Where’s the talk abut a guaranteed livable income?

Let’s hear where party leaders stand on the idea, because as work becomes more precarious, more Canadians will need help, no strings attached

Image result for policy options: where's the talk

hen Canadians head to the polls on October 21, they should ask themselves how Canada’s political parties will tackle inequality.

Over the past two decades, the richest Canadians have seen their share of income go up and up. The top one per cent absorbed almost a third of all income growth between 1997 and 2007, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Meanwhile, one in seven people in Canada lives in poverty — which hurts everyone, because poverty is expensive. In 2008, for instance, the cost of failing to address poverty in Ontario – including everything from health care and criminal justice system costs to lost tax revenue – was estimated to be 10 to 16 per cent of the province’s budget. That’s around $2,000 to $3,000 per household per year.

It’s time to consider a guaranteed livable income.

Unlike the current support offered by social assistance, a guaranteed livable income would not impose strict eligibility criteria, require recipients to work or get clawed back if recipients were to exceed a particular financial threshold.

The current social assistance model makes people dependent on that assistance; a person can essentially be punished for even limited financial success through a corresponding reduction of benefits.

Canadians are rightly proud of the improvements in quality of life achieved thanks to current forms of guaranteed income, namely programs such as the Canada Child Benefit and Old Age Security.

But providing a guaranteed livable income can go well beyond poverty reduction. It could also allow Canadians to navigate an increasingly volatile economy.

Industrial jobs are drying up. Precarious, non-unionized work without benefits – what some call the “uberization” of the labour market – is leading to job insecurity. New technologies, automation and artificial intelligence will affect jobs in industries like transportation and retail. Climate change threatens jobs in the natural resource sector as well.

In short, the economy is changing. Young people can no longer count on stable employment or career-long ties with one company, and secure pensions are becoming scarce.

A guaranteed income on its own will not be sufficient to ensure that standards relating to employment insurance, pensions and minimum wage hold strong in the new “gig economy.” It is not a silver bullet. But a guaranteed livable income could ensure no one falls through the cracks.

The idea is hardly new. Guaranteed income has been appearing in the platforms of some United States politicians. Pilot programs have been tested in in the US, Finland, Belgium, Namibia, Uganda and India. Manitoba and Ontario also launched pilot programs in 1974 and 2017 respectively – but Ontario’s program and plans to analyse Manitoba’s data were both cancelled after changes in government.

Senators, too, have long taken an interest in guaranteed income, from the 1971 Report of the Special Senate Committee on Poverty to more recent studies and advocacy on the issue, primarily led by former Conservative senator Hugh Segal and former Liberal senator Art Eggleton.

As recently as 2017, the Senate called on the federal government to put its weight behind provincial, territorial and Indigenous basic-income initiatives.

In that same tradition, we now call on political parties to take up the challenge.

We note that the Green Party has committed to support a guaranteed livable income. The Liberal Party has also gotten behind an option for new parents: a guaranteed paid family leave for those without employment insurance benefits.

One way or another, we senators are ready to continue the effort. We hope to connect with a range of experts and activists who have long been working on these issues, and we commit to re-energizing parliamentary debate about a guaranteed livable income. MORE

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This election, ask representatives where they stand on universal basic income

Pipeline fight is not over, and Canadians everywhere have a stake


A shot of Fort McMurray, Alberta in 2012. Photo by Kris Krüg from Flickr

The Trudeau government and the petrobloc (the fossil fuel industries and their political, financial and media allies) would like you to believe that the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline (TMX), intended to triple the flow of diluted bitumen from the Athabasca Sands to the port of Vancouver, is a done deal.

But the latest approval of TMX by the Trudeau government and the industry-friendly National Energy Board does not settle the issue.

There are significant legal challenges from six major First Nations whose territories include much of the proposed pipeline route through B.C. Ecojustice is litigating in the Federal Court of Appeal to defend the critically endangered southern resident orcas. The B.C. government is taking its case for jurisdiction over the transport of diluted bitumen within B.C. to the Supreme Court.

