Time draws nigh for universal basic income implementation

For several decades now, folks like Elon Musk (Tesla and SpaceX), Pierre Omidyar (founder of eBay), Milton Friedman (the legendary conservative economist), and Martin Luther King Jr. (the great civil rights leader), have been calling for universal basic income implementation.

Indeed, Canada was an early pioneer of several successful pilot projects, e.g. in Manitoba between 1975-77.

Now, with COVID-19, more than 500 political leaders from around the planet have joined in insisting that it would be an effective tool for fighting the economic destabilization and unemployment wrecked by this pandemic.

An assured and unconditional income that covers basic costs has shown that participants save more, invest more, are healthier, and are actually more entrepreneurial… which is critical given the declining rates of entrepreneurship in Canada.

These participants also have fewer accidents, less hospitalization, and their children tend to stay in school longer.

Clearly, introducing a universal basic income program takes courage and political consensus.

But during this unprecedented crisis we need to be looking at unprecedented measures and ideally considering socio-economic opportunities that may have lasting benefits beyond this COVID-19 crisis. Why not consider a temporary/crisis universal basic income program now as a first step for Canadians?

Wouldn’t that be simpler, faster and more accessible than extremely well-intentioned, but piecemeal rollouts of tweaks to Employment Insurance and Child Benefits?

Isn’t the new Emergency Care Benefit already facing complications and delays?

So with federal-provincial cooperation can’t we explore an immediate $1500 per month for adults and $500 per month for children paid directly to citizens?

The impact could also be hugely significant for fighting poverty, climate inaction, and advancing gender equity, once we begin the long, difficult recovery from this COVID-19 recession.


Bill Roberts