The province classes community gardens as recreational outdoor spaces — but advocates say they play a vital role in local food-supply chains
KINGSTON — The Sunnyside Community Garden on MacDonnell Street in Kingston is even quieter than usual for this time of year. While the gardening season in Ontario typically isn’t in full swing until May, gardeners would normally be cleaning up their spaces and making plans for their plots right about now. But these are not normal times.
“A lot of people have ordered seeds and created plans for them,” says Ayla Fenton, coordinator of the Kingston Community Gardens Network, which maintains Sunnyside garden through a partnership between the city and Loving Spoonful, a local non-profit that helps residents access healthy food. “They’re hoping to be in their gardens today. It’s relatively warm. People would be out there preparing their beds.”
But, because they fall into the category of recreational outdoor spaces, community gardens have been closed as part of the province’s emergency response to COVID-19. That doesn’t sit well with Fenton and other advocates who suggest that the plots are important parts of local food-supply chains. “To classify them as purely a recreational space is ludicrous,” she says, pointing out that Kingston community gardens donated 6,000 pounds of produce last year to Loving Spoonful. And that, she says, was just a small fraction of all the food produced in local community gardens throughout the city: “If agriculture is an essential service, I think people growing their own food should be considered a subsistence form of agriculture — not recreation.”
On April 14, the Ontario Community Growing Network, a provincial network of gardens, urban-agriculture projects, and organizations, sent a letter to the province’s medical officer of health and all MPPs asking that community gardens be “immediately included in the list of essential food services in Ontario.” The letter says that gardens should be opened, not for social gatherings, but to enable food production. On April 20, the group met with the premier’s office to discuss the issue; it says they are “making good progress towards an exemption for community gardens.”
Moe Garahan, executive director of Just Food, a non-profit community organization in Ottawa, co-authored the letter. She says it came out of meetings conducted with growers across the province and was inspired by a 5,000-signature petition. In Ottawa, Garahan says, 100 community gardens feed about 7,000 people every year. “We understand the fast-paced nature of needing to make decisions, and we applaud the focus on community health. We share that focus,” says Garahan. “But we feel that, within that, food production needs to be enhanced in the province because of increased food insecurity and increased food disruption.”
Asked whether there are plans to include community gardens on the essential-services list, a spokesperson for the premier’s office told TVO.org via email that “it’s too early to say. It’s important we remain vigilant to avoid additional surges or waves.” The government is focused, they said, on making sure that public-health measures are adhered to: “Ontarians have done a good job so far and that evidence is clear in today’s data. Our health experts are looking at how measures can be scaled back and reduced post-peak. That is part of our forward planning.”
British Columbia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island have allowed community gardens to open this season, and Garahan thinks that Ontario should act fast given that warmer temperatures are on the way. “Because of the short growing season in eastern Ontario, it requires that for many food items, seedlings are started ahead of the last frost,” she says, adding that growers are afraid that, if they are unable to plant the seeds they’ve purchased and made plans for, they’ll lose their “investment.”
A list of recommendations for community gardens was included along with the letter Garahan co-authored. She says they stemmed from suggestions made by Toronto community gardeners, and by Ontario gardening, food, and health experts. Some deal with safety protocols: limit garden access to members only, practise physical distancing at all times, and get compliance commitments from gardeners. Others address communication and planning: for example, if a gardener needs to go into self-isolation, they may be asked to give up their plot for the season. “This is some really good thinking of safety protocols that can work to avoid virus transmission,” says Garahan. “It’s similar processes to what needed to be rolled out for other food-access points. It’s important that we pivot for all the ways we find food, that the focus is on safety while accessing food.”