The Indigenous-led, grassroots place-based resistance that encouraged the Texas-based multinational Kinder Morgan (founded by two former Enron executives) to walk away from the project, is re-emerging, after the construction delay imposed by the Federal Court of Appeal in August 2018.

And the federal election in October could give the balance of power to two parties – Greens and New Democrats – which are opposed to the pipeline.

Now, a new front has opened up: a national campaign to halt fossil fuel subsidies on which projects like TMX depend.

B.C. residents in the sacrifice zones of the pipeline project know of its local, regional and global environmental risks, from tank farm fires, pipeline rupture, oil tanker spills and orca deaths, to intensified planetary heating. These concerns didn’t always resonate with Canadians elsewhere, facing economic insecurity and public service cutbacks.

But the federal government’s 2018 purchase of the pipeline has added an enormous new risk to Canadian taxpayers. While the petrobloc touts TMX as a route to economic prosperity, taxpayers may see more pain than gain.

Buying the pipeline alone cost taxpayers $4.4 billion, far more than analysts said it was worth, with a further nine to 12 billion dollars needed for expanding its capacity, locking Canada further into planet-heating infrastructure while creating far fewer permanent jobs than investment in renewable energy.

Independent analysts like Andrew Nikiforuk and J. David Hughes argue that optimistic pro-pipeline estimates of Asian demand for Canadian bitumen downplay such factors as escalating construction costs, the completion of two other pipelines by 2022, high transportation costs, alternative supply sources and lower-quality product.

“Trans Mountain has been losing money since Ottawa overpaid for it, leaving taxpayers on the hook,” economist Robyn Allan told me. “Revenues from tolls on the existing line are insufficient to cover all the interest expense or any of the principal amount the government borrowed to finance the acquisition of the 66-year-old pipeline. Billions more in taxpayer-funded subsidies will be required to finance the expansion since shipper tolls will not cover the cost of building it.”

This is why Kinder Morgan walked away: capital costs were too high and Trans Mountain’s expansion ceased to be commercially viable. Any reasonable cost-benefit analysis reveals that there are no net economic benefits from the expansion, either, and the obvious environmental costs are staggering.”

So why did the feds bail out such a toxic investment?

A senior researcher at Alberta’s Parkland Institute told me that TMX has become a political symbol. Serious climate action means ending fossil fuel subsidies (as Trudeau promised in 2015) and investing directly in sustainable energy and infrastructure.

Yet Canadian governments continue to pour about $3.3 billion annually (according to the International Institute of Sustainable Development) into direct support for an industry whose business model entails knowingly jeopardizing the habitability of the planet. That amount would fund job retraining for 330,000 workers, including in greener industries with potential for exporting technology and energy. MORE

Greens plan to expand on Trudeau’s coal phase-out to include oil and gas


Green party Leader Elizabeth May (centre) and Green candidates announce their commitment to ‘just transition’ for fossil fuel workers in Vancouver on Aug. 7, 2019. Photo by Stephanie Wood

The Green Party of Canada is endorsing the work of a task force formed by the Trudeau government to phase out coal power nationwide by 2030 and help workers transition to new jobs, but wants to take the plan a step further.

Party Leader Elizabeth May said Wednesday that the Greens fully support all 10 recommendations made by the Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities, which released its final report on coal workers and communities this spring.

At an event in Vancouver on Wednesday, joined by Green candidates from around British Columbia, May said she’d like to implement a similar process with a panel to visit communities dependent on oil and gas.

May said her plan is to ensure no workers are left out of work as the energy industry changes. “We are not at war with fossil fuel workers,” May said. “We are not willing to leave any part of Canada or any community behind.”

National Observer has reported that the task force exclusively researched conditions for coal workers. It recommended a large range of actions, such as $300-million to create a jobs bank, as well as community supports such as transition centres where workers can find information on jobs and training.

The report also found many coal workers felt mistrust for the government, and doubt in its abilities to fulfill promises of a stable transition.

May said visiting communities helped address that mistrust, and will do the same for people in oil and gas. “There’s more trust in honesty. We can say this is the plan, this is the timeline, and how much time do you need to adjust? What are your needs?” she said. “Empowerment and agency are the things that remove fear for all of us.”

