OBIN’s Response to COVID-19
The events of the past weeks have touched us all. As our governments take bold steps to ensure public health, Canadians have been asked to make many sacrifices for the greater good. Many Canadians have suddenly lost their source of income and are being forced to ask themselves tough questions about how they will make it through this pandemic, however long that might be.
What we mustn’t forget is that these questions are not new to many Canadians. Indeed, COVID-19 has not created this economic insecurity - it has highlighted it. And without the proper measures being taken, it will persist when the pandemic subsides. That is why OBIN believes that an income-tested basic income is not only an economic solution to address the crisis and ensure that all Canadians weather this storm, but a long-term policy that will enable a more just and equitable society in the future, allowing us to meet the future storms more prepared.
An economist once said, “When [a] crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.” It has not been lost on OBIN that a basic income has emerged as one of the obvious answers to get us through this challenge, with calls coming from Canadians of all stripes. But these calls do not rise out of a void. It is thanks to the years of tireless work of organizations, activists, and individuals like yourselves that basic income is being raised now as a viable option. Even though times are tough, please continue your efforts and keep raising basic income in your conversations with others. For once Canada gets through this pandemic, which it surely will, we must ensure that basic income was not only thought of as a temporary solution but a means to enable communities in the future.
Notes from OBIN’s Co-Facilitators
As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, we are putting in place a variety of measures to stop the spread of the virus, deliver health care to those who are ill, and provide income support to Canadians as the economy slows down dramatically. These emergency measures must err on the side of speed rather precision, if the pandemic is to be contained, deaths prevented, and economic disaster averted.
The federal government is announcing new income support measures, including relaxing Employment Insurance (EI) eligibility and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)*. As a complex rule-based system, EI is difficult to navigate in normal times. The CERB is not available to those outside the labour market. So, neither measure really resembles a basic income, which is an unconditional, adequate, and readily available cash transfer. On the other hand, the federal government’s temporary increase to the Canada Child Benefit can be seen as a short-term enhancement of a form of Basic Income for families.
There are quite a few proposals floating around in the media – some of them from surprising sources – for some version of “basic income” as a response to the COVID-19 crisis. The Policy Options paper released by the Basic Income Canada Network in January 2020 (before the COVID-19 crisis broke in Canada) stands out among these proposals. It presents carefully thought out and costed models for implementing a basic income for all Canadians. It is a vital resource that should be carefully considered as the current emergency runs its course, and as we undertake new conversations about how to ensure economic security for all Canadians.
COVID-19 will not be the last public health or other crisis that confronts us. Let’s continue to press for a guaranteed and ongoing basic income for all, as we move forward into uncertain and risky times.
Jim Mulvale, OBIN Co-Facilitator
*Information on the CERB program can be found here.
While this is the ideal time to be amassing our troops on the streets to fight for a national Basic Income, we trust all of us are complying with the guidelines for mitigating the spread of the COVID-19. However, there is a mounting number of petitions urging our federal government to stop chewing at the edges and bite into a Basic Income program. Look for them and add your name to the growing chorus of voices. This is the only way we can guarantee that all of our stomachs will be filled.
We are pleased to announce that the new OBIN website is about to be tested by the C-Team and should be available to you shortly. We would welcome any ideas that will make this an increasingly useful tool for all of our affiliates. By the way, you will be able to easily find our latest C-Team Minutes and Newsletters on our website.
Some of the COVID-19 measures (which are by definition short-term, emergency responses to the crisis) provide openings down the road for new conversations and practical steps towards an ongoing income-tested BI that is set at an adequate level, that reaches everyone who is eligible, and that can be delivered through the income tax system.
As you may know, we are in close contact with our sister organization BICN, to ensure we share a common message and work together to make a Basic Income a reality. As BICN has additional resources, you may wish to join BICN (Basic Income Canada Network-Réseau Canadien pour le revenu garanti) as well as OBIN.
Remember, it is not social distance we must keep but a physical distance. Reach out to those who are less fortunate and give them a social hug. Keep healthy and active!
Reach out to those who are less fortunate and give them a social hug. Keep healthy and active!
Joe Foster, [email protected]
We’ve decided to host Check-Up meetings more frequently, in order to keep all of us in the Basic Income movement in Ontario in touch with one another during these challenging and uncertain times.
Whether you are new to Basic Income, or are already active in a local BI group or allied organization, your participation is welcome.
The next Check-Up Meeting is scheduled for Monday April 27 from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. EST.
Agenda items will include:
- Basic Income as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic
- Challenges faced and lessons learned in BI activism at the local level
- Working together to move Basic Income forward in Ontario and Canada
- Local, provincial and national updates
- A good source for further information on Basic Income: Basic Income Primer Series
Details on how to connect will be sent out closer to the date.
In the meantime, if you would like further information on this meeting, or have specific agenda items that you would like to suggest, please contact:
John Mills, [email protected]
Jim Mulvale, [email protected]
OBIN is excited to share with our larger membership the numerous initiatives and events our local groups across Ontario are engaged in. This month we would like to focus on the activities of our local group in Peterborough.
One project the Basic Income Peterborough Network (BIPN) is pursuing in 2020 involves partnering with the various women's groups throughout the Peterborough-Kawartha Riding. Their goal is to unify these groups around Basic Income and develop a collective advocacy platform or BI with their local MP in Peterborough.