Kingston councillor Robert Kiley understands the importance of fresh, community-garden-grown produce: “The local food bank receives many donations of fresh produce that they might not get otherwise if they had to purchase themselves,” he says. “For a vulnerable resident, it’s a great way to stay eating healthy, especially when times are tight.” Kiley has put forward a motion that would call on the provincial government to consider “local flexibility to provincial orders” and providing access “to certain activities including community gardens.” Kingston council will vote on the motion Tuesday night. “What we want to do is encourage the province to continue their good work on COVID-19 and to recognize community gardens as essential services, which would allow them to remain open — with strict physical-distancing guidelines led by public health,” says Kiley. (On Monday night, the Ottawa Board of Health passed a similar motion in which it asked the province to deem community gardens an essential service.)
Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Public Health also recognizes that the gardens have a positive impact on community health and that the clock is ticking for the growing season. “There are positive physical and mental-health benefits,” says Tracy McDonough, a registered dietitian with the health unit. “To be active, have access to nature, and access to fresh produce — we see multiple levels of benefits if community gardens remain open.” But McDonough also says it’s crucial to acknowledge that having access to food from community gardens does not ensure food security. “We don’t see it as being an answer to food insecurity, but it is a component of the system that supports vulnerable families and individuals, which is why we see it as an essential service.”
Fenton is hopeful that Kingston gardens will reopen soon — she’s also glad that there’s now a larger conversation about food and community gardening: “This is about empowering the community to take more control over their food system and use the resources they do have —whether it’s land or a container on their balcony. Most people don’t really think about our food system until there’s no food in the grocery store.” SOURCE
Speeding up investment could deliver huge gains to global GDP by 2050 while tackling climate emergency, says report
Green energy investments could see returns of up to $8 on every dollar spent, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. Photograph: Bill Allsopp/Alamy
Renewable energy could power an economic recovery from Covid-19 by spurring global GDP gains of almost $100tn (£80tn) between now and 2050, according to a report.
The International Renewable Energy Agency found that accelerating investment in renewable energy could generate huge economic benefits while helping to tackle the global climate emergency.
The agency’s director general, Francesco La Camera, said the global crisis ignited by the coronavirus outbreak exposed “the deep vulnerabilities of the current system” and urged governments to invest in renewable energy to kickstart economic growth and help meet climate targets.
The agency’s landmark report found that accelerating investment in renewable energy would help tackle the climate crisis and would in effect pay for itself.
Investing in renewable energy would deliver global GDP gains of $98tn above a business-as-usual scenario by 2050 by returning between $3 and $8 on every dollar invested.
It would also quadruple the number of jobs in the sector to 42m over the next 30 years, and measurably improve global health and welfare scores, according to the report.
“Governments are facing a difficult task of bringing the health emergency under control while introducing major stimulus and recovery measures,” La Camera said. “By accelerating renewables and making the energy transition an integral part of the wider recovery, governments can achieve multiple economic and social objectives in the pursuit of a resilient future that leaves nobody behind.”
The report also found that renewable energy could curb the rise in global temperatures by helping to reduce the energy industry’s carbon dioxide emissions by 70% by 2050 by replacing fossil fuels.
Renewables could play a greater role in cutting carbon emissions from heavy industry and transport to reach virtually zero emissions by 2050, particularly by investing in green hydrogen.
The clean-burning fuel, which can replace the fossil fuel gas in steel and cement making, could be made by using vast amounts of clean electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen elements.
Andrew Steer, chief executive of the World Resources Institute, said: “As the world looks to recover from the current health and economic crises, we face a choice: we can pursue a modern, clean, healthy energy system, or we can go back to the old, polluting ways of doing business. We must choose the former.”
The call for a green economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis comes after a warning from Dr Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, that government policies must be put in place to avoid an investment hiatus in the energy transition.
“We should not allow today’s crisis to compromise the clean energy transition,” he said. “We have an important window of opportunity.”
Ignacio Galán, the chairman and CEO of the Spanish renewables giant Iberdrola, which owns Scottish Power, said the company would continue to invest billions in renewable energy as well as electricity networks and batteries to help integrate clean energy in the electricity.
