In crisis situations, we need to move boldly and we need to move quickly. It is critical that we make sure Canadians have access to the income support needed to weather this crisis. That is why the Alberta Liberal Party is calling on the federal government to implement a temporary Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our proposed UBI would see $1500 per month for adults and $500 per month for children paid directly to Canadians.
- $1500 in direct monthly payments to Canadian adults.
- $500 in monthly payments per child.
- Truly universal - no means-testing.
Why a UBI?
Keeping Canadians Afloat: many Canadians will be facing a reduction or outright elimination of income due to COVID-19. Direct income support will help keep Canadians’ heads above water and allow them to afford the necessities of life during this crisis.
Economic Stimulus: The best form of economic stimulus is to keep people spending. A retraction in demand is bad for businesses. By bolstering the spending power of Canadians, we also help businesses stay afloat and mitigate the economic damage of this crisis.
Preventing the Spread of COVID-19: Albertans who should be self-isolating now but are burdened by financial pressures will now be able to stay home. This will help slow the spread of COVID-19 and help us flatten the curve.
Fast. Easy. Flexible: Direct cash transfers are fast, easy, and flexible. Giving Canadians cash directly allows them to meet whatever particular needs this crisis is creating for them. This is a simpler, more efficient, and more comprehensive policy option than the current patchwork of income support programs announced by the federal government.
Why no income test?: In a public emergency like this, there is no guarantee that a person who earned $200,000 last year won’t need this money now. We don’t know their savings and we don’t know how their income has been affected or what their set cost of living is at. A universal system is easier to implement and ensures no one gets left behind in a time of crisis.
Paying for it: There is no such thing as free money. Still, we know both the federal and provincial governments have excess fiscal capacity. This is exactly the kind of economic and health crisis that demands we use that capacity to keep Canadians afloat and stabilize our economy. Even if we have to raise taxes when we get through this we will still be better off in the long run. It’s a small price to pay to keep Canadians healthy and safe and to keep businesses operational.
Why the Federal Government?: With health care as provincial jurisdiction, the provinces are already dealing with the complexities of the frontline fight against COVID-19. This, combined with the greater fiscal capacity of the federal government, is why they should take the lead on addressing income supports. However, if the federal government won’t take action on a temporary UBI, Alberta should implement their own.
How would a UBI fit in with what the federal government has already announced?: A UBI is not a complete solution. As the more efficient and effective income support, UBI should replace some of the existing income supports announced by the government like enhanced EI benefits and Canada Child Care Benefits. However, it cannot replace all programs such as announced supports for businesses, shelters and indigenous communities.