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Friday, March 11, 2016

Sawdon: Canadians need a guaranteed annual income

Edward Sawdon

While CBNCompass Columnist Pat Cullen calls for a "Basic Income, (November 19, 2015)" I am advocating for a Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI) so Canada and Alberta can eliminate most, if not, all Poverty.

Our Federal and Provincial elected representatives should be asking Canadians and Albertans how we can improve and modernized our "Social Safety Net?"

I say that Prime Minister Trudeau, and the 13 Provincial/Territorial Premiers, including Rachel Notley's New Democrats should implement a one-stop Guaranteed Annual Income scheme for Canada's most disadvantaged or most vulnerable residents - Persons with Disabilities; the Working Poor; low or fixed income seniors, mental health consumers and families, the Unemployed, the Underemployed and the Homeless.

In a 1984 book called "Canadian Churches and Social Justice," governments have basically 3 ways to help those "in need;" 1.) Progressive Taxation through Tax Credits, like the Disability Tax, Child, Family and Seniors Tax Credits, and GST/HST Tax Rebates; 2.) Public Services and Social Agencies, Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (Medicare), Alberta Health's Non- Group Coverage and Specialized Prescription Drug Plans (Pharmacare); Affordable Housing Program and Rent Support (Subsidized Housing), C.P.P./Q.P.P., E.I., O.A.S., Seniors G.I.S., Alberta Seniors Benefit Program; Alberta Widows Pension; Income Support: Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped and Student Aid, and 3.) Minimum Wage Laws.

Unfortunately, these Government initiatives have had little, if any effect in combating Poverty.

As for the Private Sector, like Non-Profit Community, Religious and Social Organizations, the best they can offer is "Band-Aid" solutions, like Food Banks, Soup Kitchens, Christmas Hampers and so on, but while they are helpful to those people in need, it doesn't eliminate nor reduce Poverty.

The Latest statistics, in Canada, clearly show that there are 4.9 million Canadian women, men and children living in poverty!

For many families and individuals, Income Assistance now acts as their primary source of income. They and other low income groups are struggling to pay for the rent, heating, food and other basic living necessities, and, in many cases, their low income is wholly inadequate. For others, income supports provides a "top-up" to their low wages, Employment Insurance and other low-income sources.

Some people believe that governments cannot reduce or eliminate Poverty. On the contrary, we cannot afford to not too! Patricia Cullen makes a excellent point:

"Critics dismiss basic income as too expensive to implement. Rob Rainer and Kelly Ernst of the Basic Income Canada Network disagree. Writing in the Toronto Star Feb. 27, 2014, they claimed national implementation could cost around $32 billion — much cheaper than the $72 billion to $86 billion which “a 2008 study estimated as the price Canadians pay for health care, criminal justice and lost productivity costs associated with poverty. Poverty’s demand on health care alone may now approach $40 billion per year.”

Recently, there have been many Canadian Groups and Individuals calling for either a Guaranteed Annual Income or as Patricia Cullen points out "Basic Income." They include former Senator Hugh Segal, Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island NDP; the Federal Green Party, Liberal Party Membership; various Canadian communities, and even the Canadian Medical Association endorses it! Says Cullen: "poverty leads to hunger and bad nutrition. Both kill and they are very costly killers." Poverty can also lead to Mental Illness, especially Depression.

In my opinion, a Guaranteed Annual Income for Canadians is a logical, practical alternative to the current patchwork of overlapping federal, provincial, and municipal social programs. The GAI could be important in another sense in that it could eliminate the bureaucratic divisions and duplication between the various levels of government.

So, Justin Trudeau, Rona Ambrose, Thomas Mulcair, Elizabeth May, and Premier Rachel Notley, let's have a GAI for all disadvantaged Canadians!

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