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Create a federal livable basic income, UBCM tells Ottawa

The UBCM resolution was not without its opponents.
Union of BC Municipalities delegates want Ottawa to create a guaranteed basic livable income.

Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) delegates are calling on the feds to create a guaranteed livable basic income as a way to eradicate poverty and homelessness and alleviate pressure on cities.

Victoria Coun. Jeremy Loveday said such a move is a “potential solution to the crushing poverty we see in all our communities.”

Acts to develop a national framework for a guaranteed livable basic income were introduced in the House of Commons and Senate earlier this year.

Sen. Kim Pate said Feb. 8 “such a program would provide direct amounts of income support sufficient to live on and would be accessible to anyone in Canada over the age of 17 below the poverty line.”

The resolution before UBCM delegates at the annual Whistler conference said such an income would also help municipalities deal with responsibilities that have been downloaded to local governments by senior levels.

The resolution called on the federal government to implement a basic income to ensure “everyone has sufficient income to meet their needs, which would go a long way towards eradicating poverty and homelessness, alleviating the pressure on municipalities to use their limited resources to fill gaps in our failing social safety net.”

However, the resolution was not without its opponents — not in opposition to the concept but rather in favour of gathering more information before endorsing such a request.

Susan Clovechok, a Regional District of East Kootenay director, said without more information, delegates might not have enough to consider the potential impacts of such a move.

“There’s a lot of unanswered questions here,” said Cowichan Valley Regional District director Al Siebring. “I’m not sure what this means.”

Siebring cited the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the unintended consequence it had in making it difficult for the service industry to find employees as the pandemic eased.

He said the hospitality sector in particular was “desperate for employees” but faced a shortage due to the CERB income Ottawa was providing.

“Why the hell should they go to work?” he asked.

Sooke Coun. Tony St-Pierre said the concept is one Canadian taxpayers cannot afford.

He said he has worked in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and described money being wasted on multiple services aimed at helping people.

“Money was spent on keeping people poor,” he said. “These people are being left behind and it’s dangerous for society.”

The resolution had been part of a block of resolutions that would have been voted on as a group; however, delegates voted to remove it from the block for individual consideration and a vote.

Pate said the parliamentary budget officer has estimated the costs of such an income program.

“Most recently, they provided an example of a program that could deliver $80 billion in supports for a net cost of only $3 billion by replacing tax measures like the GST credit and basic personal amount, as well as provincial and territorial social assistance,” she said.

Pate noted that estimate doesn’t include future cost savings associated with downstream social and economic benefits, such as reductions in health care, the criminal legal system and emergency shelter spending.

“Nor does it include the potential economic benefits outlined by the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis, including a 1.8 per cent increase in real GDP, 346,000 additional jobs and $52 billion in additional tax revenue after the first five years of the program alone,” Pate said.

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