Painful Truth: UBI fends off fear of poverty

Painful Truth: UBI fends off fear of poverty

Dignified work isn’t always available

The universal basic income (UBI) idea is back in a big way in Canada.

An Angus Reid poll in June showed that 59 per cent of Canadians were in favour of some variation on a basic income.

A Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) study released this week showed that the cost of a basic income of $16,689 per year ($24,027 for couples) would cost Canada between $47.5 and $98 billion for the last six months of the fiscal year.

And of course, a lot of us have now had experience with an emergency basic income – a huge number of households have at least one member who’s been on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

A basic income would be a huge change for millions of Canadians. Right now, welfare and disability cheques in most provinces are pathetically low – $760 in B.C.

A basic income of $1,500 to $2,000 would change people’s lives dramatically. It would ease fear, provide stability, allow for people to plan for the future.

It would also very likely force a long-overdue reckoning.

There’s dignity in providing for your family. There’s dignity in working hard so your kids will have a better life than you had.

But there’s no dignity in working two or three jobs to just barely keep treading water. There’s no dignity in taking any job, even one you hate, because the alternative is eviction, a missed payment on the power bill, or a trip to the food bank.

There are a great many jobs in our society that don’t provide enough income, or enough hours, to give people the basics. People take those jobs because they need the money, because welfare and other support programs are usually much, much worse.

I’m going to keep saying this over and over again – if people only want to work for you because the alternative is poverty and unemployment, you might have a bad workplace.

What if there wasn’t a need for people to take any job? What if UBI was better, and they could just… not?

Well, a lot of employers would have to re-think how they run their businesses. They might have to offer more money, longer shifts, better schedules to attract workers.

“But what if they don’t work at all?” you might say.

Okay. Fine. Sounds good to me. If the options are “everyone gets a dignified life and some choose not to work” or “many, many people are terrified of losing their jobs” I’ll take option A.

But I don’t think most people would choose to do nothing.

Personally, I think we’d unleash a lot of potential for better things. For parents to spend more time with their kids rather than rushing back to careers. For seniors to enjoy retirement a few years earlier. For people to go back to school, to learn new trades, without piling up debt that can take decades to pay off, and to start businesses of their own.

An economy that provides dignity for everyone is better than one based on fear.

ColumnLangleyOpinionPoverty

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

Just Posted

Langley City’s Twin Rinks is one of the Lower Mainland sites where Adult Safe Hockey League adult hockey has resumed for the modified fall season. (Canlan Ice Sports Corp. Facebook)
Beer league hockey starts fall season at rinks in Langley, Burnaby and the North Shore

New rules are meant to minimize unintentional contact, including new ways to do face offs

Langley RCMP issued a $2,300 fine to the Riverside Calvary church in Langley in the 9600 block of 201 Street for holding an in-person service on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, despite a provincial COVID-19 related ban (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
Updated: Langley church fined for holding in-person Sunday service

Calvary church was fined $2,300 for defying provincial order

(Black Press Media files)
‘Potentially damaging’ winds expected in Metro Vancouver

Wind is expected to pick up late Sunday night

A hand-drawn ‘stairway to heaven’ was part of an memorial left for a cyclist who died from a medical emergency near 206 Street and 66 Avenue on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020 (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
Children leave memorial for cyclist who died in Langley

‘Hope you make it to heaven’ the note reads

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

The Abbotsford Police Department is investigating a shooting on Adair Avenue on Saturday night. (Photo by Dale Klippenstein)
Drive-by shooting in Abbotsford targeted home with young children, police say

Investigators believe home was mistakenly targeted by assailants

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

(File photo)
Vancouver police warn of toxic drug supply after 7 people overdose at one party

Seven people between the ages of 25 to 42 were taken to hospital for further treatment.

Most Read