Let Them Eat Cake! August 16, 2020
The pandemic lockdown has exposed our weaknesses and shortcomings and compelled us to address them. Leah Gazan, Winnipeg Centre MP (NDP), is paying attention and has taken positive action relating to system structured poverty. “COVID-19 has demonstrated that we do have resources. We must ensure all individuals in Canada can thrive in dignity and that means making investments to ensure basic human rights for all,” she said. MP Gazan has tabled a motion in the House of Commons to address income disparities rampant in our society and emphasized by the pandemic.
The essence of MP Gazan’s motion is the adoption of a basic income, sometimes referred to as guaranteed minimum income, which would replace the web of targeted social benefits, reduce eligibility mayhem and improve the sense of security and self-worth of Canadians. The plethora of current social assistance programmes, although well intentioned, do more to cause the persistence of poverty than reduce it. They should be retooled to deliver a liveable income and thereby help stabilize Canada’s social being. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) has its flaws, but it proved we could deliver financial support, quickly and of a reasonable amount, to people who needed it. Strange as it seems the majority of sensible Members of Parliament, regardless of political party, supported the premise.
There are naysayers of course, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) being one of the loudest. Granted MP Gazan’s motion is a socially progressive proposal that puts the well-being of Canadians before the profits of corporations and shareholders, the very thought of which raises the ire of the ultra conservative CTF. It is interesting that one focus of the CTF is lower taxes whereas the majority of Canadians facing poverty already pay little or no taxes. Low taxes benefit the upper-middle and rich classes and further bury those in the lower financial spectrum. The CTF is self-described non-partisan; however, the organization is tightly aligned with conservative political parties in Canada and the United States. These include the ultra conservative Atlas Network, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, the notorious Koch Brothers as well as several corporate facing market-fundamentalist think tanks including the Fraser Institute and the Manning Centre, to name a couple. All of which promote corporate profit and social conservatism. You can research the federation at your leisure.
To be fair to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Prairie Director Todd MacKay, admits the reformation of existing programmes could be a solution, but adding it on top of other supports isn’t viable.
The “if you can’t afford your basic expenses, find a better job” attitude, just doesn’t cut it. The majority of people of privilege cannot understand, or empathise with, the plight of those who, through no fault of their own, are struggling or disenfranchised. Decisions such as, rent or food, medicine or illness, are not just a so-called third world problem. They are too real for millions of Canadians. Bad decisions rarely cause poverty; poverty does cause bad decisions. One good example of this is, Federally nearly 40 percent more women are incarcerated than ten years ago, which coincides with nationwide cuts in social services and over-policing of the racialized population. Over half of the offences are non-violent, such as theft or shoplifting, a result of poverty and social marginalization.
Kudos to Leah Gazan, MP (NDP) for stepping up and tabling a permanent guaranteed liveable basic income motion. We can only hope that members of parliament set aside their political stripes and collectively consider the well-being of ALL Canadians.
Other views are welcome.