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167 Canadian Health Professionals Call for a Basic Income

May 2020

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Below is an open letter signed by 167 Canadian health professionals to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Finance Bill Morneau, and Minister of Health Patty Hajdu calling for a Basic Income.

After reading this letter, please use the form below the letter to email it to Trudeau, Freeland, Morneau, and Hajdu, as well as your Member of Parliament, in just a few easy clicks.

PDF Version

May 19, 2020

Dear Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister Morneau, and Minister Hajdu:

Subject: Health professionals support implementation of Basic Income

It has been said many times—we are living in an unprecedented moment in history.The COVID19 pandemic has brought untold challenges to Canada and to the world. However, the pandemic has also shone a spotlight on the intransigent social and economic inequities, namely poverty, that existed long before the current crisis, as well as the deep fissures in Canada’s social safety net which has been unable to redress poverty.

We write to you as a group of health professional practitioners and scholars who know all too well the toll that poverty has on the health and well being of Canadians. We see the effects of poverty in our clinics, in our schools, in our communities, and in our research. The World Health Organization has called poverty “the single largest determinant of health,” and research that illuminates the consequences for human health of the material and social deprivation caused by poverty abounds. Shortened life expectancy, chronic diseases, infant mortality, addictions, and a myriad of other physical and mental health impairments are all similarly distributed across a wealth-health gradient with those among the lowest income quintiles getting sick and dying years before higher earning Canadians. For these reasons, several health profession associations have endorsed Basic Income, including the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Public Health Association, and the Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada. We are deeply concerned about how we act now as a country to redress the long-standing income and health inequities that have so gravely impaired the well being and human potential of our fellow citizens.

Action today to redress social and economic inequities, and the consequent poor health outcomes that unfairly burden too many Canadians, as we look to a post-COVID19 future, requires a strengthened social safety net that must include a Basic Income. To be clear, we call for the implementation of a Basic Income, not as a replacement to other necessary components of the social safety net, such as affordable and accessible housing, universal health care, and other social services, which must also be improved. Moreover, the implementation of a Basic Income must not be undertaken simply as a cost-savings measure. Rather, implementing a Basic Income must be undertaken with the intent of creating an effective, but also compassionate, health-affirming social safety net for all Canadians.

A question often asked is, can we afford a Basic Income? The evidence says, yes. A recently published report by Basic Income Canada Network clearly demonstrates that through progressive tax reform, Canada can afford to implement a Basic Income. What is more, research shows that beyond being a compassionate social policy that acknowledges the dignity of Canadians, Basic Income is a health policy that just makes sense. Basic Income has been shown to reduce health care costs, including an 8.5% reduction in hospitalizations. As Dr. Danielle Martin has so pointedly said, “If we discovered a drug that reduced hospitalizations by 8.5%, we’d put it in the water.” Ultimately, we cannot afford to ignore the evidence that Basic Income is an effective poverty reduction measure that will improve the lives of Canadians, and thereby, improve the vitality of communities across the country.

We compliment all levels of government and political parties on their hard work that has steered Canada through the unprecedented challenges and uncertainty that COVID19 has unfortunately brought to the doorsteps of Canadian households, communities, and businesses small and large. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) has proven to be vital to keeping many Canadians from slipping into poverty. However, prior to the pandemic, many Canadians were already living on the brink of, or in poverty, and it is with this in mind that we urge you to work toward restructuring the CERB as a long-term solution to poverty and its consequent social and health inequities.

We echo the Canadian Council of Young Feminists - Senator McPhedran's Youth Advisory, and Basic Income Canada Youth Network, the Anglican and Lutheran Bishops, and Canadian Senators that have called upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to expand the entitlements available to Canadians in need of a Basic Income.

Jennifer Brady
Registered Dietitian
Assistant Professor
Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, NS

Co-signed by 166 other Canadian health professionals who support basic income.

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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