MP X Y
Riding of Z
Dear M. Y:
Last week’s Parliamentary Budget Office report notes that “the introduction of CERB has brought discussions of universal basic income to the forefront once again”. Conversations about a Basic Income Guarantee have moved from aspirational ideas to how a Basic Income Guarantee could actually be implemented. You may be among the many MPs who have been asked by constituents about when will BIG be adopted. If so you may have thought about how a BIG would differ from the CERB that is temporarily in place.
While a BIG may sound attractive to many, some politicians, media commentators, and taxpayers continue to express concerns about negative effects. One concern is that many people won’t work if they receive a Basic Income Guarantee. This is understandable because some people who have been receiving a CERB have been reluctant to return to work.
Employee responses to CERB do not tell us about how Canadians would respond to a BIG. First, CERB has conditions that limit what employees can do: CERB imposes a strong disincentive to work by taking away the entire benefit as soon as someone earns $1000.
Second, many were worried that returning to work would expose them to the Corona virus. Outbreaks were unpredictable, employers were not always ready with safety measures, and contact with the public could be hard to control.
And third, the Federal-Manitoba Mincome experiment in the mid-1970s and the Ontario basic income pilot showed that people work differently, not less: some started their own businesses, some went back to school, and some mixed community, care work, and employment. These experiments show that a Basic Income Guarantee can work here without reducing labour force participation.
Regardless of your own position on a BIG, I hope you will talk about a Basic Income Guarantee with your constituents, colleagues, and party leaders. We are interested in hearing your thoughts about a BIG, both now and at the lobby day on Parliament Hill during the week of October 20. The lobby day is co-sponsored by MPs Erskine-Smith, Gazan, Gerretsen, Manly, and Stanton.
We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you in Ottawa on October 20, either in person or electronically.