1 in 4 Albertans have benefited from this program. As of August 2, 2020, that is over 1 million Albertans on CERB, and that number doesn’t include those on EI or other assistance programs.  

As we move towards recovery, from pre-existing economic challenges through to amplified COVID-19 challenges, what are the best next steps?

The next step is a basic income. It’s possible. Let’s get on with it.