“A green recovery is essential as we emerge from the Covid-19 crisis. The world will benefit economically, environmentally and socially by focusing on clean energy,” he said. “Aligning economic stimulus and policy packages with climate goals is crucial for a long-term viable and healthy economy.”
Jillian Ambrose is the Guardian’s energy correspondent
The coronavirus pandemic has revealed one particularly shocking thing about our societies and economies: they have been operating on a very thin margin. The edifice seems so shiny and substantial, a world of silver jets stitching together cities of towering skyscrapers, a globe of soaring markets and smartphone connectivity. But a couple of months into this disease and it’s all tottering, the jets grounded and the cities silent and the markets reeling. One industry after another is heading for bankruptcy, and no one knows if they will come back. In other words, however shiny it may have seemed, it wasn’t very sturdy. Some people—the President, for instance—think that we can just put it all back like it was before, with a “big bang,” once the “invisible enemy” is gone. But any prosperity built on what was evidently a shaky foundation is going to seem Potemkinish going forward; we don’t want always to feel as if we’re just weeks away from some kind of chaos.
So if we’re thinking about building civilization back in a hardier and more resilient form, we’ll have to learn what a more stable footing might look like. I think that we can take an important lesson from the doctors dealing with the coronavirus, and that’s related to comorbidity, or underlying conditions. It turns out, not surprisingly, that if you’ve got diabetes or hypertension, or have a suppressed immune system, you’re far more likely to be felled by covid-19.
Societies, too, come with underlying conditions, and the two that haunt our planet right now are inequality and ecological turmoil. They’ve both spiked in the past few decades, with baleful results that normally stay just below the surface, felt but not fully recognized. But as soon as something else goes wrong—a new microbe launches a pandemic, say—they become starkly evident. Inequality, in this instance, means that people have to keep working, even if they’re not well, because they lack health insurance and live day to day, paycheck to paycheck, and hence they can spread disease. Ecological instability, especially the ever-climbing mercury, means that even as governors try to cope with the pandemic they must worry, too, about the prospect of another spring with massive flooding across the Midwest, or how they’ll cope if wildfire season gets out of control. Last month, the U.S. Forest Service announced that, owing to the pandemic, it is suspending controlled burns, for instance, “one of the most effective tools for increasing California’s resiliency to fire.” God forbid that we get another big crisis or two while this one is still preoccupying us—but simple math means that it’s almost inevitable.
And, of course, all these things interact with one another: inequality means that some people must live near sources of air pollution that most of us wouldn’t tolerate, which in turn means that their lungs are weakened, which in turn means they can’t fight off the coronavirus. (It also means that some of the same people can lack access to good food, and are more likely to be diabetic.) And, if there’s a massive wildfire, smoke fills the air for weeks, weakening everybody’s lungs, but especially those at the bottom of the ladder. When there’s a hurricane and people need to flee, the stress and the trauma can compromise immune systems. Simply living at the sharp end of an unequal and racist society can do the same thing. And so on, in an unyielding spiral of increasing danger.
Since we must rebuild our economies, we need to try to engineer out as much ecological havoc and inequality as we can—as much danger as we can. That won’t be easy, but there are clear and obvious steps that would help—there are ways to structure the increased use of renewable energy that will confront inequality at the same time. Much will be written about such plans in the months to come, but at the level of deepest principle here’s what’s key, I think: from a society that has prized growth above all and been willing to play fast and loose with justice and ecology, we need to start emphasizing sturdiness, hardiness, resiliency. (And a big part of that is fairness.) The resulting world won’t be quite as shiny, but, somehow, shininess seems less important now.
Passing the Mic
Mary Annaïse Heglar is one of the freshest and most important voices in the climate movement. She’s the writer-in-residence at Columbia University’s Earth Institute in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Her personal essays—most of which revolve around themes of climate justice—are some of the most engaging writing I know on a subject that often inspires earnestness; a recent favorite was in Wired magazine. This interview has been condensed for clarity.