BIPN is in the initial planning phase of this effort, which includes the creation of a statement for endorsement; the creation of talking points; the development of a list of local ally groups and identifying and documenting key connections and outreach.
BIPN continues to move forward with their plans, despite the current health crisis, by using an online platform to conduct their meetings. BIPN also has an active Facebook group (Basic Income Peterborough Network) that serves as a wonderful informational hub for local, regional and national news as it relates to Basic Income and other social activist initiatives.
BIPN welcomes any support from the larger BI community, including connecting them with any supportive organizations for their 2020 project to joining their Facebook group.
For further details, please connect with:
Susan Hubay, [email protected]
Jason Hartwick, [email protected]
Follow-up from Event in Ottawa
The documentary, A Town Without Poverty, Canada’s Experiment in Guaranteed Income was shown March 4th at Ottawa City Hall.
More than 70 people attended the event, which included a panel discussion featuring Senator Kim Pate and Executive Director of the Mincome Experiment, Ron Hikel. The event was sponsored by the Eastern Branch of the Ontario Association of Social Workers. Joe Foster, OBIN C-Team Facilitator encouraged participants to join the Ontario Basic Income Network (OBIN) to build support in Ontario.
The film tells the story of the Manitoba Mincom Experiment that ran from 1974-79.
We previewed this event in last month’s newsletter.
Organizers thank all the people who collaborated to provide their expertise and time, including the event management staff at city hall, our caterer, who provided corn and potato chowder for our free soup kitchen, our amazing expert panelists who gave so freely of their time, and all the volunteers who ensured that things ran smoothly and spread the word about this event.
Lynn Sherwood and Joe Foster
Using Zoom for Local Groups to Connect
We understand the stress that this is placing on not only our members but everyone in society. In these times of self-isolation, we are very cognizant of the additional strains the uncertainty and social isolation place on people who have mental health challenges. We would like to encourage anyone who is feeling anxious or depressive to contact Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 or any local mental health provider. Wait times may be long but worth it.
In these trying times, it is crucial that we maintain communications not only with family and friends but with organizations that we are involved with. It will be extremely beneficial if we can overcome this trial as a community rather than letting everyone tough it out on their own. We like to think of OBIN as a community that has a directed purpose: to put a floor under people's feet so that they don't fall into despair. In the interest of keeping the basic income community functioning at times when we cannot get together for meetings and plan for the future, we would like to offer an option.
OBIN has a Zoom account that we would like to make available to local groups so that they can still meet. Virtual meetings aren't quite the same but seeing familiar faces and talking about a cause that matters can often alleviate that feeling of isolation. Although we are not able to actively do much for the immediate future, this represents a great time to plan. We hope that making this resource available to groups will make planning and communication a little easier.
Zoom can be accessed over the internet or by telephone. If you would like to make use of this, please contact me, John Mills at [email protected]. I will coordinate setting up a call for you and give you the basics of getting started.
John Mills, Internal Relations Coordinator
External Relations Coordinator Report
The ‘Cases for Basic Income Series’ is gaining speed. The report for the Case for Basic Income for Work should be out in a matter of weeks, and even though we are postponing cases for ‘women’, ‘health’, and ‘food insecurity’ to the Fall, we will be having continual Zoom calls with participants through the Spring. Support for Basic Income is developing strongly in these sectors.
Also – this just in – we will holding a Lobby Day for Basic Income in Ottawa on October 20th and we are receiving a lot of support from many MP’s and Senators.
A few words on COVID-19:
As noted above - OBINs response to COVID-19 - is that thanks to the years of tireless work of organizations, activists, and individuals like you have raised the concept of Basic Income as a viable option now.
It took 15 years to become an overnight success because of the work of so many people, organizations, and institutions that Basic Income is now becoming a front and centre issue.
But we haven’t yet succeeded. We have an opportunity to build on all the work we’ve done, the relationships we’ve built, to let our politicians and leaders understand that not only can a Basic Income effectively and sustainably address so many of the grave social issues that have always been there but are now becoming glaringly evident. And we also need to remember that just because Basic Income is in the news, it doesn’t mean that our leadership has sufficient understanding both of the issue and the ways in which Basic Income can be developed. OBIN, BICN, and so many organizations have the people, the research, and the relationships to help develop a Basic Income model that can be both effective and sustainable. The projects we have developed and are continuing to work on – The Case for Basic Income Series, Lobby Days, forums for discussion - have brought together a level of expertise and knowledge that needs to be recognized by our leaders.
COVID-19 is showing us how interconnected we all are and how interconnected our societies are. We can no longer think that our current social support system is sufficient to deal with our futures. That system was developed in a different time.
Real knowledge, the type of knowledge required to build a strong social fabric, does not exist in silos.
It exists in listening, learning, and making informed, hard decisions.
It takes vision. It takes bravery. It takes cooperation.
You Can Look It Up
**OBIN recently set up a Facebook page. Take a look and remember to follow us.
**Here is a template letter you can send to your MP calling for the implementation of a Basic Income program during the COVID-19 Crisis
**Leadnow is an independent, registered non-profit organization not affiliated with any political party. A recent survey they ran on the COVID-19 crisis had more than 20,000 respondents. Nearly 91% (16,527) supported “emergency basic income so that everyone can cover the essentials.” Take a look at the survey results.