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Guaranteed Livable Income

June 23, 2020

Honourable senators, my question is for the Government Representative in the Senate. The need for economic assistance like the CERB is great. Indeed, many are still struggling without adequate support — a situation that underscores the inadequacy of our social, health and economic supports.

My question concerns what happens next in this country. The emergency debate last week made clear that when we look at who is overrepresented in precarious work and in poverty, we see the effects of racism, sexism and other systemic discrimination. It also made clear that we cannot go back to the status quo. For far too long exorbitant spending — indeed billions of dollars — has been devoted to tax cuts for those who already enjoy disproportionate wealth. These cuts increase inequality, while seemingly endless spending on law enforcement and prisons has been implemented with relative ease.

Funding to remedy poverty and inequality, on the other hand, is too often characterized as “costing too much.” We applaud the government’s efforts during this pandemic. The estimated cost of the CERB as a temporary 24-week measure is estimated to be $71 billion. A guaranteed livable income could not only assist all in need, but its net annual cost would be a fraction of the CERB: $44 billion maximum. It would save untold amounts in downstream costs in terms of health care, criminal legal issues, emergency responses as well as replacing provincial social assistance.

Does the government agree that it is time for Canada to admit that it can afford, and must ensure, equality and dignity for all and implement a guaranteed livable income?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ - ]

Thank you for the question, and I thank you for the advanced notice of the question. We have made inquiries to the specifics and have not yet received a response. I’ll report back to the chamber in a timely manner.

Allow me to state the obvious, perhaps. The issue of a guaranteed livable income is an important and complicated one and requires — as others have said in this chamber — serious study and collaboration between governments, especially municipal, provincial and territorial, and other stakeholders.

It might be unrealistic to expect that the federal government can give a quick commitment to pursue that as you’re asking your question. I will make inquiries, but I beg your indulgence if the answer may not be forthcoming immediately.

I appreciate your efforts.

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