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50 Canadian Senators Call for a Minimum Basic Income

May 2020

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Open Letter from Senators to Prime Minister, Deputy PM and Finance Minister
Calls for Minimum Basic Income


OTTAWA, TUESDAY, APRIL 21, 2020—Today 50 members of the Senate of Canada from across affiliations and regions wrote to the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister commending them for the government’s actions to date and calling for further evolution of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) in order to implement a minimum basic income.

Since introducing the CERB in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has continued to evolve this program to provide income support of $500 per week to more Canadians in need. Senators have heard from Canadians that further positive developments to the CERB are needed in order to stop other groups of Canadians from falling through the cracks.

Restructuring the CERB as a minimum basic income would quickly get support to Canadians in dire straits who need assistance now. Doing so would also free up valuable time and resources needed to craft and implement further changes to the CERB and to renew eligibility of individuals for the CERB in the next months and beyond.

Each new fix to the CERB, while welcome, means delays in getting help to those who need it most. As a matter both of social equity and efficiency, Senators are joining the calls of Canadians across the country to ensure that, in this time of need, no one falls through the cracks and everyone has their place on “Team Canada”.

For more information:
Emily Grant
Office of Senator Kim Pate
Tel: 613-355-6574

Jeanne Provencher
Office of Senator Frances Lankin
Tel: 343-549-2274


April 21, 2020
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON KIA 0A2

The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P.

Deputy Prime MinisterPrivy Council OfficeRoom 1000
85 Sparks StreetOttawa, ON KIA 0A3

The Honourable Bill Morneau, P.C., M.P.Minister of Finance
90 Elgin Street, 17th Floor
Ottawa, ON KIA 0G5

Dear Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister Morneau: Subject: COVID-19 Pandemic - Minimum Basic Income

This is a unique moment in our history - a moment when Canadians from across the political and economic spectrum have seen before them the value of a program which would not require complicated application and qualification processes, but which would be there for people in times of need. As members of the Senate of Canada, we are writing to you to thank you and urge a further evolution of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

Firstly, we want to express our genuine thanks and appreciation toCanadian Governments — Federal, Provincial, Territorial and Municipal, as well as opposition parties for all collaborative efforts to date.

In these extraordinary times, the “Team Canada” approach being demonstrated by public service officials at all levels is both heartening and encouraging, particularly in the continually evolving development of needs-based crisis policy responses. For this and the climate of hope and optimism during this pandemic, we thank you.

As you have noted, governmental responses continue to evolve. We are writing to address an opportunity for further positive development with respect to the CERB.

Based upon what we are all hearing from Canadians, we believe it is very clear there will continue to be a need to create additional patches to the CERB to stop other groups of Canadians from falling through the cracks. Further administrative work will also be required to renew eligibility of individuals in the next months and beyond.

Moving forward, we encourage you to finish the work you have commenced by restructuring the CERB to ensure greater social and economic equity as well as greater efficiency.

Using the tax rolls to send a crisis minimum income to all who are in need would accomplish these two key goals. In terms of efficiency, as we are already seeing, it can quickly get support to Canadians who are in dire straits. CRA can issue these payments by deposit or mail with little more than the push of a button. People in need require support today. In terms of social and economic equity, it would allow for a more expeditious application of the benefit to those vulnerable Canadians for whom support will otherwise be required. Each new initiative takes time to craft and time to implement, leaving those most vulnerable to experience chronic hardship.

The use of the CRA tax rolls could also free up public service capacity that is currently stretched as public servants strive to administer applications, assess and, with each new measure, reassess eligibility and processing payments. The liberated time and resources could be utilized to help people not currently on the tax rolls to convert their applications to tax files. Such measures could ensure quick payment for individual Canadians while simultaneously increasing the ease of administration and sustainability of supports that we can already recognize will be needed beyond the current timeline for the program, and into the foreseeable future.

Increasing public service capacity will enable officials to respond more quickly and efficiently by freeing up their time to identify and address the needs of those individuals and groups who might still fall through the cracks.

Ministers, we know you recognize that the layering of each fix to the CERB, while vital and welcome, means delays in getting the most needed help to the people who are already most vulnerable to economic and therefore health insecurity.

In the short term, our focus must be on ensuring the CERB is available for all who need it. When this immediate emergency has abated, we urge you to work with Parliamentarians and others to use the lessons from the CERB experience and the entire COVID-19 crisis to craft social and economic reforms and develop a positive legacy for all Canadians.

