Saturday November 27, 2010
Greens Call For Basic Income Plan
Poverty will not go away without fundamental rethink of income security
Submitted by Rebecca Helps, Green Party
C Child & Youth Advocacy Coalition released a report this week showing the child poverty rate in British Columbia was 14.5 percent in 2008; that the number of poor children was 121,000, about one of every seven BC children; and that one in five or 19.6% of children under six live in poverty in BC. A national study out this week - Housing Vulnerability and Health: Canada's Hidden Emergency - suggests that 400,000 Canadians currently in housing are at substantial risk of becoming homeless. In today's Times Colonist, Jody Paterson says that translates to 10,000 people in the Capital Region.
"Poverty can only be solved by ensuring that everyone in BC has an adequate income," said Green Party of BC leader Jane Sterk. "This is not rocket science and the only way to accomplish this goal is to rethink our social welfare philosophy; our income assistance programs and our elitist blame-based culture. The Green Party of BC has long advocated a Guaranteed Livable Income (GLI) as the mechanism for achieving adequate income for all.
"There are many models that can provide the outcome of making sure that every British Columbian lives above the poverty line; including negative income tax, basic income supplements, or universal payment programs. Fiddling with minimum wage may provide some relief to the working poor but it will not fundamentally reduce poverty. In fact, if we don't do sometime radically different, poverty will increase as governments move to further penalize the poor through the coming austerity programs.
"GLI programs work. There was a demonstrably successful experiment in Dauphine Manitoba in the early 1970s and Ontario has a basic income supplement for seniors. We also have any number of universal programs from Employment Insurance (EI) to Canada Pension Plan (CPP) to Old Age Security (OAS) to the Canadian Child Tax Benefit (CCTB) that provide automatic payments and could be incorporated into a comprehensive livable income plan. Other programs that need consideration include Spouse's Allowance, Veteran's Pensions, War Veterans Allowances, Resettlement Assistance Program, Income Assistance, and Workers' Compensation.
"And for those who believe that most of the people living in poverty are malingerers who could actually work - the undeserving poor or the poor by choice - research from the Dauphine experiment found that only two groups stayed off work, single moms who stayed home longer with their young children and high school students who stayed in school longer both of which are positive outcomes.
"I have had people tell me they think most of the people they see on Victoria's streets could actually be working instead of pan handling. If there are even 50 people of the 1,500 who are counted as homeless or the 10,000 who Paterson identified as at risk, that is only .03% or .005%. Surely the 99% should be our focus, not the one percent!
"The characteristics of a GLI program include automatic payments, flexibility around employment and the right of people to decide how to use their own time and how to alleviate their employment, housing, childcare and general living pressures. GLI programs preserve people's dignity and assume people want to do what is best for themselves and their families.
"In early 2011, the Green Party of BC will be putting out a White Paper in GLI to promote discussion of this very important role for government. We call on the BC Liberals and BC NDP to do the same and it would be timely to do so. The agreement between the provinces and the federal government on transfer payments comes up for renewal in 2014 which would make this the time to explore GLI as a national anti-poverty program.
"The Green Party of BC is not optimistic that such a federal program can be negotiated so our White Paper will consider how British Columbia could finance such a change on its own.," concluded Sterk.
About the Green Party of BC
The Green Party of BC is the only major party in BC today with no debt. A Green economy would run on the principles of triple-bottom-line accounting, rewarding organizations and individuals that practise environmental, social and economic sustainability and aligning government expenditure decisions with citizens' wishes. www.greenparty.bc.ca
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