She said planning for transitions, as well as oilsands cleanup, should start sooner than later, or else it could result in rushed, inadequate government assistance.

“We have to plan for the cleanup,” she said. “The same guys who drilled the oil wells can help us in reclaiming abandoned oil wells to geothermal power producing.” MORE

 

Will Greens ever compromise climate for power? Never.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May at a Trans Mountain pipeline protest on Burnaby Mountain. Photo: Elizabeth May/Facebook
Photo: Elizabeth May/Facebook​

“Before voters take her seriously, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May must be frank and clear about what her newfound willingness to partner with the Scheer Conservatives would mean in practice.”

rabble reporter Karl Nerenberg is absolutely right. Canadians have a right to know where I stand. If a newly elected caucus of Green MPs were to find ourselves with the balance of responsibility, we would talk with all the other parties. That is the process. But we will never agree to a single confidence vote in favour of a government that is not in lock-step with a commitment to hold to the clear warnings of the global scientific community that we must achieve the Paris target. That target is no more than 1.5 degrees global average temperature increase (above that before the Industrial Revolution). It requires the rapid phase-out of fossil fuels as well as massive reforestation. Small measures, like keeping existing carbon taxes in place, are woefully inadequate.

It must be noted that Canada’s current target was put in place under former prime minister Stephen Harper and is wholly inconsistent with the Paris target. Only the Greens have a plan to meet the 1.5 degree Paris target. None of the others have commitments that come close.

Canadian prime ministers — even in a minority — have significant autonomy and power to do huge damage that never requires a vote in parliament. The points made by Nerenberg in arguing that I had somehow missed the inherent dangers of Conservatives in power are exactly the points I made in January 2006 to the NDP telemarketer who caught me at home cooking dinner and tried to convince me to donate. At that time, I was not a member of any party. As executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, I pushed back, expressing my horror at the NDP decision to bring down the minority government of former prime minister Paul Martin. That administration had just brought in a commitment (with all provincial governments buying in) to universal childcare, to the Kelowna Accord with Indigenous nations, and to a real plan for Kyoto (now long forgotten). The telemarketer had pressed on “There’s no need to worry about Stephen Harper,” he told me. “The most he could get will be a minority.” I laid out for that telemarketer all the things a prime minister could do without ever taking them to Parliament, just as Karl Nerenberg did in his article on Monday, July 22.

Exactly as I had feared, within weeks of becoming prime minister, Harper cancelled our commitment to Kyoto — without a single debate in Parliament. He cancelled the billions of dollars for climate action announced in the 2005 budget. Just as when Canada is on the right side of history, under Harper, we punched above our weight becoming climate saboteurs.

We cannot negotiate with the atmosphere. The window on 1.5 degrees is closing. Without a complete shift in direction, we will blow past 1.5 degrees, past two degrees and put ourselves on an irreversible course to the point of no return — before the next election in 2023.

What is the “point of no return?” It is going to two degrees and tripping over the red line to unstoppable, self-accelerating, runaway global warming — in which the worst case scenario is too terrifying to contemplate.

The stakes are too large for a typical political cop-out. While we have the chance to secure our children’s future, Greens will never agree to support any government that fails to address the climate emergency. As we propose in “Mission: Possible, the Green Climate Action Plan,” we have to reduce the partisanship, put in place the equivalent of a “war cabinet” and make survival the business of government.

So “the very best thing” is not propping anyone up. It is serving as prime minister in a nation mobilized and unified to ensure Canada once again punches above our weight and gets us — humanity — through the climate emergency to a livable, thriving world grounded in equity and justice.  SOURCE

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Indigenous leadership needed to protect environment, Elizabeth May tells AFN assembly

Where’s the urgency in the NDP’s politics?

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath. Photo: Ontario NDP/Flickr
Photo: Ontario NDP/Flickr

How do you know it’s effectively over for a political institution like the NDP, despite lingering vital signs? The critical point is the emergence of a plausible replacement, in this case the Greens under Elizabeth May. They’re a presence in Ottawa and now rival the NDP in polls.

Till then you don’t want to imagine it. It’s like the CBC: you may not like it but it’s needed. With someone else filling that slot, even in a sharply different way, their departure becomes thinkable.