You say, “The facts have been on our side for a very long time, but we’re still losing.” Why?
The science on climate change has been crystal clear for literally decades. As Amy Westervelt has illustrated beautifully, on her podcast “Drilled,” the fossil-fuel companies knew that before anyone else. James Hansen testified before Congress thirty-two years ago. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (the precursor to the Paris Agreement) dates back to 1992. We didn’t wind up in a climate crisis for lack of information, or even for lack of clearly communicated information. What was done was not done out of ignorance—it was done out of malice and greed. If all we had to do was have the right facts, we’d have been done a long time ago.
People feel as if they can’t take part in the fight because they’re not scientifically inclined. What do you tell them?
What I tell them is, “Girl, me, neither!” But you don’t need a scientific background or inclination to be part of the climate movement or conversation. This is not about science; it’s about justice. The science proves the severity of the injustice, sure, but it’s not the entire story. There’s a place for everyone in the climate movement because everyone, even the smallest toddler, understands the concept of “no fair.”
Everyone always asks me, “What should I be doing as an individual?” But is that even the right way to frame the question?
I get that question all the time, too, and it’s really frustrating. As I argue in my article, if you’re ready to graduate beyond the things that everyone should be doing—like cutting your carbon footprint, and voting for the climate, and showing up to demonstrations—then you’ve reached the point where you’re ready to become a bona-fide climate person. That means you’re past the one-size-fits-all activism. It’s time for your activism to mold to you, and only you can do that. No one told Greta [Thunberg] to strike, no one told Jamie and Nadia [the teen-age climate activists Jamie Margolin and Nadia Nazar] to help start Zero Hour. They just did it. No one told me to write—in fact, plenty of people told me not to! There’s so much to be done on climate, and so much that the people already involved with it haven’t thought of. There’s so much room for new ideas and new voices, so if you’re a new or aspiring climate person, you’re right on time. The better question would be “What can I do next?” An even better question would be “How did you find your niche in climate?” And then take those answers and carve out your own niche.
As Earth Day approaches, Denis Hayes, who spearheaded the original observance, in 1970, writes in the Seattle Times about what had been the plans for a mass fiftieth-anniversary day of action next week. The activities will be going online, instead, at EarthDayLive, but Hayes points out that we’ll get a real chance to show our commitment on November 3rd. His essay is worth looking at for the vintage photographs alone, but he adds an aside that I didn’t know: just days after the original protest, in which some twenty million Americans participated, the escalation of the war in Cambodia and the shootings at Kent State drove it out of the news.
Cutting down rain forests is a bad idea because it helps wreck the climate. It also increases the chances that diseases will jump from animals to humans, according to a new Stanford study. The veteran writer David Quammen distills some of those lessons in a new interview, based on his book “Spillover,” from 2012. I confess that I had no idea that one in four mammal species on our planet was a bat.
The Times has a doleful piece on Nepali climate migrants leaving their home villages because of the Himalayan drought. According to one official, ongoing bouts of extreme weather across the region threaten to “reverse and undermine decades of development gains and potentially undermine all our efforts to eradicate poverty.”
President Trump keeps rolling back environmental regulations, but one of the few silver linings to the incompetence of this Administration is that it frequently manages the rollbacks with the same flat-footedness that it brings to, say, epidemiology. This means that the courts often overturn them; last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit restored a regulation that prohibited businesses from using chemicals in refrigeration systems that contribute to climate change.
In Kansas (of all places), a judge appointed by the former far-right governor Sam Brownback (of all people) ruled that the utilities could not charge people a monthly fee more for putting solar panels on their roofs. The surcharge—similar to plans put in place across the nation by utilities who fear that the quick penetration of solar power will undercut their revenues—would have in some cases extended the time it takes for residents to pay off their systems from thirteen years to thirty-nine. That the judge was the appointee of an anti-environmental governor makes the ruling “almost a cherry on top of an ice-cream sundae,” as one advocate put it.
