This week, the Green Party of Canada released its election platform. In the plank on Strong Communities the plan to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality includes implementing a Guaranteed Livable Income.
Canada has been in two recessions since the last election, and people don’t feel as well off as they were five years ago. Income inequality is getting worse — the rich are richer, but the poor have to subsist on part-time jobs, contract work with no benefits, and are ineligible for Employment Insurance when those jobs are lost.
The Green Party wants to reduce the worries of precarious employment and remove the stigma of receiving social assistance by providing a Guaranteed Livable Income for all Canadians. Anyone who lives below a certain threshold of income, whether that’s because of circumstance, disability, or because only part-time employment is available, will receive a livable income through the tax system. No-one will be stigmatized for relying on disability payments, or depending on welfare payments to make the rent.
Not only does GLI provide a better social safety net for Canadians, it will reduce the costs of providing social programs. The program would be delivered through the existing income tax system, so no additional bureaucracy is needed. Guaranteed Livable Income would reduce the transfer payments to provinces, replacing the patchwork of existing programs such as OAS, GIS, CCTB, UCCB, NCB, and the Working Income Tax Benefit. Other programs such as Employment Insurance (EI), the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), child care subsidies, social housing, drug benefits and dental care would not be affected by a Guaranteed Livable Income.
Will this be a disincentive for people to work? No, the Canadian experiment with Mincome in the 1970s showed that people will seek work even when they have a guaranteed income, and are able to take on meaningful jobs such as art and music that may not provide sufficient income on their own. Earned income would not be clawed back, as it is with social programs today. Instead, there would be gradual reduction of the guaranteed income, perhaps 50 cents for every dollar earned.
The Guaranteed Livable Income is one of the many socially progressive programs that the Green Party will implement to keep Canada one of the better places to live.