In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, support programs for those facing economic hardship are rolling out both federally and provincially. However, there continue to be gaps as governments struggling to reach everyone in need within the current social support structures. One thing is for certain, if we had a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) in place with a mechanism for people to report an unexpected loss of income, the process of getting money in the hands of those who need it most at this time would be much easier. There would also be far fewer cracks in the system to fall through.
It is no secret that as a former member of the PEI Working Group for a Livable Income, I have long been an advocate for the elimination of poverty. In fact, the Green Party’s unwavering support for a BIG that would ensure everyone can live healthy, well, and strong in their families and communities was one of the reasons I joined the party in the first place. This is why it has been such an honour to chair the Special Committee on Poverty in PEI, of which one of its primary goals is to propose a fully costed BIG pilot for PEI.
Implementing a BIG requires a shift in the way we view and approach social welfare. It will require a reshaping of our social support systems that currently rely heavily on conditionality and making distinctions between the deserving and undeserving poor.
At the core, underlying all of the economic and health measures enacted during this COVID-19 pandemic, is the fundamental belief that no one should be left behind, and that we would all be better off as a society if we ensure everyone can live with basic health and dignity. There are a lot of things that I look forward to leaving behind after the COVID-19 crisis. However, I sincerely hope we are able to hold onto this core value and put the health and well-being of all at the forefront of government policy.
Make no mistake, designing a BIG pilot program that will meet the needs of all Islanders within the current social and economic climate is no easy task. Having all parties in the Legislature participate in this process has been encouraging. We have been able to engage experts both locally and nationally. I look forward to when the committee is able to resume this important work.