The employment insurance section of the Government of Canada website is shown on a laptop in Toronto on April 4, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jesse Johnston

Should CERB be transformed into a universal income program?

Sixty per cent of Canadians in a recent survey say the wealthiest should pick up guaranteed income bill

More than eight million Canadians have been forced to rely on the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit due to the pandemic wreaking havoc on the economy.

As COVID-19 rewrites the playbook on various aspects of society – from best business practises to social interactions to government intervention – the current state of job losses have left many wondering if now is the time to test a universal income benefit.

It’s a social safety net of sorts that has become quite popular among Canadians, according to a recent survey by the Angus Reid Institute.

Three-in-five of the 1,510 respondents, or roughly 60 per cent, said they would support a $10,000 to $30,000 annual income.

ALSO READ: CERB to be extended by eight weeks amid gradual post-COVID reopening

Thirty per cent outright oppose the idea – which New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh called for the Liberals to look into in April – while 10 per cent are undecided.

Survey respondents were also divided nearly 50-50 on whether universal income would discourage people from wanting to work.

When asked who would pay for such a program, 60 per cent said that the wealthy should pay more in taxes to support some kind of guaranteed income. Notably, support for this was highest among those in the lowest income levels – or under $25,000 – compared to those earning $100,000 or more per year.

Meanwhile, 36 per cent said they would be willing to pay more in taxes in order to support it – a notion favoured most strongly in B.C. and Atlantic Canada compared to other regions.

TURNING DOWN WORK: CERB causing issues for some B.C. restaurants

Universal income as an idea to transform or eradicate poverty has been a concept lingering around for years, but calls for the federal government to consider it have reignited in recent weeks.

Currently, CERB provides $500 weekly to eligible Canadians who’ve been forced to stop working because of the ongoing pandemic.

In June, 50 senators signed an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to seriously consider turning CERB into a universal program.

In April, Trudeau told reporters that it isn’t as simple as it sounds.

“It’s not as easy as saying we’re going to send out a cheque to every Canadian regardless of their age or their region, it’s more complex than that,” he told reporters.

In 2018, the Parliamentary Budget Office estimated that a Canada-wide basic income program would cost nearly $80 billion a year. To note: that’s $10 billion less than the estimated cost of the CERB program between March and August.

ALSO READ: Extending CERB for months could double $60-billion budget, PBO report suggests


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surfrider Pacific Rim: Flash Clean Fridays

Grab your reusable gloves, bags and buckets and join Surfrider Pacific Rim’s newest initiative.

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation says more resources needed to keep Tribal Parks open during pandemic

Tribal Park Allies program needs more buy-in from Tofino businesses.

Tofino mayor Josie Osborne seeks B.C. NDP nomination for Mid Island-Pacific Rim

Longtime B.C. NDP MLA Scott Fraser announced on Monday that he will not be seeking reelection

Tourists’ vehicles vandalized in Tofino

Community steps up to support visitors.

Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser won’t seek re-election

Fraser one of two MLAs to announce intentions as election rumours swirl in B.C.

Record-breaking 165 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in B.C. in 24-hour period

Fifty-seven people are in hospital battling the novel coronavirus

March to protect old growth, stop industrial logging coming to B.C. Legislature

Organizers say they want to give frontline communities a bigger say in nearby logging

B.C. releases details of $1.5B economic recovery plan, $660M in business tax incentives

Economic plan includes support for employers, as well as training for workers

‘Not criminally responsible’ hearing slated for man convicted of Abbotsford school stabbing

Gabriel Klein was found guilty in March of killing Letisha Reimer, 13, in 2016

B.C.’s 1st mental health and addictions minister won’t be seeking re-election

MLA Judy Darcy is the fifth cabinet minister not intending to run in the next election

Remote B.C. tourism lodge staffed for coastal clean up instead of wilderness tours

The Great Bear Rainforest is home to exotic wildlife — and international trash

Most Read