Two Great Evolutions in Democracy – Basic Income and Electoral Reform
July 6, 2021
Guaranteed Livable Income – Now is the time
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed long-enduring inequalities. Indigenous Peoples, women, people of colour, the economically disadvantaged, small businesses, and the elderly have all borne the brunt, while the rich get richer. The CERB briefly offered financial security for millions of Canadians and showed that a basic income is simple and possible. That scared Liberal and Conservative elites, because people with income security won’t accept precarious or exploitative jobs – this strengthens bargaining power for workers. So the Liberals axed it and are praying that people forget it.
Now is the time for the NDP to deliver a Guaranteed Livable Income for all Canadians. We can create a floor under everyone, ending poverty and homelessness, unleashing creative and entrepreneurial energies. It will pay for itself, by cutting red tape, allowing the government to tax back from those who don’t need it (without impacting their tax bracket), and saving billions in healthcare costs. As local NDP supporters Elaine Power and Jamie Swift wrote in the introduction to their recent book, The Case for Basic Income: Freedom, Security, Justice, it offers people freedom:
Freedom to say no to a job that is poorly paid, boring, or simply nasty. Freedom to work caring for a relative or friend. Freedom to exit an abusive relationship. Freedom to try something new, like a small business. Freedom to do socially and culturally vital work that is unpaid or underpaid.
A Guaranteed Livable Income can help provide security to workers who are subject to precarious employment. It will strengthen the Labour Movement, which is an essential force for good in our society. As the new ‘gig ’economy continues to evolve, wage and benefit provisions and labour laws must also be strengthened to adequately protect workers. Let me be very clear: a universal basic income goes hand in hand with disability supports, EI, and pensions. It does not replace these hard won benefits, but it will replace inadequate and sometimes demeaning welfare regimes, in collaboration with the provinces. We must also bolster and build other social programs such as National Childcare, Pharmacare and affordable, sustainable housing for all.
Democratic Innovations – Participation and Proportional Representation
Creating a floor under everyone with a Guaranteed Livable Income will also be a huge boost to our democracy. People will have more educational opportunities, and they will be freer to participate in democratic processes between and during elections. Most importantly, everyone will have a greater stake in society and more motivation to help shape our collective future in these challenging times.
Democracy needs another boost as well. Canada is long-overdue for a National Citizens’ Assembly on the design and implementation of proportional representation at the federal level. The Liberals broke their promise to take action on this, as I will remind voters at the doors, during the federal election to come. The NDP will support a national democractic process that digs deep into the pros and cons of various proportional models, used by most democracies around the world. We will bring in a system that ensures that the votes of all Canadians count!
A Guaranteed Livable Income and Proportional Representation are two great evolutions in our democratic way of life that will feed into other transformative responses to the climate crisis that we all face. We must set our sights higher, towards a hopeful future for ourselves, and the generations to come.
“The success of CERB is proof a universal basic income is doable and beneficial”. The Toronto Star, David Olive, June 24, 2021; https://www.thestar.com/business/opinion/2021/06/24/the-success-of-cerb-is-proof-a-universal-basic-income-is-doable-and-beneficial.html
The Case for Basic Income: Freedom, Security, Justice, Between the Lines, Elaine Power and Jamie Swift, 2021; https://btlbooks.com/book/the-case-for-basic-income
Basic Income Canada Network website: https://basicincomecanada.org
“The Liberals broke their promise on electoral reform. Will it hurt them in 2019?” The National Post, Joanna Smith, October 12, 2019; https://nationalpost.com/news/politics/election-2019/the-liberals-broke-their-promise-on-electoral-reform-will-it-hurt-them-in-2019
Fair Vote Canada website: https://www.fairvote.ca