Judy Twedt, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington, managed to put the Keeling Curve of rising carbon dioxide to music—“it gets screechy at the end,” she admits, as the numbers keep rising. Here’s a short interview with her, and her tedx talk, and her home page, where you can check out the score she made from the data record of melting sea ice.
A Guide to the Coronavirus
- How to practice social distancing, from responding to a sick housemate to the pros and cons of ordering food.
- How the coronavirus behaves inside of a patient.
- Can survivors help cure the disease and rescue the economy?
- What it means to contain and mitigate the coronavirus outbreak.
- The success of Hong Kong and Singapore in stemming the spread holds lessons for how to contain it in the United States.
- The coronavirus is likely to spread for more than a year before a vaccine is widely available.
- With each new virus, we’ve scrambled for a new treatment. Can we prepare antivirals to combat the next global crisis?
- How pandemics have propelled public-health innovations, prefigured revolutions, and redrawn maps.
- What to read, watch, cook, and listen to under coronavirus quarantine.
(CNN)While the coronavirus pandemic and climate change are inherently different issues, they share two important characteristics: both are global crises that threaten the lives of millions of people.
Climate change is a global health crisis
The 1970 gathering ushered in significant achievements in protecting our environment. Now Trump is destroying them.
Credit…Rolls Press/Popperfoto, via Getty Images
Fifty years ago, millions of people took to the streets to protest the air and water pollution that were making us sick. Today, millions are sheltering inside to try to stem the spread of a very different kind of sickness, Covid-19.
Out of that first Earth Day eventually came — under a Republican administration — the Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Environmental Protection Agency. That agency was given one mission: to protect human health and the environment. From time to time, Republicans and Democrats have worked together to strengthen the authority of the Clean Air Act. Further, the Supreme Court in 2007 affirmed that the E.P.A. has the authority to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases that warm our planet.
Over the decades, people began to “celebrate” Earth Day. It became a feel-good commemoration. We were seeing the heartening results of stronger antipollution regulations. We began to take for granted that we had a right to clean air.
That has turned out to be a disastrous mistake under the Trump administration.
To run the E.P.A., the president chose a former lobbyist for the coal industry, Andrew Wheeler, who has spent his time there eviscerating the steady progress made to keep America’s air clean.
Mr. Wheeler’s E.P.A. could make Americans even more vulnerable to disease at a time when our nation’s health is on the line. What was once a steady drumbeat of proposed rollbacks has become, since the pandemic reached our shores, a feverish gutting of pollution protections, turning the E.P.A. into a shop of horrors. On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we should be celebrating the remarkable achievements of the Clean Air Act, a crown jewel of America’s environmental laws. Instead we are witnessing an attempt to systematically dismantle it.
That’s why, rather than celebrate, I am going to fight for Earth Day, in honor of its original spirit, and against what the E.P.A. has become under Mr. Trump and Mr. Wheeler.
Here is why I am in warrior mode on Earth Day:
Just last week, the E.P.A. finalized a decision that undermines rules against oil- and coal-fired power plant emissions of mercury and other toxic metals. These rules, approved in 2012, were in full force and were helping to protect babies’ brains from mercury emissions, a potent neurotoxin. Now, the new rules change the way the E.P.A. evaluates the costs and benefits of regulating emissions, opening the door to legal challenges and threatening the foundation of air pollution regulations generally.
After dismissing the E.P.A.’s scientific advisory panel on particulate matter in 2018, Mr. Wheeler is now refusing to strengthen standards protecting us from the tiny airborne industrial particles known as PM2.5 that so badly damage our lungs. New research from Harvard, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, shows that a “small increase in long-term exposure” to fine particulate matter “leads to a large increase” in the Covid-19 death rate.
