Premier Ghiz and Basic Income Guarantee (BIG)

The PEI Working Group for a Livable Income welcomes the comments of Premier Ghiz in response to guaranteed income questions in the Legislature on April 3, 2014. Progressive Conservative Independent, Olive Crane, asked the Premier about his knowledge of a Manitoba four-year experiment implementing a guaranteed annual income system. He indicated that he has knowledge of it and that people within his Government are currently discussing how a guaranteed income would work in PEI. 

Of special interest to the PEI Working Group for a Livable Income is that the Premier speaks of having government explorations done in conjunction with interested groups in the private sector, which includes community-based organizations. 

Since its beginnings in 2003 the Working Group has supported a guaranteed annual income as a way of ensuring that all people would have enough to cover basics needs and to live with dignity. Over the past year the Working Group, as one of the first community organizations in Canada to do this, developed the beginnings of a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) Campaign. Now other groups, springing up all across the country, along with a national body, BIG Push, have researched the nature and feasibility of Basic Income Guarantee. Many look to PEI as an ideal place to have one of the pilots (or tests) implemented. PEI’s BIG Campaign maintains continuous communication with sister organizations in other provinces.  

The BIG Campaign in PEI set out two objectives for promotion: to meet with politicians of all parties: and to sponsor presentations to engage the wider community in discussing the meaning and aims of Basic Income Guarantee and to get suggestions from the community. 

Not all political parties have responded to the invitation to meet, but those who have, were generally supportive. When presented with the data, they can easily see BIG as an investment. Most of the required money is already in the system in the form of multiple social programs, which could eventually be replaced.  Some politicians have offered invaluable suggestions and some have promised to stay in contact with the Campaign. 

An important point we made with politicians is that Basic Income Guarantee requires a non-partisan approach. Across the country, politicians of all stripes are weighing- in to support Basic Income Guarantee in whatever form is required to provide livable income for all people. We also feel that the matter is too serious and  too important to wait until the “right government” is in place in Ottawa before PEI makes an official start on Basic Income Guarantee. It will be a great deal of work, within government and in the community, to set the stage for this system; it should not be delayed.

BIG proponents insist that BIG is not a glorified social assistance program. It is a system which guarantees a basic livable income to everyone, for example: seniors, youth, workers, family-based business people and primary producers, persons with disabilities, and newcomers to Canada. It is important to emphasize that BIG payments merely bring people up to the poverty line. It is not luxury. Most people want more than bare-minimum living. Research is showing that a guaranteed income proves to be a great incentive to work for a better life.

In the area of community involvement, the PEI Working Group for a Livable Income has already received a number of requests for presentations from churches, labour and seniors groups. Information forums are being organized, one in each county, for the third week of April. The forums will give people a chance to learn more about BIG, and offer their ideas about how it might work, and why they might think it is important to them.

Marie Burge represents Cooper Institute in the PEI Working Groups for a Livable Income

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