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

Tough time for tree fruits as some B.C. farm products soar

Province reports record 2019 sales, largely due to cannabis

United Way Southern Interior and local partners announce Sustainable Recovery Grant Recipients

The 2020 recipients will receive one-time grant funding for customized coaching and support

Tourism Golden targets closer markets during COVID-19

Tourism Golden is looking to market people from the coast of BC and Canadians this summer

RCMP identify dangerous driver from near head-on collision by Golden

Police say the extremely dangerous and illegal maneuver put multiple lives at risk

21 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in B.C. as virus ‘silently circulates’ in broader community

Health officials urge British Columbians to enjoy summer safely as surge continues

Separate trials set for 2018 Kelowna Canada Day killing

Four people have been charged with manslaughter in relation to Esa Carriere’s death, including two youths

Kootnekoff: New workplace harassment and violence requirements

Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, her diverse legal career spans over 20 years.

Tough time for tree fruits as some B.C. farm products soar

Province reports record 2019 sales, largely due to cannabis

Summerland Museum to hold walking tours

Community’s past will be explained during series of summer tours

‘Let’s all do a self-check’: Okanagan mayor reacts to racist vandalism targeting local family

Home of Indo-Canadian family in Summerland was targeted on evening of July 13

Summerland mayor asks for community conversation following racist vandalism

Home of Indo-Canadian family in Summerland was targeted on evening of July 13

Province agrees to multimillion-dollar payout for alleged victims of Kelowna social worker

Robert Riley Saunders is accused of misappropriating funds of children — often Indigenous — in his care

COVID-19 cases at Oliver farm likely linked to Kelowna outbreak, says Interior Health

A team of doctors, nurses and health investigators are at the Krazy Cherry Farm to test employees

Most Read