Mr. Wheeler’s E.P.A. has also gutted the national standards that give us cleaner and more fuel-efficient cars, weakening efforts to reduce pollution and reversing climate progress, while making cars more expensive to drive. This basically puts a knife in the country’s most significant undertaking to slow climate change.
He is also proposing to exclude well-regarded, authoritative public health science studies in setting air pollution standards, essentially censoring science.
And he has proposed to roll back rules to cut emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and toxic pollutants from oil and gas operations. This would be another severe blow for cutting climate pollution.
It’s no figure of speech to say that the E.P.A. of Mr. Trump and Mr. Wheeler will end up making more of us sick. Because of the pandemic, we cannot gather in body on Earth Day to protest, to make demands for a better America. We are suffering, we are mourning and we are fearful. But we are also furious.
So in honor of the spirit of that first Earth Day, let us raise up our voices, and protest in the loudest way we can, against the perversion of the agency’s mission under Mr. Trump’s E.P.A. We will not lose our right to clean air. We will not lose our right to a safe climate. And we will not remain silent as Congress watches this unfold.
We must remember this travesty in November and show up to vote out this administration — for the sake of our health and the planet’s. SOURCE
Dominique Browning is a founder and the director of Moms Clean Air Force.
Great little video of Polly Higgins & Jojo Mehta talking about the Mission LifeForce campaign to make Ecocide an international crime and unlock the potential of hundreds of thousands of environmental initiatives that exist all over the world, (y)our Earth.
(NAC)’s Canada Performs series, which brings Canadian artists into people’s home via online streaming events on popular social media platforms.
Tune in Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22 on Facebook Live at 12 pm NOON PST– you don’t need to have a Facebook account! It will be a lot of fun for kids of all ages… and informative too!
And, the first official “single” Let’s Get Drastic With Our Plastic — off the upcoming new album Think About The Wild — gets released out to streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music on Earth Day as well!
I’m honoured to be doing a concert through the National Art Center
Learning Links: Focus on Plastics
Here are some great resources about plastic pollution and how to prevent it… let your actions be enthusiastic!
What Is PLASTIC POLLUTION? | What Causes Plastic Pollution? | Peekaboo Kidz (animated video for younger kids)
Plastic Pollution: How Humans are Turning the World into Plastic
(colourful and “science-y” video, for older audience, really good)
Ocean Plastics Education (Ocean Wise) Learning Resources https://plasticsedkit.ocean.org/
16 simple ways to reduce plastic waste (Mother Nature News)
The Pope likes the idea. He’s not the only one.
A closed storefront boutique business in Toronto pleads for more federal pandemic help on April 16, 2020. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)
As every schoolchild knows, it was the First World War that brought Canadian women into the workplace (though of course, they had always been working). Even after the men returned from the front, women continued to work — and what was a temporary change turned into a new societal norm.
The Great War left us with another supposedly temporary measure: income tax. “I have placed no time limit upon this measure,” said then finance minister Thomas White in 1917. “A year or two after the war is over, the measure should be reviewed.”
We all know how that turned out.
Like governments around the world, the Trudeau government has used the rhetoric of wartime to describe the fight against the novel coronavirus. Wars and pandemics sometimes bring with them economic measures that would be unthinkable in normal times.
For proponents of a universal basic income (or UBI), governments’ responses to the pandemic offer a moment of opportunity — and of vindication.
A way to buy time
“I think the coronavirus has exposed some of the problems with the economy that have led to this movement from the beginning, and it’s going to accelerate them,” said Floyd Marinescu, CEO of software learning company C4Media and a founder of the basic income lobby group UBI Works.
Marinescu said the pandemic is driving a new wave of industrial automation as companies try to function without workers.
“Six million Canadians have been suddenly thrust into what is effectively a basic income program and they’re seeing that it works for what it’s meant to do — something to fall back on and give you time to figure out what you’re going to do next in a way that’s more dignified and avoids the stigma and inefficiencies of applying for social assistance,” he said.
