Glen Murray pushes universal basic income program for federal Green Party

Environment Minister Glen Murray would not commit to making a carbon pricing plan revenue neutral for the government.
Glen Murray takes questions during a media scrum. Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Federal Green Party leadership candidate and former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray says he has a fully-funded plan to immediately start a Universal Basic Income (UBI) program, called End Poverty Now.

“This is a practical program that the federal government can and must implement today,” said Murray. “It doesn’t touch the current provincial agreements and could be implemented within the authorities of the federal government.”

Murray said the program creates about $18 billion in additional revenue for provinces, giving them the money needed to help with the cost of recovery from COVID-19.

Read more: Manitoba MP submits motion to convert CERB benefit to permanent basic income

The program would be implemented by changing existing tax provisions, said Murray, which would pay for 93 per cent of the costs.

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“Less than seven per cent comes from new tax revenue, achieved by applying the same rate of federal taxation to banks in Canada as is applied to those in the United States and modest tax increases on incomes over $250,000,” he said.

Read more: Coronavirus pandemic raises question: Is it time for a basic income?

UBI is an idea that has been touted by numerous groups as a way to lift people out of poverty and raise living standards across the board.

While every iteration of the idea is different, the theory behind UBI is that it would replace current programs such as social assistance, disability and employment insurance. Instead, the government would issue people a cheque or top up wages until they met a certain income threshold.

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Could Canada implement universal basic income? – Apr 18, 2020

Critics say that the program would disincentivize work but there is little evidence to support that claim. Estimates for the cost, however, range from nearly nothing to $90 billion.

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Murray’s announcement came on the heels of a story from Reuters Wednesday that quoted several sources saying Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is planning a massive overhaul of Canada’s current social safety nets.

Read more: Trudeau planning social welfare system overhaul, sources say

Manitoba NDP MP Leah Gazan submitted a motion last week to convert CERB into a permanent UBI program.

“COVID-19 has demonstrated that we do have the resources. We must ensure all individuals in Canada can thrive in dignity and that means making investments to ensure basic human rights for all,” she said.