Guaranteed Basic Income - Rebuilding Canada with Humanity in Mind
“I can’t wait for things to be normal again,” said everyone at least once since March. It’s an innocent enough phrase that evokes a powerful nostalgia. What was that normal, though? I can only speak from my experienced ‘normal’, but I guarantee my experience is not unique.
My normal was working five jobs in order to pay rent and possibly have food on the table every day. My normal was hoping that my partner keeps her job so I can keep paying for my life saving medication. My normal is asking for repayment assistance on my student loan every six months because once I’d eaten I had nothing left over from those five jobs to pay it down. I’ve pulled up so many bootstraps that I’ve left a trail of old leather behind me. This is a normal that was never sustainable before COVID, and it’s a normal that, with permeation of technology and automation across all workplaces, will not exist once this crisis is over. The bootstraps are the old normal, and going back to that slogging daily life is beneficial to exactly no one.
What is the new normal we should yearn for then? There are many changes we could embrace in order to lessen the financial burden on young Canadians, in my opinion however, a basic income, a guarantee that you WILL have enough money to put food on your table and a roof over your head, is the quickest way to help young Canadians here and now.
Who exactly should receive a guaranteed income? How much should it be? Should the economically comfortable class receive it? If they do, will the vulnerable receive less as a result? These are the questions that need to be debated openly, at parties, in the streets, and on the floor of every government chamber we have. It is legislation that, on paper, should be considered non-partisan. Disability benefits, income supplements like Ontario Works, and EI would be dissolved and replaced by this singular guaranteed income, doing away with bureaucratic waste.
With the quick implementation of the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit and other COVID-19 relief programs, we know that the infrastructure for a guaranteed income is there and actively working for millions of Canadians. The conversation is no longer about “how do we do it” but, “why doesn’t it go farther?!” Already, prominent Senators and other politicians are shifting tones as they realize the momentum behind a guaranteed income. They see the sense behind it, and they need a slight push from the public to make it a reality.
For those worried about losing a free market, fear not. Young Canadians are just as capilatistic as their older counterparts. With knowledge that we will be economically stable under a guaranteed income system, we WILL start spending. We will have a modest increase of funds with which to buy products we’ve been saving for, once essentials are purchased. We will be able to buy goods that are made locally and will last us for years, benefiting the Canadian economy.
For decades, productivity was directly tied to wages. The more you produced, the more you earned. As automation crept into the workplace, these two things began to separate. Wages stagnated as productivity (and dividends to shareholders) skyrocketed. The shortage of jobs caused by COVID was always going to happen, this crisis merely brought it to us quicker. Without my five jobs to return to I will no longer have any security, but economic security from a guaranteed income will cushion that blow, and give me free time to innovate. We all can start innovating like we want to. New ideas will arise, new technologies, new art forms, new things that will keep Canada on the cutting edge.
We should not think of a guaranteed income as ‘free money’, but as an opportunity for young Canadians to invest directly in the well being of those around them. It should be thought of as our dividend from the Canadian economy, of which we would all become shareholders. The guaranteed payment amount will increase as the economy increases, so the more we invest through purchasing and innovation, the more we will receive in our monthly dividend. It is an opportunity for us to make Canada an economic powerhouse in a new economic era, one centred not on a Neo-liberal capitalist ideal, but on a capitalism with true economic freedom and equality. If we’re rebuilding, we might as well improve the foundations a little bit.
Young Canadians are going to be rebuilding this country over the coming decades. We need the systems to do it properly, and the old normal is not that system. The new normal must focus on the strengths of human ingenuity, freed from the constraints of class, and working towards the communal uplifting of an entire nation. A guaranteed income will allow us to lead the world into this new era. It’s up to all of us to make sure it happens.