We are in touch with many Canadian individuals and organizations who support this approach and are encouraging us to convey to you the urgent need for these types of measures.

We are keen to support and assist you to take steps in order to ensure that all people are included and have their place on “Team Canada”. Thank you once again and we wish you and all Canadians all the best as we work together to stay safe and well.


The Honourable Frances Lankin and Kim Pate, Senators, with and on behalf of:

The Honourable Margaret Dawn Anderson, Senator

The Honourable Wanda Thomas Bernard, Senator

The Honourable Robert Black, Senator

The Honourable Peter Boehm, Senator

The Honourable Gwen Boniface, Senator

The Honourable Patricia Bovey, Senator

The Honourable Yvonne Boyer, Senator

The Honourable Patrick Brazeau, Senator

The Honourable Bev Busson, Senator

The Honourable Larry Campbell, Senator

The Honourable Jane Cordy, Senator

The Honourable René Cormier, Senator

The Honourable Brent Cotter, Senator

The Honourable Mary Coyle, Senator

The Honourable Donna Dasko, Senator

The Honourable Dennis Dawson, Senator

The Honourable Colin Deacon, Senator

The Honourable Marty Deacon, Senator

The Honourable Mike Duffy, Senator

The Honourable Pat Duncan, Senator

The Honourable Lillian Dyck, Senator

The Honourable Éric Forest, Senator

The Honourable Josée Forest-Niesing, Senator

The Honourable Brian Francis, Senator

The Honourable Rosa Galvez, Senator

The Honourable Diane Griffin, Senator

The Honourable Nancy Hartling, Senator

The Honourable Mobina Jaffer, Senator

The Honourable Judith Keating, Senator

The Honourable Marty Klyne, Senator

The Honourable Stan Kutcher, Senator

The Honourable Tony Loffreda, Senator

The Honourable Sandra Lovelace Nicholas, Senator

The Honourable Mary Jane McCallum, Senator

The Honourable Marilou McPhedran, Senator

The Honourable Marie-Francoise Mégie, Senator

The Honourable Terry Mercer, Senator

The Honourable Julie Miville-Dechêne, Senator

The Honourable Lucie Moncion, Senator

The Honourable Rosemary Moodie, Senator

The Honourable Jim Munson, Senator

The Honourable Ratna Omidvar, Senator

The Honourable Chantal Petitclerc, Senator

The Honourable Mohamed-Iqbal Ravalia, Senator

The Honourable Pierrette Ringuette, Senator

The Honourable Paula Simons, Senator

The Honourable Murray Sinclair, Senator

The Honourable Vernon White, Senator

UBI Works is a Canadian non-profit organization with the goal of making Universal Basic Income a permanent reality for all Canadians.

On March 16, 2020, UBI Works launched a petition calling for an Emergency UBI in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The petition garnered over 30,000 signatures across all 338 federal ridings, with each signer emailing their Member of Parliament to call for a UBI.

The Government of Canada responded by announcing the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), a short-term basic income for Canadians who lost income due to COVID-19, in addition to a one-time GST credit of $400 per individual ($600 per couple) for low-and moderate-income Canadians, as well as a $300 boost to the Canada Child Benefit basic income.

This pandemic showed us that Canadians need a Universal Basic Income.

We are aware that these measures, while they help many Canadians, still leave many others out. From day one, the CERB left out more than 850,000 Canadians, 1/3 of the unemployed, who had no income support from either EI or the CERB. The government expanded the eligibility criteria after weeks of constant pressure from Canadians to move towards a universal basic income. This pandemic has shown us that Canadians are not resilient enough in a time of crisis. Many of us who lost work from this crisis may find ourselves not hired back, or going back to lower paying work. An estimated 15% of the over 15 million working Canadians—more than 2 million Canadians in total—will soon find themselves without work. Yet, research shows that 42% of the Canadian workforce is at high risk of being automated away—using existing technology—over the next 10-20 years. If we already had a universal basic income, no Canadian would have fallen through the cracks during this crisis. Millions of Canadians would not have needed to wait weeks, perhaps months, before getting the help they needed.

In 2018, UBI Works led a group of over 120 Canadian CEOs, representing over $2.3 billion in annual revenue, to sign a statement in support of basic income

UBI Works is committed to pursuing a universal and unconditional basic income for all Canadians, so that nobody will be left behind.

Join our mailing list and stay up-to-date on how we are working to make Universal BasicIncome a reality in Canada.

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