The speed and scale of job loss in the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown was unprecedented and disproportionately impacted low wage workers. This highlighted the fragility of our social safety net, especially for women and racialized low-waged workers, reigniting popular interest in a basic income. The size, simplicity and speed of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), delivered to millions of Canadians within weeks of the economic shutdown, has opened up the possibility of addressing the gaps in our income support system. CERB left some groups behind, but did reach a wide variety of precarious workers that would not have been helped by Employment Insurance (EI), and was more generous than the average EI benefit or social assistance payment.
Our report seeks to clarify the problem that a basic income might solve, and outline principles to guide policy development from a social-democratic perspective.
The speed and scale of job loss in the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown were unprecedented and disproportionately impacted low-wage workers. This highlighted the fragility of our social safety net, especially for women and racialized low-waged workers, reigniting popular interest in a basic income.
However, thoughtful consideration of basic income requires a review of the policies and programs currently in place and an evaluation of what’s working, what could be fixed, and what should be replaced. It's important we make sure we're asking the right questions before we try answering them.
While there is a great deal of debate on the topic of a basic income, there is also very little clarity, since many different policies fall under its broad umbrella.
This report is part of our Essential Solutions Project, which brings together experts across multiple disciplines to generate innovative answers to the complex challenges we face right now and chart a path towards a more equitable and resilient future for all of us.
As Canadians, we are rightly proud of our health care system. In 2004, the “Father of Medicare,” Saskatchewan politician and visionary Tommy Douglas, was crowned in a CBC poll as the Greatest Canadian, and more than a decade later, he and the system he helped create continue to define Canada. More than a set of interlocking provincial and territorial health insurance programs, Medicare has become the highest expression of Canadians caring for one another.1 Our public health care system touches us at all stages of life: from the day we were born, attended by doctors, nurses, and midwives; through our infancy, with the immunizations and check-ups our primary healthcare team gave us then; through our adult years, when we were supported by emergency care and regular appointments at the family doctor; and to the last days of our lives, when medical professionals will provide us with compassion and empathy in palliative care.
As we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, the flaws in our healthcare system have become glaringly obvious. Each wave of the pandemic reignites concerns about the state of long-term care homes and renews existing calls to improve our healthcare system.