You start noticing what they’re not, and haven’t been for a while. At their start, in the Depression of the ’30s, as the CCF, they knew they had the answer to the questions the country was asking: How did we get into this mess and how do we get out? The answer was something like socialism or co-operation.

In recent years they don’t show that confidence — never mind what the specific answers might be. They’re more like: “We’re a grown-up party too and dammit, we deserve our turn.”

…But forget the past. What youth are most serious about is the present, in which they’re starting to drown. Urgency may be the socialism of today.

The Liberals speak well on, say, democratic reform, but did nothing about it when they had the chance. Same with climate catastrophe or ongoing water disaster in Attawapiskat, which roared back this week. A Liberal mouthpiece said they’d “be travelling up to the community as early as next week.'”

That’s their idea of speed — except when SNC-Lavalin’s involved. Then they become The Flash.

If there’s any future for the NDP (versus ENDP) it might be as the UDP: the Urgent Democratic Party. MORE

Green Party support grows as alarms sound on climate crisis

Elizabeth May at podium in 2015. Photo: Bob Jonkman/Flickr
Photo: Bob Jonkman/Flickr

What do Ireland, the British Parliament, and Ottawa and Vancouver city councils have in common? All voted in 2019 to declare a climate emergency.

Following the Green Party win in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith byelection, both the NDP and the Liberals proposed climate-change emergency resolutions for debate in the House of Commons.

On May 16, the day the motions were being debated, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May presented “Mission Possible,” a 20-point green action plan.

The first point calls climate the greatest security threat the world has ever seen.

For the Greens, climate is no longer just an environmental issue — it requires putting Canada on a war-like footing, directed by a multi-party inner cabinet, on the model Winston Churchill employed during the Second World War to combat fascism.

The Green Party 20-point plan calls for an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to the climate emergency

Since its inception in 1983 the Green Party of Canada has not attracted enough voter support to be seen as a big threat by other political parties. But recently announced voting intentions for the Greens at 12 per cent now have other parties paying attention.

The Green Party has been gaining political representation: in P.E.I., where it now forms the Official Opposition, and in New Brunswick, where it has party status. Green Party leaders have won seats in Ottawa and in four provinces, and hold the balance of power in B.C.

With 17 elected Green Party members at the provincial and federal levels, the Greens look to be competitive in a number of federal ridings across Canada in the October 21 election.

The first-past-the-post electoral systems used in Canada have worked against the Green Party. A vote for a small party is often considered a wasted vote because it means not defeating a troublesome government or boosting a more likely winner.

When feelings run strong against a ruling party, supporting a fourth party amounts to being complicit with those wielding power.

However, a vote for a third or fourth party is also an opportunity to send a message to parliamentarians and the public.

In a minority government situation, with a multi-party parliament, a small party can be the linchpin in a coalition or influence the legislative and spending agenda, and can even determine which party forms government.  MORE

Young Canadians launch website tracking climate commitments of federal parties

You are now able to easily compare climate change commitments on Shake Up the Establishment. You will want to bookmark this incredibly useful resource.

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Cameron Fioret, Manvi Bhalla, Taro Halfnight and Janaya Campbell are tracking climate action commitments of federal parties on a new website called Shake Up The Establishment. Photos courtesy SUTE

Four young Canadians are tracking the commitments of federal political parties on the climate crisis as campaigns rev up for the fall election.

Shake Up The Establishment is a website run by Manvi Bhalla, Janaya Campbell, Taro Halfnight and Cameron Fioret, all graduates or students of the University of Guelph.

The team will volunteer their time to help voters compare the environmental plans of the Liberals, Conservatives, New Democratic Party and Greens ahead of the election that is to be held on or before Oct. 21, 2019.

“We were all discussing how we would want to vote in the upcoming election,” said Bhalla, who studied biomedical science, and has researched at the Hospital for Sick Children and worked as president of the local chapter of Oxfam Canada, in a phone interview May 26.

“We didn’t actually know who the best candidate or party would be immediately. And we thought, if we felt this way, then other individuals also might feel this way.” MORE