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

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

The famous band calls Fernie home. (Photo Contributed)
Shred Kelly gets creative with pandemic performances

CBC Radio recently promoted the band, highlighting their recent virtual tour and upcoming plans

A woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 uses walking sticks while walking up a hill, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Interior Health reports 83 more COVID-19 infections overnight

46 cases are now associated with a COVID-19 community cluster in Revelstoke

Green spaces have offered many a sense of peace throughout the pandemic. (Photo Contributed)
Nature Conservancy of Canada matches all donations on Dec. 1

The initiative honours Giving Tuesday, an initiative created to combat Black Friday’s consumerism

Signs are posted at the entrance of newly deactivated roads. (Photo Contributed)
Teck hosts virtual Annual Outdoor Recreationalist Meeting

The Dec. 2 meeting will touch on biodiversity, reclamation, and road rehabilitation

A man wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Vancouver on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
212 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

A total of 490 cases remain active; 15 in hospital

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

A teacher places the finishing touches on the welcome sign at Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School which is part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Sept. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Hindsight 2020: How do you preserve a year many Canadians would rather forget?

Figuring out how to preserve the story of the pandemic poses a series of challenges

Haley Callison. (Facebook photo)
Former B.C. pro hockey player frustrated with COVID-deniers after horrific bout with virus

Haleigh Callison hopes people will follow precautions and tone down the rhetoric

A man stands in the window of an upper floor condo in Vancouver on March 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Change made to insurance for B.C. condo owners amid rising premiums

Council CEO Janet Sinclair says the change will mean less price volatility

The Walking Curriculum gets students outside and connecting with nature. (Amanda Peterson/Special to S.F. Examiner)
‘Walking Curriculum’ crafted by SFU professor surges in popularity

The outdoor curriculum encourages students to connect with the natural world

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

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

Most Read