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MP Leah Gazan introduces UBI bill to House of Commons

On December 16, NDP MP Leah Gazan (Winnipeg Centre) introduced a bill to the House of Commons to develop a national framework to create a Universal Basic Income (UBI) in Canada.

UBI, also known as a Guaranteed Livable Basic Income (GLBI) has gained traction among leftist and progressive circles over the past few years, especially given the popularity of CERB during the pandemic.

Some right-wing and centrist proponents of UBI claim that UBI can replace public programs such as universal healthcare. Crucially, Gazan’s bill would be in addition to public programs. It isn’t a means to claw back public benefits.

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According to a statement by Leah Gazan:

Gazan is proposing a GLBI for all people living in Canada over the age of 17 regardless of participation in the workforce or an educational training program. Regional differences in the cost of living are considerations addressed in the bill and there are provisions to ensure a GLBI would not mean clawbacks to services or benefits meant to meet an individual’s exceptional needs related to health or disability.

NDP Finance Critic Daniel Blaikie joined Gazan this morning with Senator Kim Pate who is bringing forward a similar initiative in the Senate.

“While many factors contribute to the problem of poverty, there is no way to solve the problem without ensuring people have a liveable income,” said MP Daniel Blaikie (Elmwood-Transcona).

Besides helping everyday families cover the cost of rent, food, and other expenses, Gazan says a GLBI would help to protect the people who are made most vulnerable in our society. 

“This isn’t just good financial policy; there is a direct correlation between increased rates of violence and poverty,” said Gazan. “The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls calls for a guaranteed livable basic income as a critical, life-saving measure for Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit individuals. If the government is serious about reconciliation, they need to get this done.”

Advocacy groups like Basic Income Manitoba, Basic Income Canada Network, Coalition Canada, and Basic Income Canada Youth Network have also expressed support for Gazan’s bill.

Here is some of the text of Bill C-223, which requires “the Minister of Finance to develop a national framework to provide all persons over the age of 17 in Canada with access to a guaranteed livable basic income. It also provides for reporting requirements with respect to the framework.”

(2) In developing the framework, the Minister must consult with the Minister of Health, the ministers responsible for employment, social development and disability, representatives of the provincial governments responsible for health, disability, education and social development, Indigenous elders, Indigenous governing bodies and other relevant stakeholders, including policy developers and political decision-makers, as well as experts in other guaranteed livable basic income programs.

(3) The framework must include measures

(a) to determine what constitutes a livable basic income for each region in Canada, taking into account the goods and services that are necessary to ensure that individuals can lead a dignified and healthy life, as well as the cost of those goods and services in accessible markets;

(b) to create national standards for health and social supports that complement a guaranteed basic income program and guide the implementation of such a program in every province;

(c) to ensure that participation in education, training or the labour market is not required in order to qualify for a guaranteed livable basic income; and

(d) to ensure that the implementation of a guaranteed livable basic income program does not result in a decrease in services or benefits meant to meet an individual’s exceptional needs related to health or disability.

While not a solution to all of the problems of Canadian political economy, a truly universal UBI program does have potential to increase the quality of life for many of the working class.

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