“I think now we have a chance with basic income to have a shorter recession and a more inclusive recovery that helps everyone adapt to the new reality.”
A papal blessing
On Tuesday, Pope Francis became the latest public figure to embrace the idea of a universal basic income, calling it a “change that can no longer be put off.”
In his annual “letter to popular movements” he addressed those “who are informal, working on your own or in the grassroots economy, you have no steady income to get you through this hard time … the lockdowns are becoming unbearable.
“This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage which would acknowledge and dignify the noble, essential tasks you carry out.”
Already, one country that has suffered disproportionately from the pandemic appears to be headed in that direction.
Spain’s governing Socialist Workers Party has seized on the pandemic to make changes it normally could only dream of — including the public takeover of private hospitals.
Some of those measures might be reversed once the viral threat fades. But Finance Minister and Deputy PM Nadia Calvino said her government sees its new UBI program, the ingreso mínimal vital, as something “that stays forever, that becomes a structural instrument, a permanent instrument.”
Here in North America, the idea of a universal basic income was the driving force behind the surprisingly strong campaign of political outsider Andrew Yang for the Democratic presidential nomination.
His proposal that the U.S. government send monthly cheques (he called them “freedom dividends”) to all or most American adults has, because of the pandemic, temporarily become official government policy.
Wow. Pope Francis today: “This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage.” Game-changing. .@pontifex https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2020/04/12/pope-just-proposed-universal-basic-income-united-states-ready-it …
The pope just proposed a universal basic income. Is the United States ready for it?
“This may be the time,” he said, “to consider a universal basic wage.” This points unmistakably to what is usually known as universal basic income—a regular, substantial cash payment to people just…
Same solution, different problem
Yang’s proposal, of course, had nothing to do with disease and everything to do with the decline of America’s manufacturing base. For years, the main argument for UBI has been that automation will only accelerate the disappearance of solid blue-collar jobs and their replacement with low-wage jobs that don’t provide the stability necessary to raise a healthy family, or create a healthy society.
The anger and fear that loss of stability produces (so the argument goes) leads people to turn away from democracy and embrace demagogues — so it’s in everyone’s interests to keep people from slipping into desperation.
The idea had been slowly gaining support in some quarters for years. Then COVID-19 hit, wiping out in mere weeks more jobs than had been lost to years of automation and outsourcing.
“What seems to some to be marginal or overambitious is going to become common sense pretty quickly,” Yang predicted, just weeks after ending his own presidential campaign.
But the U.S. proposal is only one temporary measure in a vast pandemic relief program that’s also laden with the usual lard for millionaires and billionaires — including particularly generous handouts for wealthy real estate investors with backgrounds remarkably similar to those of the president himself and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
The Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) that has become Ottawa’s main non-EI support for people hurt by the pandemic resembles a UBI in some respects. It’s designed to catch people who work in the “gig economy,” so it covers many who would be missed by conventional EI.
CERB is not really universal, however, and it’s set to run for only four months. The hope is that, by the time the program ends, the country will have returned to business as usual, more or less.
A ‘business-friendly’ approach to income supports
But Canada has its own advocates for a permanent UBI.
When the incoming Doug Ford government decided to cancel a UBI pilot project in Ontario in late 2018, Marinescu helped to organize a group of 120 CEOs, presidents and owners of Canadian companies to ask him to reconsider.
“We see a guaranteed basic income as a business-friendly approach to address the increasing financial precarity of our citizens and revitalize the economy,” they wrote in a letter to the premier. Their effort was not successful and the pilot program was killed.
The pandemic, however, has given the idea wings. It has the support of one party on Parliament Hill:
Applications open today for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit
See link for more info:https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html …
However, too many people are still left out
That’s why New Democrats will keep fighting for a Universal Basic Income – so EVERYONE can get the help they need
Queen’s University economist Robin Boadway said that nearly all existing benefits and tax credits in Canada are means-tested. “These are things that go out on the basis of what your reported income has been in the last year,” he said.
A switch to UBI, he said, would require a fundamental shift in approach.
“I think there are good chances that people will see the value of universality when it comes to transfers, but the transition from an existing emergency program to a permanent program that’s funded is one that would take a bit of time, I think,” he said.
An incentive to work
The Trudeau government has insisted on means-testing rather than true universality in its pandemic relief programs and has made a series of tweaks to them, progressively loosening the entry criteria. But the Alberta Liberal Party has embraced UBI and has called on its federal counterpart to immediately begin payments of $1,500 per month to every Canadian adult and $500 per month for every child.
UBI has its opponents, though. Many on the left object to the fact that UBI money goes to rich and poor alike, while those on the right frequently attack it as a handout for people who don’t wish to work.
Marinescu argues that a UBI would provide more incentive to work than some of the Trudeau government’s current pandemic benefits.
The CERB, he said, is “kind of like a scaled-up welfare with the same welfare traps. In some ways, it pays people not to work, or forces them to choose between going back to work or staying another month or two on the CERB.
“And that’s precisely what basic income is meant to address — it’s a work incentive because you get to keep the money when you go back to work.”
Marinescu said the experience of past pilot projects has shown that labour force participation doesn’t decline when a UBI is introduced — and that some people have been able to find better jobs with the help of a UBI “because they were able to get off the hamster wheel and retrain.”
“No other government program that I’ve seen could touch the efficacy of a basic income to give people more options in life.”
Overhauling the safety net
Marinescu said he hopes the current crisis will change the minds of many who dismissed UBI as a transfer of wealth from the hard-working to the lazy. “A lot of people who are now finding themselves on a basic income are realizing, ‘I don’t want to work any less. I want to go back to work’,” he said
But Pedro Antunes, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, said he thinks “we’ll have to wait and see whether this really changes the social safety net we have in place.
“If we were to go that route, I think we’d really have to revamp the way we deliver the social safety net federally and provincially. And I’m not sure we’re ready to move on that just yet.”
Antunes said that, prior to the pandemic, some of the labour trends that drove the UBI movement — the rise in precarious “gig” jobs, for example — were easing or even reversing themselves.
“We’re coming out of a situation over the last couple of years where Canada’s economy and labour markets were in pretty good shape and favouring the workers. In 2019, employment growth was strong, labour markets were very tight and wage growth well above inflation,” he said.
Attitudes may shift
Just as the First War produced the income tax, the Second World War left Canada with the basic structure of its modern health care system.
There were those who wanted to see it dismantled with the return of peace, the Canadian Public Health Journal warned in an editorial at the time, saying demands had “already gone out for curtailment of public expenditures and redirection of effort.” The CPHJ wasn’t having it.
“Gains must be consolidated. The last war left its lessons. There can be no reduction in public expenditures, and no lessening of public effort, for the safeguarding of health,” the journal wrote.
The nature of the post-COVID recovery is likely to affect the debate over UBI.
A strong rebound would lessen the pressure to strengthen the safety net. But it might prove politically difficult to push large numbers of people off the basic income scheme if the economy remains weak after the epidemic recedes.
“Once this crisis is over,” said Antunes, “I think it’s inevitable we’re going to return to that trend where labour markets are generally tight because of the exodus of the baby boom cohort, so I don’t know that we’ll have to have these measures in place forever.”
But millions of working people who are used to seeing themselves as independent are now experiencing hardship and turning to governments for help. Will that change how they view others in need in the future?
“Public attitudes may well change as a consequence of this pandemic and there may be more social acceptance,” said Boadway. “It’s possible the thing will catch on, and people will realize that if a universal basic income had existed before the pandemic hit, we wouldn’t have been faced with as dire a situation as is being faced by so many people without money.” SOURCE